I realize I have spent lots of time of late bemoaning the hardships of the vertically challenged. I want to assure you that I acknowledge and sympathize with the indignities tall people face everyday, which I’m sure are as upsetting as my inability to see anything at concerts. There was, for instance, that time the rest of the Ramones made Joey Ramone stand in a hole.
I recall that when I left off I was giving both Anita Pallenberg and Jane Birkin a run for their money in the hipness department. And the feeling did not abate when I got up the next morning – a surprisingly cold, gray day, with rain predicted off and on. No matter. I had my “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” t-shirt on, and my leather jacket, and I was going to spend the day with dinosaurs at the Field Museum of Natural History before reporting for Day One of Riot Fest.
My hipness points started to slip the minute I took this picture.
On tap for us, Riot Fest wise, were GWAR, Gogol Bordello, the Offspring and Slayer. I’m going to kind of gloss over these quickly, because our photos are terrible due to complete crapness of the weather.
We wound up arriving a bit later to the festival than expected, mainly due to foot dragging because it was cold and miserable outside, and also because of a last minute run to Old Navy so Patrick could buy a warmer shirt, because Patrick did not go to finishing/modeling school and never learned how to pack an efficient wardrobe that covers a variety of weather eventualities. As a result, we caught the very tail end of GWAR’s set – just enough for us to say that, yes, we were present at the debut of Vulvatron.
By the time Gogol Bordello took the stage, the rain was falling steadily and the ground was a soupy mess. The very attractive blue plastic poncho I was wearing was creating an unpleasant freezing sweat situation, and my hipness points were slipping by the minute. It was clear that we would be looking at a mud situation of Woodstock proportions for the rest of the weekend. And by the time the Offspring started (playing Smash in its entirety), I had whipped out the pair of winter gloves I’d brought along in a vain attempt to quell the sweaty shivering – although a mud squelching round of pogoing during Self Esteem helped a bit.
We made it through the very beginning of Slayer’s set (playing Reign in Blood in its entirety) before we decided to split. I’m not a huge Slayer fan, but I felt I needed to at least pay my respects, because the psychologist I had in high school was, in fact, a huge Slayer fan. I found this out at our first session, when he leaned across his desk in a tweed jacket with leather patches that he could only have ordered from the Frasier Crane Brand Shrink Supply Shop ™ and explained that he could identify with the kids today because “I listen to Slayer,” which is exactly what every overly sensitive depressed teenage girl who is maybe considering flirting with bulimia a little needs to hear so she can really open up.
Patrick’s Chuck Taylors looked like they were completely destroyed. My trusty Frye engineer boots had fared better, but I still walked out of Humbolt Park that night with enough mud on my boots that it wouldn’t have been out of line for the State of Illinois to start charging me property tax. We both spent about an hour the next day using the sink of our Chicago gourmet kitchen to clean the (likely non hepatitis ridden – it was Riot Fest, not the Gathering of the Juggalos) mud off our footwear.
“I can’t wear these today,” Patrick said. “I’m going to have to buy some cheap boots or something.”
“Ridiculous,” I said. “Not when Doc Martens is right down the street. You can get those muddy, but they’ll clean up nice, and you won’t have to toss them at the end of the festival.”
So, while we waited for our table at The Bongo Room, where I looked forward to chowing down on some lobster Eggs Benedict, we headed over to Doc Martens, where Patrick got a gorgeous pair of Pascals and we got a discount only people who also purchased Riot Fest tickets on site were supposed to get, because, “You guys are really cool.” Hipness cred back on the upswing!
We walked back to brunch, and I caught sight of myself in a store window. My outfit and Bettie bangs game was on point. “You hip thing,” I mouthed at my reflection, and then promptly tripped over a crack in the sidewalk. Shazbot!
RiotFest plans for the day included Television, Die Antwoord, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Metric, and The National. So we spent the rest of the day looking like this, despite the mud now being ankle deep and, apparently, hungry. Many an ill advised shoe choice protruded, half submerged, from the muck like a rejected sacrifice:
For me, the big day, the day I was looking most forward to, was Sunday. Because Sunday was the day Cheap Trick played. The weeks leading up to RiotFest were a bit fraught, as Patrick was supposed to go to New Orleans for work basically the minute the festival ended, and for a bit it looked like we might miss part of the festival. “As long as I don’t miss Cheap Trick or Social Distortion,” I told him. “That would be grounds for divorce.”
