Riot Fest Day 1: George Clinton rocks out at 82, Tegan and Sara fall in love with Chicago – Chicago Sun-Times

Riot Fest 2023 got off to a sunny start Friday, which might be the only rays the crowds will see this weekend if the forecast holds true for Saturday and Sunday.

But on this day, the park was alive with a dose of warm energy to match the sunshine. In many ways, Chicago’s music festival season saves one of the best for last, with the indie-spirited and community-flavored Riot Fest serving as a big hug send-off to the season.

Acts were ramped up and ready to go early in the day with the Riot, Rebel, Roots, Radical and Rise Stages ready to present a full platter of sounds for Day 1.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights from Friday:

Foo Fighters

Every time Foo Fighters play Chicago, frontman Dave Grohl has one particular story he likes to tell the assembled masses. It’s the same story, with a little extra detail added in every time, but it never loses its sentiment.

“We don’t have to go into it but I want you guys to know that the first time I ever saw a live band play a show was at Cubby Bear when I was 13 years old. I say it every time I play here,” Grohl shared — again — of seeing Naked Raygun in 1983.

“I had never seen a rock and roll band on stage. That s- – t changed my life forever. So whenever we play this city I always gives props, not only to Cubby Bear, not only to Naked Raygun, not only to my cousin Tracy who took me, but to the city of Chicago. Without you I don’t think I’d be doing this thing.”

In the band’s headlining set on Friday night, Grohl led the Foos into the nostalgia-wielding “Times Like These” to drive the message home. Grohl and his counterparts — Chris Shiflett, Nate Mendel, Pat Smear, Rami Jaffee and newly inked drummer Josh Freese — always come wholly alive when they are in concert with long, looping takes on song arrangements for “The Pretender” and “My Hero,” entertaining tangents, and the occasional one-offs (like playing the more-obscure “White Limo” on this night).

The band have kept their fallen comrade, the late drummer Taylor Hawkins, close to their hearts, vowing to play “Aurora,” Hawkins’ favorite song, “every night for the rest of their lives.” — Selena Fragassi

Tegan and Sara

The duo opened with “You Wouldn’t Like Me,” a banger from their 2004 album “So Jealous” that got the crowd dancing. It was followed by “I Can’t Grow Up” from 2022’s “Crybaby.”

After an energetic rendition of “Where Does the Good Go,” Tegan endeared the duo to the crowd even more by telling a story of how she went on an architectural boat tour and is contemplating staying in Chicago for six months at a time after falling in love with the city.

The duo, known for their banter with fans, should have focused more on their music however as another tale in between songs a few minutes later seemed to bore many in attendance. Once they returned to playing music, the duo continued serving up their poppy songs without much deviation from what’s on their albums. Despite this, the crowd seemed happy with that and knew what they came for. — Bob Chiarito

Tegan And Sara perform on Day 1 of Riot Fest in Douglass Park on the Southwest Side.

The Breeders

This year there are seven album plays scheduled at Riot Fest, one of the most anticipated being The Breeders offering “Last Splash” to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the ‘90s-defining disc.

“We are here to play an album that came out in 1993 from beginning to end, even the slow songs that are too weird to play live,” said Kim Deal to start things off.

Sure enough, things “got weird” on the droney “Roi” in which bassist Josephine Wiggs and drummer Jim MacPherson switched places; following it, Kim’s twin, Kelley Deal, got her moment to shine, taking vocal lead on “I Just Wanna Get Along.”

Following the order of songs on the album, uber hit “Cannonball” came second in the performance, before which Kim Deal shouted “Viva Mexico” into the mic to mark Mexican Independence Day on Saturday.

The song’s distorted vocal effects were a total throwback moment as elder Riot fans dug out their phones to capture the memory. — Selena Fragassi


The Breeders perform on Day 1 of Riot Fest in Douglass Park on the Southwest Side.

Ani DiFranco

Folk rocker Ani DiFranco, who thanked her fans for sticking with her “over the decades,” pulled half her songs from her 1996 album “Dilate” and 1998’s “Little Plastic Castle,” which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

DiFranco, who referred to herself at one point as the “patron saint of bisexuality,” thrilled her fans, many who come from the LGBTQ+ community, with three songs from “Little Plastic Castle”: “Pixie,” the title track, and “Two Little Girls.” 

While she also played three songs from her seminal album, “Dilate” — including “Shameless,” probably the most rocking song of her set; “Napoleon” and “Untouchable Face” — she also mixed in “Do or Die” and “Simultaneously” from her 2021 “Revolutionary Love,” her most recent release. Performing those sounds, which have more of a funk feel to them, DiFranco really shined and displayed a sultry, almost jazzlike voice. — Bob Chiarito


Ani DiFranco performs on Day 1 of Riot Fest in Douglass Park Friday.

The Interrupters

The band, rounded out by singer Aimee Interrupter and touring member Billy Kottage on keyboards and trombone, showed the magic behind their longevity in a high-energy set full of anthemic songs that had more than a few in the crowd skank dancing.

The band tore through oldies and still goodies like “Take Back The Power” and tracks from their latest album “In The Wild,” released in April. There was also a cover of Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” that worked surprisingly well as a horn-heavy ska track before the group ended with a toast to fans “coming to events like Riot Fest and supporting live music.”— Selena Fragassi


The Interrupters perform on Day 1 of Riot Fest in Douglass Park Friday. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Parliament-Funkadelic featuring George Clinton

George Clinton, at 82 years old, was likely the driver for the large throngs of festivalgoers who showed for the midday set at the Rise Stage.

Clinton has been teasing his farewell for a while now, and the man, no doubt, deserves to retire in the same blaze of glory with which he first made his entrance.

Parliament-Funkadelic introduced him with House of Pain’s “Jump Around” and reminded the crowd, “Focus your attention in this hour on the man who’s been doing it almost 70 years. … He’s been many names over the years, but for us, he’s simply our big brother.”

P-Funk provided a united front to provide the level of musicianship Clinton commands, with noisemakers, body shakers and an incredible horn and rhythm section that at times felt like a second line. It was still one big celebration of an incredible life. — Selena Fragassi

George Clinton performs with Parliament-Funkadelic on day one Riot Fest in Douglass Park on the Southwest Side.

George Clinton performs with Parliament-Funkadelic on Day 1 of Riot Fest in Douglass Friday.

Olivia Jean

After a heavy dose of Chicana punk rock from Fea and electricity from alt rockers the Aquadolls began the day, Olivia Jean took over the Riot Stage with her three-piece backing band for a performance that relied on unpolished grit and bootstrap precision.

Hailing from Nashville, where she’s part of the Third Man Records empire, Jean infused her set with the same analog retro rock flair the label is known for, and a bit of gothy edge to boot, at various times in the 30-minute performance leaning into surf rock hallmarks, bluesy guitar licks, garage rock venom and even some sludgey riffs on tracks from her three solo albums since breaking off from the Black Belles. Her latest effort, “Raving Ghost,” was released in May.

Riot Fest was Jean’s moment to shine, and she did so beautifully on her own terms, no guest stars needed. — Selena Fragassi

Olivia Jean performs on day one Riot Fest in Douglass Park on the Southwest Side.

Olivia Jean performs on Day 1 of Riot Fest in Douglass Park Friday.

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