Age ain't nothing but a number to the standout artist of Riot Fest Chicago's second day.
Veteran artists ruled the stages Saturday with those squarely in the over-50 set -- Guided By Voices, Blondie, Public Enemy -- all enjoying their heyday before the bulk of Riot Fest fans were even born. Even Day 2 festival closers Blink-182 have members pushing 40 or more.
Nearly 70, Blondie's Debbie Harry remained cool as ever, vamping it up onstage with her signature pout and the dramatic arch of an eyebrow. Taking the stage in what looked like a cross between a graduation gown and a wizard robe (or, yikes, a Klansman getup?), Harry and her band tore into hits "Hanging On The Telephone" and "One Way Or Another." Harry nailed the rap verse from her groundbreaking "Rapture," splicing it with a snippet of The Beastie Boys' "No Sleep Till Brooklyn."
HuffPost Chicago Editor Joseph Erbentraut noted "Harry's vocals soared through "Rapture," a song that has held up better through the years and translated better in the live setting of Riot Fest than the set-closing "Call Me" which felt far less inspired, almost like a throwaway. Still, at 68 years old, Harry was taking all of us to school."
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Earlier in the day, Surfer Blood and late-70s punks T.S.O.L. clocked sets on opposite ends of the rock spectrum. Relative younguns Surfer Blood brought the jangly, sunny and occasionally moody alt-rock with the beachcomber vibe, while T.S.O.L. was pure snarl and hard-core intensity.
Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices performs on stage on Day 2 of Riot Fest and Carnival 2013 at Humboldt Park on September 14, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Redferns via Getty Images)
Guided By Voices, who could probably play the set with their eyes closed, rocked a delightfully sloshed set (is there any other kind for Bob Pollard and company?) that was heavy on crowd-pleasers like “I Am a Scientist,” “Gold Heart Mountaintop Queen Directory” and "Game Of Pricks." Pollard, who can still high- kick and choogle like a man a quarter his age, seemed especially jazzed to play in the spot ahead of Debbie Harry.
"I've always wanted to say 'Next up: Blondie!'" Pollard said, before prematurely introducing Harry's band three more times. Don't ever change, Bob.
Keith Morris and Chuck Dukowski of FLAG perform on stage on Day 2 of Riot Fest and Carnival 2013 at Humboldt Park on September 14, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Redferns via Getty Images)
Opinions of the Flag set varied. Some fans were thrilled to hear jams like “Rise Above” and “Gimme Gimme Gimme,” while others, myself included, felt it sounded just too weird to hear the songs sung by someone who is not Henry Rollins.
Like Joan Jett the day before, the irrepressible Public Enemy was squeezed onto the smallest stage -- a pity given the monstrous size of the performance.
The group mentioned their longtime cutmaster Terminator X was no longer with them, leading more than few fans to wonder if he died (he hasn't). In his place was DJ Lord who absolutely stunned on the turntables. Hype man Flavor Flav pointed out that Lord had no laptop, meaning the incredible cuts of The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" into Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" were, like Public Enemy themselves, old school and awesome.
Chuck D. took a moment between songs at their incredible dance party of a set to call out Chicago on its historic school closings, commenting: "Chicago, you need to build more schools and fewer prisons. Let's give these kids a chance," as parts of the crowd roared with approval.
"Shut 'Em Down" and "Fight The Power" were just a few of the cuts to energize the crowd. True to their socially conscious beginnings, Flavor Flav -- who really doesn't get enough credit for these kinds of things -- closed the set with a message of unity, decrying "racism and separatism"... but with way more curse words.
Lars Frederiksen and Tim Armstrong of Rancid perform on stage on Day 2 of Riot Fest and Carnival 2013 at Humboldt Park on September 14, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Redferns via Getty Images)
Later in the night, Editor Joe took stock of a few more long-time acts: "Based on the bits of sets from both Rancid and Violent Femmes, both bands sounded incredibly fantastic and sharp. I witnessed some mad dancing skills in the back of the crowd at Rancid in particular."
Gordon Gano of Violent Femmes performs on stage on Day 2 of Riot Fest and Carnival 2013 at Humboldt Park on September 14, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Redferns via Getty Images)
Violent Femmes played their eponymous debut album in full, serving up a reminder of how their monster hit "Blister In The Sun" is just one among the many great tracks on the record.
Editor Joe took stock of emo rockers Taking Back Sunday as I went in search of a giant Riot Fest dinnertime turkey leg.
"Taking Back Sunday came of age in the early aughts with their outstanding "Tell All Your Friends" and, since then, the critical reception of their output has steadily declined. Still, TBS' Riot Fest set was among the weekend's most anticipated. Beginning with the intro music to "Circle of Life," Adam Lazzara and company launched immediately into a song off their debut to the crowd's delight, then proceeded to play largely songs from their more recent albums -- and the disappointment was pretty palpable from where I was standing."
Travis Barker of Blink-182 performs on stage on Day 2 of Riot Fest and Carnival 2013 at Humboldt Park on September 14, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Redferns via Getty Images)
Ending Day 2 of Riot Fest was Blink-182, whose popularity has held steady since their late-90s to early-aughts dominance.
Though Blink has always been a pretty-popular-to-wildly-popular band, some of their music gets dismissed as derivative and their antics as bratty toilet humor. Whatever the dominant opinion of Mark Hoppus, Thomas DeLonge and Travis Barker is currently, fans Saturday night didn't seem to think the group was anything but tremendous.
And truthfully, they were. The band remains insanely energetic, and it's hard to recall seeing a faster drummer than Barker in recent memory. Every hit you would expect ("All The Small Things," "What's My Age Again?" "First Date") turned up, helping to engage even fringe fans in a few minutes of pogoing and hair whipping.
Things got so crazy in the mosh pit, photographers were kicked out after just one song so security could catch the falling bodies of fans trying to scale the barriers. Six people ended up in the hospital after intense mosh pit action. Despite the rowdiness, Blink showed they have indeed matured. In between songs, Hoppus asked the fans to back up so fallen moshers could get back on their feet.
"If someone falls, help them up," Hoppus said. "I shouldn't have to tell you that."
Joseph Erbentraut contributing