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Riot Fest 2013 review

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Riot Fest 2013 review – Iggy and The Stooges steal the show!

Iggy Pop - Cred: Tee Onek

Iggy Pop – Cred: Tee Onek

What: Riot Fest
Where: Toronto, Quebec
When: August 24 — 25, 2013

Yes, this was the 22 year reunion show for Minneapolis legends The Replacements, more on that below…


RIOT FEST – Day 1 – Sat 24 Aug
By: Feargal Daly
Festival Overview
Location: Fort York is an ideal downtown location for Riot Fest. A sizeable space sectioned off in the historic site was easily accessible by the TTC and there were no issues getting the large crowd out quickly and safely.

Riot FestFood/Drink: As the “Cronut” debacle rages on in the wake of over 150 illnesses from the CNE I was still surprised to find the usual long lines of people willing to indulge in fest food. Food was all standard affair.

Prices were reasonable with $7 beer when you compare the ludicrous prices against the Molson Amphitheater who’ll happily give you the “privilege” of paying $15 for a tall boy of Canadian…

Security/Organization: Security was fair. There was no ridiculous security check where you’d swear they wanted a criminal background before admittance. They didn’t hassle the media as other venues have this summer and one good humoured security guy asked if I wanted ear plugs. I wish I took him up on the offer.

Standard rule and affairs were enforced but the crowd was allowed to enjoy themselves – even if that means one guy dressed as a clown wildly flailing his arms across a circle pit…

Nobody was here to cause trouble so security had an easy day. You can’t really feel threatened by a sea of scene kids though can you?

Hygiene: There was a discernible lack of trash cans so naturally the space between your feet was used to unload everything. Staff were on hand to help ease this but the issue just got out of control in the crowded sections.

Toilets didn’t last long but what else would you expect? That was an area to avoid by 4pm.



Who: Real Friends
From: Chicago, IL


Stage Presence: 7
Image: 5
Musical Ability: 5
Originality: 5
Crowd Reaction: 9

Real friends were the first band of the day and ushered in the Riot Fest weekend to Toronto.

It was all really standard though for the relatively unknown quintet as the band even admited “90% of you probably don’t give a shit about us”. You have to admire their will to win the crowd over, which in the moment they succeeded, but certainly left no memorable impression. That’s a serious downside to being the unknown opener and I’m not convinced Real Friends were up for the challenge with this lacklustre performance.

The early tunes were indecipherable and melded into one clump of sound indistinguishable from the next.

Mid-set track “Dirty Water” added a bit of much needed dynamism to the otherwise disappointing mix yet the continuously muddy vocal onslaught reemerged and the rest of the set failed to impress.

Huge energy and good crowd interaction but at the cost of any enjoyable musicality. Let’s see how they pan out 12 months from now.


Structures From: Toronto, ON

Structures Riot Fest


Stage Presence: 6
Image: 6
Musical Ability: 4
Originality: 5
Crowd Reaction: 6

Toronto hardcore Sumerian Records group Structures were up second and drew in a sizeable crowd as a popular local act. You could feel the energy building as the PA music dipped and the band gazed out to the crowd. Cue the performance and within an impressive 5 seconds the stage was barely visible as dust lifted into the air from the huge circle pit up front.

The dust settled and soon the music became the focus – If you can call it that. I thought Real Friends were indecipherable but this just turned it to 11. I have no idea how anything in this set was suppose to resemble a coherent song.

“I need everybody to jump the fuck up and down right now!” demanded frontman Nick Xourafas. Well he got about 5 seconds out of the dehydrated teens on the left – Success?

Things started to really lull towards the latter stages of the set. Crowd members became noticeably tired of the dissonant chords repeatedly bashed out amid a blaze of ridiculous attempts at technical solos. Some even turned their backs on the band to talk to their friends. Wish I had done the same.

“Toronto, wake the fuck up!” frontman Nick Xourufas constantly demanded. We would have if it was worth it.


The Ghost Inside From: Los Angeles, CA

The Ghost Inside Riot Fest


Stage Presence: 7
Image: 6
Musical Ability: 7
Originality: 6
Crowd Reaction: 9

Third act on Day 1 saw experienced LA hardcore outfit The Ghost Inside emerge to an impressive sized crowd.

