Day two of Riot Fest took the energy that Friday served up and amplified it. The sounds of the day definitely had a little more punk attitude as bands like The Menizingers, Bad Religion and headliners The Misfits (in their original form no less) commanded the Riot Fest stages.
Punk rock is probably best when there is a hint of self-awareness to keep it grounded. 7 Seconds epitomized this during their mid-afternoon set on the main stage. Whether it was quantifying their position as the “fourth oldest band at Riot Fest” or ending their set with a cover of “99 Red Balloons” these underground legends kept it light-hearted and fun. That’s not to say there wasn’t a bonkers moshpit during their entire 45-minute set!
When main stage acts and headliners don’t appeal to me at Riot Fest, I tend to walk to the smallest stage and camp out in the shade. The Rebel Stage is tucked away in a leafy corner of Douglass Park with a considerably smaller area for the crowd to fit into. There, you’ll find up-and-coming bands getting their first break at a major festival, cult favorites like GWAR and Andrew W.K., and some of the oddities Riot Fest pulls out of the woodwork. One such oddity on 2022’s lineup is Madball, a New York hardcore band that is infamous for its rowdy fanbase and outrageous live shows.
From the moment the band began thrashing away, the Rebel Stage crowd whipped into a frenzy, with a circle pit going for most of their efficient 45-minute set. This brand of hardcore punk is generally a rarity for Riot Fest lineups, with Madball lead singer Freddy Cricien saying as much. Even with music as indelicate as Madball’s hyper-aggressive punk rock, the band’s crowd interaction and banter made for a welcoming and positive environment. Madball knew that most of the folks in the crowd were seeing them for the first and probably only time, so they made the most of their time on stage, delivering an oddly cathartic performance. When in doubt, head to the Rebel Stage.
One could argue that there’s nothing more punk rock than shoddy sound and an irascible frontman. In this case (among others), there’s no one more punk rock than The Misfits. The reunited core of Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only, and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein (not their legal names) were booked to play their horror-punk classic Walk Among Us to celebrate the album’s 40th anniversary. The opening of their headlining set saw some technical issues muting the vocals, and Danzig seemed equal parts moody and defiant, but the set was nonetheless a triumph in nostalgia. The album-play booking (one of Riot Fest’s calling cards) seemed more like a way to differentiate from the festival’s past Misfits shows than a real draw for 2022. While it was nice to hear deep-cuts like “Nike-A-Go-Go” and “Hatebreeders” performed for the first time in years, Danzig seemed to regard the task as tedious. Given most Misfits songs range from 2 to 4 minutes, the band could easily pack their greatest-hits into a 90-minute set, which is exactly what they did once the Walk Among Us formality was taken care of.
With a rabid base of lifelong fans (and their families), and catchy hooks, Misfits shows inevitably turn into one big singalong. As they launched into every chorus, there would be a massive, inaudible “whoaaa” from the well-lubricated Saturday night crowd. Classics like “Earth A.D.” and “Bullet” drew enormous roars from the crowd, but the music was only part of the draw. Doyle, Danzig, and Jerry Only somewhat resemble 90’s pro wrestlers, with outrageous horror-movie inspired outfits, and decidedly theatrical stage presence. Jerry Only dispensed with at least half a dozen bass guitars, and the hulking Doyle seemed to be punching his guitar half the time. The entire spectacle of the occasion is crowned by an enormous inflated pumpkin. As September sets in and the leaves begin to change, Halloween season begins for most. Judging by the fanatical personas of both the band and its fans, something tells me Halloween season never ends for these folks…
This review was written by guest author Patrick Daul. All photos by Jessica Mlinaric.