Riot Fest Gexa Energy Pavilion, Dallas Saturday, September 22
If you couldn't get enough of Rise Against and The Gaslight Anthem the other night -- and were willing to drive four hours up to Dallas -- the first Texas edition of Riot Fest was sorta worth it.
Yes, it was hot with a high in the mid-90s, and it was really confusing not knowing when which band was going to play on two of the three stages. With no set schedule available for the plaza and main stages (the third stage, in a nicely-shaded pavilion had their set times posted at the front), you had to roll the dice on seeing your favorite bands.
Mixed in with some Dallas-area bands, Houston's own The American Heist and Venomous Maximus luckily played back-to-back. The four members from the Heist gave a respectable set of gruff pop-punk to an attentive crowd.
Venomous Maximus, despite having a tug-of-war with the soundman during their first song, delivered some molten lava for 30 minutes. Comparisons could be made to The Sword (who were on the main stage at roughly the same time, by the way), early Rainbow, and Fu Manchu, the heavily-tatted band made their five songs stick out.
Andrew WK gave a baffling set on the main stage. Billed as a special solo performance, he opened with an acapella rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner." He threw out prizes, like Ben-Hur and Thundercats on DVD, and did versions of "Party Hard," "Ruby Tuesday," and "I Get Wet" on the piano.
He even brought up a fan onto the stage -- who drove five hours from South Houston in hopes of seeing a full-band set -- and let him hang out. Again, baffling. Then again, this is a guy whose live band features a Jazzercise dancer.
The Gaslight Anthem seemed to be racing with sun as it set. The New Jersey boys ran right through eight songs in 25 minutes, including a few from their latest, Handwritten. NOFX was their usual comical self for a half-hour, leading into probably the best set of the day: an hour set by the legendary Descendents.
The venue was half-full (the largest it was for the whole night) and the band cooked. With 27 songs, including "Silly Girl," "Suburban Home," and "I'm the One," there wasn't anything that the band forgot to play. Performing with such joy and conviction, the hour quickly passed by.
Headliners Rise Against played a staggering 21 songs to a dedicated number of remaining diehards, but their 100-minute set felt mostly long in the tooth. Raging against injustice and greed in the world through the filter of generic pop-punk and radio-rock, the four-piece's sound doesn't necessarily come across as inspired.
Luckily, an incredibly moving tribute to Tony Sly from No Use for a Name and Minor Threat and Black Flag covers were welcome reprieves.
Personal Bias: I lived in Kingwood between 1987 and 1998 and still consider Houston home since my immediate family lives there. Dallas is my second home and I was happy to help out the Houston Press for this.
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Random Note: Saw shirts for bands I hadn't thought of in a long time: Blood for Blood, Dynamite Boy, and Token Entry.
Notebook Dump: Heard a guy behind me talk about River Fenix and Save Ferris. I declined to ask him if he saw them at Fitzgerald's in 1997.