It took awhile for the energy to flow but “The Great Unknown” was the first song of the day to sound like an actual together hardcore song. They utilized breaks well to engage the crowd.

“Between the lines” brutally  continued the trend of circle pits yet this time it genuinely felt warranted. The crowd were won over by a performance that started to feel genuine.

The band was minus one today and required a fill in guitarist. It wasn’t noticeable and everyone would have be none the wiser had the band not mentioned it. Still, you got to admire that on stage unity.

“Engine 45” was immensely heavy and was thematically heavy. You could feel the crowd really tune into this final track but the final applause felt a little weak.

While a definite improvement to the day it wasn’t enough to satisfy and left the crowd wanting more. Perhaps the goods were produced a little too late from The Ghost Inside.



Grade From: Burlington, ON

Grade Riot Fest


Stage Presence: 6
Image: 5
Musical Ability: 6
Originality: 5
Crowd Reaction: 4

Grade emerge after reuniting last year almost a decade out of the scene. Straight away you could sense the disappointment as they took the stage as the crowd just weren’t up for this gig and neither seemed the band.  They were after playing to an average age too young to remember them – some probably not even born when they toured in the 90s. Shame really to see one of two Canadian acts get such a reaction.

However, It was somewhat justified. 3 songs in and despite a superior clarity in the mix the performance just never took off. Were they not popular enough? Not heavy enough? Or were they simply not good enough? Sadly it seems like a combination of the three, and then some.

These guys are old school emo/punk yet there was no heartfelt emotion at all. It’s not that these guys didn’t do their act well – it just felt old and tiring. Nothing set these guys apart from an over-saturated genre.

“If you don’t fit in, you’re doing something right” claims the band.  All well and good but when people pay to see a certain show they’re going to want that show.

40 minutes of a tired band going through the motions. Cue polite applause. Next act please.


Mayday Parade From: Tallahassee, FL

Mayday Parade Riot Fest


Stage Presence: 6
Image: 7
Musical Ability: 6
Originality: 6
Crowd Reaction: 8

There were audible squeals as Mayday Parade took the stage. Evidently popular with the teen girls there was no way they wouldn’t be well received. The band won the crowd before they even played a single note.

They have got their set down. Songs effortlessly segued and the energy was kinetic, never letting up. This was at the sacrifice of a slightly sloppy performance particularly in frontman Derek Sanders vocals. The band had great technique, demonstrating musical unity as a band but I simply could not get over the whiny vocals.

It seems like Mayday Parade serve a purpose as a transitional band for younger generations. Today I heard more than a few in the crowd claim they used to love them. A teens delight but an awkward memory for some. I totally see why they were popular with the crowd but it’s just hard to believe these guys will be doing this for another 10 years.

Some of the songs felt like they were falling apart and resulted in a very confused collection set. A shoddy performance overall but you can’t fault their strong fan base for trying to keep them alive. It didn’t really work.


Every Time I Die From: Buffalo, NY

Every Time I Die Riot Fest


Stage Presence: 7
Image: 7
Musical Ability: 8
Originality: 6
Crowd Reaction: 7

Every Time I Die are the third last of the night and judging by the army of fans donning their merch, probably one of the more anticipated of Riot Fest Day 1.

There was a large amount of anticipation for the Buffalo 5 piece and as they took to the stage the crowd completely indulged the hardcore wall of sound that hit them.

There was evident confusion amongst some of the crowd as scores of younger fans rushed the stage to get a spot for Pierce The Veil. Poor youngsters probably got caught up in yet more circle pits. At this stage the pits were becoming stale and the most exciting aspect was a series of shoes being tossed back and forth.

Musically ETID brought their A-game however and ripped through a relentless set in their short set time. Chants for an encore died down pretty quick but they were the first to receive such a reception.


Pierce The Veil From: San Diego, CA

Pierce The Veil Riot Fest


Stage Presence: 4
Image: 4
Musical Ability: 3
Originality: 3
Crowd Reaction: 5

I am literally stuck for words to describe how awful these guys are but here we go.

Full of clichés and laden with all the tropes of a terrible flavour of the year group who are inevitably laughing and rolling in the wealth of ridiculous merch sales from their impressionable teenage girl fan base.

