Monday, September 15, 2014

The Best Thing I Swallowed on Sunday Episode 15

Riot Fest was this weekend, and this year's line-up was too good to pass on. With a Three-Day pass in hand, I headed over to Humboldt Park for what turned out to be a great weekend. Rather than having access to several new beers via the taps at Hopleaf, I was forced to make do with the swill being poured at Riot Fest. Thus, I have a rather strange entry for this Sunday's episode. I assumed that I would be faced with the chilling prospect of having only macrobrews available, since this is generally par for the course at big music festivals. While I did drink a lot of bad beer over the weekend, there was fortunately one local craft brewery represented at the event.

The amazing Patti Smith
I avoided the flavorless lagers that are the typical macro fair, but that certainly didn't mean my choices were exactly brimming with much flavor. Newcastle Brown Ale (4.7% ABV) was sadly the best macrobrew available at Riot Fest (followed closely by Dos Equis Amber). This brown ale had a small head, a reddish-brown color, and very little aroma. There was a hint of caramel sweetness, although I was really stretching to find any flavor whatsoever. Flat and flavorless would be an accurate assessment. But there was salvation awaiting me on Sunday, as we crossed paths with yet another new Chicago brewery.

Newcastle Brown Ale, far less interesting than that guy's attire. Porta potties not included with purchase of beer.

All Rise Brewing, which is affiliated with the Cobra Lounge, was at Riot Fest. All Rise, which is new to me, brought the only two craft beers to this otherwise very eclectic event. Dizzy Blonde Ale, and their flagship pale ale Wonderbeer were flowing fast, based on how quickly the longish line was moving (and because Wonderbeer was sold out). Dizzy Blonde is a hoppy wheat ale that reminds me somewhat of Half Acre's Akari Shogun. All Rise produced what was very, very easily the best thing I swallowed on Sunday. Although it is hard to accurately gauge its color through a plastic cup, Dizzy Blonde looks dark-golden and flavorful. There was a nice head on the beer. There are some citrusy and piney hop notes in the nose, but this was hard to determine what with the many hours spent in wafting pot smoke. In any case, I was super excited when I actually tasted hops! Imagine that, a beer brewed with hops. Crazy. Thank you, All Rise, for being at Riot Fest. My only regret is that I didn't discover you on Friday evening so that I could've avoided reviewing Newcastle Brown.
Hey! Look at that. An actual beer!
Riot Fest is a nice blending of older bands and newer acts, which draws a very mixed crowd in terms of age. The weather was equally mixed over the weekend. There was a cold rain, there was mud, and then there was the perfect day for a music fest on Sunday. Friday night was chilly and wet, which made for some pretty unpleasant conditions at Humboldt Park. A late start and wandering around to get the lay of the land for the rest of the weekend meant that I only witnessed Jane's Addiction, which was the closing act that evening. Solid performance of Nothing Shocking, though I think the crowd could have done without Perry Ferrel's banter between songs.

Saturday was spent catering to my three-year old's musical tastes, or at least what I thought she might enjoy. We hit up Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas, who finished with a great cover of Le Tigre's Deceptacon! Then we wandered over to Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies before standing very far away from the stage to hear the Wu Tang Clan deliver a very tight set. After a short pit stop, the Flaming Lips gave a superb performance that was visually the most unique and beautiful of the festival. Finally, I finished out the night with Samhain, which played Initium, their first album released thirty years ago (damn I'm old).

Flaming Lips. A stage show that entertains children of all ages. Really glad I saw this happen.

Tegan and Sara kicked off my Sunday afternoon back at the fest with a solid and entertaining performance. Next up was Dropkick Murphys. These guys played a very strong set. The Cure and Weezer were the big closing headliners for Sunday, but it was Patti Smith who, at sixty-eight, stole the show, underscoring the fact that age is not a barrier to viability or relevance. Her performance was loving and powerful all at once. Smith's music and inter-song commentary imparted much wisdom and was easily the most moving performance of Riot Fest. I then caught a bit of Social Distortion before taking a ride on one of the Ferris wheels just after sunset. The skyline was amazing, and the crowd below looked massive. We arrived on solid ground just in time to grab some food, another Dizzy Blonde, and see the Cure. Robert Smith doesn't miss a single note, and the rest of the band sounded amazing. After forty minutes, I headed over to stand very far away from Weezer just to catch a few of the middle songs from the Blue album. Say what you will about Rivers Cuomo, the man has talent and they nailed the four or five songs that I heard. I finished the night back at the Cure, who played for over two hours. But all good things must end. Riot Fest was a lot of fun, and it's always nice to chat with random attendees while mingling together in some line or another. This was Riot Fest's ten-year anniversary, and I hope they will still be doing the same thing in ten years time. And cheers to Ray, who was kind enough to split a Tecate with us as we were walking to our bus Sunday night!

Closing out with the Cure. This photo fails to capture the awesomeness of their stage decor and lighting.

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