Andrew McMahon isn’t out of the Wilderness yet

15 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Andrew McMahon isn’t out of the Wilderness yet.

The name Riot Fest implies agitation, but at the three-day festival in Chicago the mood was more about comfort in numbers, preferably within sets timed 50 minutes or less.DOUGLAS PARK — They came, they saw, they rocked, and now that Riot Fest goers are gone, efforts to clean up a muddy Douglas Park are already underway.DOUGLAS PARK — After a series of dramatic clashes with its Humboldt Park neighbors led Riot Fest to relocate this year, the festival made a concerted effort to start things off with Douglas Park residents on the right foot. “Residents who expressed an interest in attending the festival were given entry upon the presentation of their ID to confirm they lived within a certain boundary,” said Chris Mather, a Riot Fest spokesman, though he did not specify how far that boundary extended. Not only had the skies cleared from the dreary, rainy days before, but McMahon recovered his trusty piano tchotchke, Party Buddha, who had been lost by an airline for three weeks.

McMahon played music from his newest project like “Cecilia and the Satellite” as well as old fan favorites from his band Something Corporate, such as “I Woke Up in a Car,” and his previous solo project Jack’s Mannequin, such as “Dark Blue.” “I still really connect with the meaning of the songs…It’s the continuity of writing songs over a long period of time, they become almost like a photo album, and every time that you revisit it and play it, you get to relive those memories.” McMahon busted out what he described as “some party tricks” onstage as well, including a throwback to elementary school P.E. class during his closing song, “Synesthesia.” This year marks 10 years since the 33-year-old singer received a life-saving stem cell transplant to treat his Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, and he is marking the occasion with a 72K Challenge fundraising campaign through his Dear Jack Foundation as well as by continuing to speak about his experiences onstage. “Surviving cancer is an evolutionary process from where you are after year one to where you are in year 10. Michael Scott Jr. (24th) said organizers and Park District leaders expect to know how long cleanup of the park will take — and how much it will cost — before the end of the week.

There’s a mythology that gets sold to people: ‘You lived, you should be so happy.’ “Obviously, there are other people who don’t survive, but I also know a lot of survivors that are still struggling with depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome and a handful of other issues. Because although this event pays some service to modern times — with performers such as Chicago’s Psalm One, who was spectacular on Friday — Riot Fest is about the past. I think it’s important to go out there and talk about what you’ve been through and be honest with people that it’s a journey once you’re done with the hospitals, once you’re done with the doctors.” Though McMahon is currently focusing on promoting his “in the Wilderness” album, a collaboration like the two tracks he penned for “Smash,” including the Emmy-nominated “I Heard Your Voice in a Dream,” aren’t out of the question for the former musical theater kid. “The showrunner from ‘Smash,’ Joshua Safran…I have been sort of been deadlocked in this project and he’s doing other things, but we’ve been talking about doing something for Broadway or off-Broadway.” Fans might have to wait a while for a musical to materialize though — McMahon confirmed that he intends to put out at least one more album under Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. It’s CIV, Billy Idol, the Damned and an Ice Cube reunion, Motorhead and Iggy Pop, a music history lesson leavened with bridge acts such as No Doubt and System of a Down. Lots of people, but nobody caused any trouble.” George Devereux has gone to every Riot Fest in Chicago and drove to Douglas Park this weekend for the festival’s first year there.

In many ways, the festival’s welcoming of the weird carries the torch of the original Lollapalooza festival from the early 1990s when alternative rock was not a meaningless brand but a description of an actual movement of music several steps outside mainstream radio. Park district officials are expected to do a walk through of Douglas Park on Thursday or Friday to determine if additional restoration, cleaning or repair is needed. There, concertgoers were not only exposed to bands that challenged norms, but they also could dabble in fringe culture sideshows like circus freaks, piercing parlours, slam poetry performances and more. Scattered showers throughout the weekend left Douglas Park in muddy shape, but a Park District spokeswoman said the damage had not yet been assessed, so a timeline for repairing the park was not immediately available.

There was also a carnival, much like the ones that roll into small towns each summer and light up church parking lots with games, death-defying rides and poker-faced carnies. This was sloppy, alleged funk from a performer who started his set late then phoned in the rest, at times holding the music hostage to demands for cheers and adulation.

When 79-year-old reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry appeared 30 minutes late, he improvised over a hazy beat until, 15 minutes later, his microphone was cut off. His shameless trading on the past glories of George Clinton’s Mothership of the 1970s was reduced to song snippets, noodling, a blue-spangled suit, star-shaped bass and buffoonery. Scott there were no major incidents at the fest. “You need permit parking to park on this street, so some people tried to park here, but they got turned away,” Howard said. “The music ended by 10 every night, and by 10:15 there wasn’t anybody out here.

