Riot Fest 2021: Thursday Preview Party Featuring: Morrissey, Alkaline Trio, Patti Smith & Her Band, Joyce Manor, WDRL & Kristeen Young
Photography by Bobby Talamine
Writing by Bobby Talamine and Fiza Javid
A Gift from Riot Fest to all ticket holders for the three day event:
An extra day, with a chill and mellow vibe, featuring headliner Morrissey, along with Patti Smith and her band as highlights through the evening.
And so it starts (refreshingly), entering the hallowed Riot Fest grounds, taking in the scenery, the new layout with the two main stages- (instead of the Riot and Roots stages situated right next to each other, they're now interspersed about a football field apart from each other, opposite ends of the main part of the grounds).
Have to say the smaller crowd on a late afternoon through the evening on a Thursday was a nice vibe, with not much to deal with jam packed crowds wise, like I assume will be Friday through Sunday, and having to logistically mend your way from one stage to the next depending on the band and timing and such. A win win in my opinion, saying hello to the mighty fine staff of Riot Fest, catching up, giving hugs and giving support to one another going forward, especially during a pandemic.
As for the bookings for the preview party, starting with Morrissey and working down the list:
I'm not here for this short review to lay waste to Morrissey and his political stances and occasionally opinionated rants. I'm here to discuss his performance, and only his performance.
Outside of the surprising and last minute changes to the press photographers and the new location to photograph the show- (what was supposed to be the sides of the stage - take your pick- ended up being the herd of photographers sanctioned and plunked in the middle / dividing runway, with not much wiggle room to maneuver to say the least.
Cumbersome and lumber-some for the next three songs- Morrissey releasing the hounds of "How Soon is Now" to start the show, as he's done now for the past couple of years performance wise.
Lost count how many times I got dinged in the head telephoto wise by my photographer brethren, but that's part of the game with Morrissey's management making last minute decisions on where to place us, like it was a game to see how tough we are, and can we get the shot.
At least that's what was going through my head prior to Morrissey starting the show.
Well, I'm here to fight, stand my ground, and prove the Morrissey management that I can get the shot, and like so many other photographers corralled in the runway divider- we're gonna produce. Chicago press photographers are a tough lot- not easily intimidated.
As for Morrissey, looking jovial and ever the ageless crooner he aspires to be, he looked cool in his spiffy blazer, with a New York Dolls T shirt underneath, still whipping his microphone chord around like a bullwhip, taking some liberties with the refrain from : "How Soon is Now"- "I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does", and adding some convincing "Heys" and "Yeahs" immediately after to prove the point convincingly.
The song still carries weight and significance- a club favorite from back in the days of its release and beyond, really not a song in The Smiths and Morrissey's singing/ songwriting realm- a leap into hypnotic waves of sonic guitar, courtesy of Johnny Marr, and added oomph with Morrissey's detached view of things with his singing and meaning.
In other words- A Smiths song with risks. As for live, without Johnny Marr and co, it still holds and packs a wallop.
Then off we go into "Irish Blood, English Heart", from Morrissey's release "You are the Quarry" back in 2002, and into "Alma Matters" from "Maladjusted".
Have to say Morrissey is covering some serious solo ground here, like performances of yore, and he still sounds refreshing, as does his band. Morrissey's setlist, 18 songs in total, cover the gamut, but have to say walking the grounds after the onslaught of the first three songs packed in like sardines, it was nice to soak in song 5, "Everyday is Like Sunday", a solo favorite of mine from Morrissey, and soaking it all in, vibes and all
A pleasant and refreshing headlining performance from Morrissey, have to tell ya.
And to quickly bounce to Patti Smith and Her Band:
She never gets old. Patti and her longtime band mate Lenny Kaye are just riveting to not only photograph time and time again, but also convincingly cool with a message that's always so righteous and forthright.
Even fighting through the late afternoon blazing sun, which Patti made mention of, and commanding the faithful with "People Have the Power" to start things off- her 10 song set still trail-blazes, still moves you to your core, still commands your attention.
To hear later gold with "Dancing Barefoot", and "Because the Night" and ending with "Land/ Gloria"- I'm refreshed and rejuvenated.
Patti Smith and her band- Tirelessly and resoundingly the class of upper echelon rock n' roll, and with a Riot Fest crowd swaying and dancing in place, and cool, and rather mellow. The whole vibe during Patti's set was all of the above, like you didn't want her performance to end.
Matt Skiba, Dan Adriano and Derek Grant of Chicago's very own Alkaline Trio made most of their time performance wise, banging out short and concise anthems from front to back, with little fanfare, but with lots of performance chops and swagger, just like you'd expect from these guys.
As for Joyce Manor, led by Barry Johnson from Torrance California, they trailblazed as well with their 45 minute set in the late afternoon sun, with their emo/ punk rock songs so matter of fact and high octane.
WDRL, (We Don't Ride Llamas), all the way from Austin Texas, had a unique charm to them, still developing their sound with genres of music criss-crossing each other, and all four band members clearly enjoying their moment on the main stage, smiles throughout.
Opener Kristeen Young, appearing solo with just a synth and sampled keyboard, held court with a cabaret style and vibe, and blessed with a vocal range that can wail.
As much as she's a commanding kind of performer, performing in the late afternoon sun has its drawbacks, like Nick Cave for instance, and could have easily upped the ante had she performed after sunset, with a moody light show to back her up. Overall though, a terrific set.
So there ya go- Preview of Riot Fest now history and noteworthy, with the three full boat days awaiting.
- JBTV Music Television