“I’m low on gas and you need a jacket”. Yeah, that’s the name of one of the songs – I can’t believe it either. It was a cute, quiet little campfire sing-along with the tweens up front. An out of tune guitar just enhanced the dish of shit that was served during this 3 minute abomination.

The rest of the set was a confused mess and showed a band desperately in need of an identity. Are they metal? Classical? Orchestral? If they turned into a mariachi band I wouldn’t have been surprised.

Out of tune guitars abound and annoyingly obvious backing tracks just add to an endless list of wrongdoings culminating in an embarrassing hour served to “the best crowd” they’ve ever played to. Yeah right…

A new song was thrown in and frankly it was desperate. It showed no signs of any positive musical development for this group and serves as a forewarning to anyone holding out hope for these guys (all 5 of you).

The only thing saving this review from being a 0/10 was the light show – it made it bright enough to write my notes. Thanks lighting guy!

Truly, I’m angry I subjected my senses to this utter display of tripe and so were countless others attending Riot Fest.


A Day To Remember From: Ocala, FL

A Day To Remember Riot Fest


Stage Presence: 8
Image: 7
Musical Ability: 7
Originality: 6
Crowd Reaction: 7

Day 1 headliners A Day To Remember opened with “Violence” to uproarious response. These guys meant business and you could see their progress in stage presence, image and pure showmanship.

A full crowd lapped up the moment and sang along to every lyric or smashing each other up during every onslaught of intense riffage.

“My Life For Hire” from their sophomore album Homesick helped reignite some brief lulls in the performance. This wasn’t always a problem as A Day To Remember had a real show to put on. Good that they had that to fall back on as the music wasn’t exactly good nor listenable but whatever it was had been displayed with character and enthusiasm.

The surprisingly effective light show felt natural and perfectly timed to enhance the performance and crowd participation. While not a perfect show by any stretch they were certainly the only band on Day 1 of Riot Fest to deliver an actual performance.



RIOT FEST – Day 2 – Sat 25 Aug
By: Giancarlo Cortez

I was very disappointed with Riot Fest. I didn’t see any clowns or jugglers as advertised. Wasn’t there supposed to be a sword swallowing guy at the festival too?

I been to four festivals this summer: Heavy MTL (Megadeth, Avenged Sevelfold and Rob Zombie headlined), Rock Star Mayhem Festival (Rob Zombie headlined), Uproar Festival (Alice in Chains and Jane’s Addiction headlined) and this is one.   Riot Fest is probably the only one I regret going to.

All of the dirt I inhaled at the show was coming back up in mud form through my mouth! It was a hipster festival (I saw a crazy number of bikes as I left the show). On top of that, my friend got his ass grabbed by three different hipster guys.


 Dinosaur Jr. – From: Amherst, Massachusetts, USA

Dinosaur Jr Riot FestTOTAL SCORE: 6.6

Stage Presence: 4
Sex Appeal: 5
Musical Ability: 9
Originality: 7
Crowd: 8


The band definitely had problems with their sound and the vocals were difficult to discern.

“It seems like nobody is having a riot but that’s ok” joked Dinasour JR bass player Lou Barlow.

Singer J Mascis looked emotionless as always while Lou did most of the talking. It was a really short set but they got a great reaction from the crowd (especially when The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’ was played).  Lots of kids in Nirvana shirts were seen enjoying the show.



The Weakerthans From: Winnipeg, MB

The Weakerthans Riot FestTOTAL SCORE: 3.4

Stage Presence: 3
Sex Appeal: 3
Musical Ability: 4
Originality: 2
Crowd: 5

The Weakerthans…Weaker than what?!

The Weakerthans lived up to their name… They’re weaker than everyone else! Probably the worst show I’ve ever seen. They started the show with an acoustic guitar.  C’mon!  I hate Mumford And The Sons and seeing a copy cat like this made it even worse. This was not Riot Fest music! While there were a few cheers during “Plea From A Cat Named Virtute”, The Weakerthans were clearly on the wrong bill.


Iggy and The Stooges

iggy pop riot festTOTAL SCORE: 8.8

Stage Presence: 10
Sex Appeal: 10
Musical Ability: 8
Originality: 8
Crowd: 8

Now celebrating four decades of putting the shiver in your spine, Iggy’s influence on punk remains undeniable. With a set-list boasting classics like,”The Passenger”, ” I Wanna Be Your Dog”, and “Search and Destroy”, no question, it was a fantastically fun show.

