Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic”
On this date in history, 9/17/2021, the wife and I (this was our first full day of shows as a married couple…nice!) decided to pursue quality over quantity, and set our sites on a few key favorites.
We made our way to the Radical Stage to secure a good spot near the front to wait for Fishbone, who were going to perform The Reality Of My Surroundings in its entirety. When we arrived, a singer/songwriter billed as Amigo The Devil was playing to an enthusiastic crowd that seemingly knew the lyrics to all his songs.
I love making these discoveries of musicians I’ve never heard before, and I will definitely be paying attention to this guy….his stuff was really good. After Amigo The Devil finished his set, we slid effortlessly into some prime real estate along the rail in the front row, where we would remain for both Fishbone and Living Colour.
I have been a big fan of Fishbone since seeing them a couple of times in their heyday of the early to mid ‘90’s, and the prospect of seeing them play my favorite album of theirs filled me with huge anticipatory excitement. That excitement grew exponentially when I realized that all the original members (with the possible exception of the guitarist) were back together. After a bit of a shaky start sound wise, Fishbone quickly established dominance and delivered a blistering display of the rock/soul/ska/metal/funk gumbo that influenced so many of their contemporaries back in the day.
We had already seen Living Colour a couple of months ago, so we already knew we were in for an incredible display of musical muscle. This time around we were on the bass player side of the stage, so it was really cool to get a different view of this flawless band. I must say that after seeing Norwood Fisher dominate the low end with Fishbone and Doug Wimbish doing the same with Living Colour, I was feeling the love for the Bass. Of course, Vernon Reid was his usual fire and brimstone self on this crazy new custom guitar he had recently acquired! Next on our agenda was a trip to the Rise Stage to catch a blistering set of hardcore punk from the legendary Circle Jerks.
Front man Keith Morris (one day shy of his 66th birthday) announced early on that they were planning to play 29 songs (in a one hour set!), and I’m pretty certain they got it done. As a matter of fact, we met a guy the next day who claimed to have seen the Circle Jerks set list and said it was four pages long. However high the number, the songs themselves were explosive and propelled by an airtight beast of a punk band.
The skies opened up and poured some refreshing rain upon the frenzied fans, who moshed and crowd surfed throughout the manic set.
After all that wildness, we wandered around a bit and stayed way back as Smashing Pumpkins played their headlining set at the Riot Stage. Billy Corgan and company had an impressive light show and sound mix, but try as I may, I just can’t take too much of Corgan’s whiny voice. I was happy they played Drown, though. That song from the Singles movie soundtrack has always been a favorite with all the layers of glorious feedback that Corgan and James Iha conjured from their guitars. They did a nice job of recreating that beautiful chaos at Riot Fest.
We stuck around long enough for NOFX to make their entrance on the Rise Stage. Singer/bassist Fat Mike made some funny remarks (including his opinion that Smashing Pumpkins suck!) and finally got around to blasting through a short burst of punk fury that would have fit right in with the Circle Jerks.
It had been a long and eventful day and as we rode the train back to where we were staying, the entire crowd on the train found out we had been married the previous day and gave us a suitably rousing Riot Fest cheer of approval! We have found our tribe!