The artists noticed, especially during pauses between songs. “Tell them to shut the fuck up!” shouted Mike Patton of Faith No More as Slightly Stoopid played directly across the field. Sound bleed was only a significant problem at the triangle formed by the Rock, Riot and Roots stages, and detracted from a wonderful Saturday showing by The Dear Hunter.

On Sunday L7, the grunge-era all-female group blasted through two- and three-minute songs with melodic hooks, chanting choruses and snarling guitar riffs that still left time for great onstage banter. Another issue was less lighting in the giant, open field at Douglas, so that, after sundown, once away from the stages, concertgoers had to use mobile phone screens as flashlights to help navigate the fields of mud. This is a reunion summer for all four original members and together they have a lot to teach about dynamics and songwriting, especially for early- to mid-career bands that filled the weekend roster that tended to gun a single tempo and howl.

Riot Fest hired more than 300 temporary workers from the surrounding neighborhoods and helped sponsor the Chicago Westside Music Festival, a free community concert that featured headliner Bell Biv Devoe in August. If the partnership does move forward, Scott said he would like to see Riot Fest engage more with the community next year to ensure local business owners and workers benefit from the fest. On Saturday they barreled through their pop-punk catalog of songs including The Wars End and Avenues and Alleyways that were unified by towering choruses, chanted along to by the crowd. The corral effect of the fencing necessitated by neighboring stages meant a crowd constrained on two sides and a deeper, more difficult-to-traverse mass of bodies. Nothing about the band has aged, although when railing against the harsh realities of life, guitarist Lars Frederiksen took a comical aside: “I’m a father now.

Huge crowds weren’t a problem for headliner Motorhead, scene of the weekend’s saddest moment in the diminished state of the once-mighty frontman Lemmy. I’m sorry I just talked to everyone like I’m their dad.” Tommy Stinson, the founding member of the Replacements, played Riot Fest two summers ago in a partial reunion under the band name with co-founder Paul Westerberg.

These days he has a solo album out and on Sunday he played a small stage tucked in the festival’s corner and attended by a small crowd. “I’m playing new shit – that’s why no one’s here,” he said, half-cocked and grinning. But on Friday the trio was fronted by a man who used to be the nasty, beating heart of rock ‘n’ roll — now an old man slurring his words and forgetting what album a song came from.

There was cheering aplenty, but the downcast faces of people wearing time-worn Motorhead tour shirts, tromping through the mud as they left early, spoke at a volume louder than the band’s. Sunday’s rap-flavored lineup featured the likes of Cypress Hill, Snoop Dogg, Doomtree and De La Soul, whose afternoon set was a magical lesson in what rap is supposed to be. The anticipation was rewarded by Ice Cube, MC Ren and DJ Yella (but not Dr Dre) performing many of the group’s anthems, interrupted only by a video teaser of the movie.

Even Ice Cube preempted the classic Fuck Tha Police by saying: “We aren’t talking about them all … if you a good cop, don’t take offence.” The song, one of the most provocative in all of hip-hop, suddenly has renewed relevance following the systemic shootings of unarmed black men by police in recent years. Earlier in the day, wonderful (also unabashedly profane) pure punk excellence was on tap when The Dwarves performed the group’s iconic 1990 album, “Blood, Guts and …” Loud and fast reigned as Riot Fest again reveled in the classics. Psalm One showed that a rapper belongs at a punk rock festival by delivering a Friday set full of flair and invention, backed by a three-piece band that rocked harder than anything else going on at the time. On Saturday, Haggard, topped by a black cowboy hat and sunglasses, played western swing on guitar and fiddle as he led his band through the jewels from his catalogue: Silver Wings, Mama Tried and Okie From Muskogee.

Sustained excellence from punk veterans such as Pennywise and Rancid helped a lot, but it was the big, dumb, ageless rock of Saturday headliner Iggy Pop that was all anyone needed to explain Riot Fest. There he was Saturday, just the way he should be: whipping a microphone around his body, snake-charming his way across the stage, and yelling for the house lights to come up so he could tell the audience they looked so good he wanted to pee on them.

The signature songs came first – The Passenger, Lust For Life, Real Wild Child (Wild One), I Wanna Be Your Dog – but later Pop slowed the set down, even resting on a chair. The shtick works because it’s brilliant, now as then. “This means everything to me,” Pop insisted, something difficult to argue with as he stalked the stage like a lion. Riot Fest meets that need, and through all the mud, muck and funky smell of decaying turf, beer and bad carnival food, the music becomes the thing that matters.

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