It’s his humor and the ability to put on a very tight set that elevates Iggy above other veteran mic-wielders. Iggy really is the last of a dying breed.  At 66 years young the man shows no sign of slowing down.     I’d put him up there with living legends like “Lemmy” Kilmister (Motorhead) and Mick Jagger (The Rolling Stones).     Iggy is an innovator and creator of Punk Rock that is worth seeing time and time again.

It was great to see James Williamson up on stage with Iggy.   Although Ron Asheton is sorely missed, Williamson and Iggy have an unprecedented chemistry. Williamson added some real musical sensibility to the mix with a slew of fantastic guitar solos.

“Fucking Thank You!” – yelled Iggy from the stage…making us think the set was over.

“Hey you wanna hear the passenger?  I can do that!”  He continued.    After playing the 1977 classic Iggy engaged the audience yet again:

“Guess you want us to stop?  But before I go, I’ve got to tell ya.  There’s a girl and she’s so pretty. Such a very very pretty Canadian girl. Right here in the front row.  But your pretty face is going to Hell baby!” as the band broke into the seminal ‘Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell’ from 1973’s Raw Power.

If all that wasn’t enough Iggy decided to end with “Sex And Money” from the recently released Ready To Die album.   With the lyrics “nipples come and nipples go!”  the crowd appreciated the new material which fit seamlessly into the set.

In a recent interview with Exclaim! magazine Williamson threw down a challenge to headliners The Replacements: “I do have to say, good luck to the Replacements on following us”

Here are a few FUN FACTS that compare both sets

a) The VIP was beyond capacity during Iggy’s set, forcing people who paid for wrist bands to wait.  This was not the case during the Replacements set.

b) There was a heavy push towards the main stage making it nearly impossible to get any closer about three songs into The Stooges set.

c) The crowd was far more energetic and densely packed for Iggy’s set

After seeing both sets and being completely non-biased I can safely say that Iggy Pop and The Stooges did indeed steal the show! (see videos below)


The Replacements

The Replacements Riot Fest


Stage Presence: 4
Sex Appeal: 5
Musical Ability: 7
Originality: 8
Crowd: 8

The Replacements got to headline just because they recently reunited and this meant ticket sales. However, the band should of done their reunion show somewhere other than Toronto.  Scalpers were practically giving away tickets at the entrance in an attempt to break even.  The turn out was pretty good, but nowhere near what was expected. These days, way too many bands are reuniting, even bands that didn’t really matter are reuniting. I don’t see the nostalgia business with The Replacements lasting too long.

With a little bit of humour frontman Paul Westerberg started the set:

“for 25 years we had a wardrobe debate, unresolved”

The Replacements were disappointing, maybe it’s because they really toned down in the middle of the set or because this is their first show in 22 years and they still need to work out the rust.  I heard from a reliable source that they had only been rehearsing for two weeks prior to the show.

The most notable moment was when they played a riff from Jimi Hendrix’s Third Stone From the Sun, an unexpected cool surprise.

The band has one of the most technical drummers in the world, Josh Freese but I’d rather see him with NIN again. Why would they need a technical drummer like this for this kind of simple music? It reminded me of when I saw  Avenged Sevenfold with Mike Portnoy (ex Dream Theater) at Heavy MTL years ago.

Paul Westerberg looked pretty drunk but didn’t make any mistakes, save a few missed lyrics here and there, but hey it wouldn’t be The Replacements if it was perfect. He floored the crowd with classics like “Little Mascara,”  “Alex Chilto,” and “Left of the Dial”.

Die hard nostalgic fans will say they got their money’s worth and claim that it was the best thing since seeing The Replacements get banned from Saturday Night Live in the mid 80s.  However, the set didn’t live up to the hype and certainly should not have followed the likes of the tightly experienced machine that is Iggy and The Stooges.

See for you yourself:

Iggy Pop – Riot Fest:

The Replacements – Riot Fest:



Review:  Feargal Daly, Giancarlo Cortez & Darrell Shelley
Photos: Stephanie Tran & Tee Onek



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