As it turned out, the New Orleans thing worked out fine. It was Riot Fest itself that delivered the fatal blow – Cheap Trick and Social Distortion were scheduled for exactly the same time on opposite ends of the park. Panic! Panic! I started trolling the internet for set lists from both bands, trying to figure out when would be the best time to leave one to catch the other. Then it was announced that Cheap Trick would be playing their best album, Heaven Tonight, in its entirety. It was time to bring in the big guns. I was going to have to ask myself, “What would Joey want me to do?”
And if I was going to miss Social Distortion, I was damn well going to be at the barrier for Cheap Trick. I wasn’t planning on going the full Riff Randall, just…you know….a bit.
Feeling throughly confident now that I was doing the right thing, I threw on my Worn Free “I’m not Joey Ramone” t-shirt and headed out. We’d have to sacrifice a few of the shows we’d planned to see to stake out a good spot for Cheap Trick, but figured we could still fit in Andrew WK and Tegan and Sara. “I don’t know much about Tegan and Sara,” I said to Patrick.
“Oh, you’ll like them,” he said. “Since you like Garfunkel and Oates. They’re lesbians. From Russia, I think.”
(Programming note: Tegan and Sara are indeed lesbians, but they are not, in fact, from Russia).
I started to slightly regret my choice to skip Dropkick Murphys and Patti Smith to wait for Cheap Trick, but I perked up a bit when I ran into this fellow, who, like me, felt it necessary to warn an unsuspecting public that he was, in fact, NOT a Ramone.
And, after Tegan and Sara, those well known Russian lesbians, concluded their set, we headed over to the Cheap Trick stage.
It was worth it.
Wading deep into a pit of rabid Weezer, who was playing after Cheap Trick, fans who had been camped in front of the stage since the gates open that morning was worth it. Standing in the mud, now at the consistency of Play-Doh and smelling like manure under a hot July sun was worth it. My feet, which felt like they were swollen to twice their normal size and threatening to not hold me up anymore, were worth it.
Surrender! Robin Zander wearing the Dream Police suit! Rick Nielson! I had died and gone to 70s rock heaven.
I went to bed that night on another high. And the only thing that could bring it down was having to be at the airport at 6:15 the next morning.
Here’s the thing: of the many, many things I am terrible at, mornings are probably right up there with math. I am complete crap in the morning. All I wanted to do was get through security as quickly as possible and then find a nice chair near my gate to sleep in until I could board. I had a strong suspicion my plan would be thwarted as we started funneling towards security. A TSA agent was standing squarely in the middle of the lane, and every now and again he would direct someone, seemingly at random, “to the right,” which sounded rather ominous. I stuck close to Patrick, and the left side of the lane, when the TSA agent said, “Ramones! To the right!”
I was wearing a Ramones t-shirt, because of course I was.
A brief, panicked glance at Patrick and I veered off to the right, where my palms were swabbed. I knew they were swabbing for explosives, and I knew this wasn’t normally part of security. “Clear,” the agent said, and waved me onto the next station.
I started taking a look at the other folks who had been directed “to the right.” A Descendents shirt here. A studded leather jacket there. Oooh…was that a Dictators shirt? Nice! Clearly Riot Festers, along with a smattering of bewildered looking business types and a sizable number of African Americans and Latinos. It became clear to me what was happening as we were funneled along. We’d all been profiled. We were probably going to be tested for drugs. My bad attitude and punk rock demeanor were going to result in a predawn cavity search. My mother was right after all. I was furious. Quietly, though. And then I thought to myself, “Wait! I have a platform! Dozens* of people read my blog every day! I can expose this injustice! I’ll stand up for what’s right using my freedom of speech! I should not be penalized just for looking badass and awesome, which apparently some people find threatening!”
And thus, with my head held high, I sailed into the final station of the security line. Where they told us to leave our shoes on, place liquids and electronics in our bags, and walk through the (non naked) metal detector, because we’d all been selected for expedited security.
Sooo….not badass, then.
*I am aware this is a gross exaggeration. Shut up.