Riot Fest surges southward into Dallas
Riot Fest set up camp at Gexa Energy Pavilion in Dallas on Saturday for its first date in the south. The punk, metal and alternative rock festival was founded in Chicago in 2005, and began expanding its range last year. Rather than simply touring a fixed list of bands, though, Riot Fest combined a selection of headlining bands from the Chicago event with local Texas bands on the side stages.
The main stage opened early in the day to accommodate the unusually large number of headlining acts. Tony Foresta of Municipal Waste seemed amused by the arrangement: “I thought it might be weird playing a pavilion at three in the afternoon, but actually, it’s really … weird!” He forged ahead, though, as Municipal Waste thrashed through party metal songs like “You’re Cut Off” and “Beer Pressure.”
All the energy they built seemed to dissipate as “partier” Andrew W.K. arrived. Starting by fumbling through the national anthem in a manner that one can only assume was intended to be amusing, he then flung DVDs at the audience by way of apology. There did seem to be a few Andrew W.K. followers in the audience, identifiable through their shouting out of song titles. Most, though, were bewildered or took the opportunity to check out the side stages.
They came back for Less Than Jake. Their high-energy set brought the crowd back to life. If you’ve never seen a Less Than Jake show, it can really only be described as “fun.” The upbeat rhythms and dual trombone make it nearly impossible not to be in a good mood.
Shifting gears once again, Austin’s The Sword and their sludge/stoner metal sound seemed a bit lost on the largely punk crowd in the pavilion. For the metalheads, however, this was one of the highlights of the festival.
Beginning with The Gaslight Anthem, the punk bands carried the remainder of the night. Fighting the blinding Gexa Energy Pavilion sunset, they played several songs from their new album, “Handwritten,” including “45,” which can frequently be heard on local airwaves.
A punk’s dream came next with the one-two punch of NOFX and the Descendents. NOFX in particular was having fun with the crowd, teasing the mosh pit for helping people up when they were buried in the crush. When the Descendents arrived onstage, there was almost a sense of reverence. While their set was only an hour long, they managed to pack over two dozen songs into that time, including “Everything Sucks,” “Suburban Home” and “I’m Not a Loser.”
Capping off the evening was Rise Against, playing a full hour-and-a -half-long set. Mixing melodic punk with political commentary (HBO fans might have recognized the rant from the first episode of “The Newsroom”), the band made regular tribute to their predecessors, both in the festival and in punk rock overall. After bringing out the acoustic guitar for “Swing Life Away,” frontman Tim McIlrath played a beautiful version of “For Fiona” by the recently departed Tony Sly of No Use For A Name. They also squeezed Minor Threat and Black Flag covers (featuring members of NOFX and the Descendents) between their own songs “Broken Mirrors” and “Savior” during the encore.
It was a great day for punk and metal fans. Hopefully Dallas will see more of Riot Fest next year. For coverage of the side-stage bands, be sure to click over to Texas punk and metal feature prominently at Riot Fest.
The Gaslight Anthem
Less Than Jake