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Concert Reviews, Music, Riot Fest Toronto 2012

Descendents, NOFX, Fucked Up and others storm through Toronto for Riot Fest

By: Lisa Gillan and Sasha Lindsay –


Andrew W.K.

Andrew W.K. performing at Riot Fest, Toronto. (Photo: Lisa Gillan)


Living up to his moniker, the King of Partying, Andrew W.K. opened his set by shouting, “I am not performing a show right now.  This is a party!”  And a party it was.  W.K. appeared mod on stage, clad in white trousers and a tee shirt, which contrasted against his dark hair.  His neon yellow striped shoes also blended well with his upbeat set.   The crowd instantly became energized – a swarm of tattooed arms in the air, screaming along to the first song, “Party Hard.”

The front row was adorned with a blue, pink and purple haired young women, all enjoying the positive energy.  When the lyrics for “Ready to Die” blared out from the speakers, the crowd received an electric jolt of W.K.’s energy again.  His vocals were clear, sprightly, adding to his voracious performance.  With animated songs like “You will Remember Tonight,” and “We Want Fun,” W.K. was a ray of sun on stage.  At times, his performance gave way to his motivational speaker side, enlivening the already bubbly crowd.  Nearing the end, he yelled, “I love Toronto city!”  And Toronto city loves him back.

— Sasha Lindsay


The Lawrence Arms

Brendan Kelly of The Lawrence Arms performing at Riot Fest, Toronto. (Photo: Lisa Gillan)


Chicago’s The Lawrence Arms wasted no time in making their presence known.  Lead vocalist, Brendan Kelly opened with, “we’re the best fuckin’ band in this whole festival, for those of you who don’t know us.”  Cocky introduction aside, Lawrence Arms had a roaring set, full of intense guitar riffs that would wake up any narcoleptic, coupled with strong, gravelly vocals.  Kelly’s clever, marketing mind gave way to this statement – “our shirts are five-dollars cheaper than anyone else…we care for the kids.”  The crowd laughed.  It’s no wonder this band is known for their witty banter.  Kelly’s turquoise/white guitar carved its own distinct, vintage looking presence.  But the band’s sound was full of brand new fire.

After the first song, Kelly screamed into the roaring crowd, “It smells like weed!”  Fans cheered.  But the loud crowd became more subdued when “The Slowest Drink at the Saddest Bar on the Snowiest Day in the Greatest City,” was sung.  Ironically, the lyrics, “my face was nothing but crooked lines” proved to be the opposite of what Lawrence Arms brought, since everyone was smiling.  With crowd volume increasing, a transparent balloon floated in the weed-laced air, personifying the sublime mood.  “Intransit” and “Are you there, Margaret?  It’s Me, God” were definite crowd favourites, with several mosh pit addicted fans being seen running about in the front pit, after being lifted by security, singing “believe me when I say I am not afraid.”  And like the fearless Lawrence Arms, the crowd was nothing but brave and high-spirited.

— Sasha Lindsay


Less Than Jake

Roger Manganelli of Less Than Jake performing at Riot Fest in Toronto. (Photo: Lisa Gillan)


With shiny gold trumpets blaring out ska-infused melodies, Less Than Jake sounded reminiscent of Sublime.  Instantly, the crowd loosened up, singing and dancing.  Bassist/vocalist, Roger Manganelli enhanced the ska vibrations with his long, flowing dreadlocks shaking in the air and guitarist/vocalist Chris Demakes shone onstage with a blonde Mohawk – both blessing the crowd with strong, vibrant vocals and equally hard-hitting guitar riffs.

The addition of the trumpets made Less than Jake standout from the other bands, with a perfect contrast of sweet melodies against raw guitars.  “Plastic Cup Politics” invigorated the crowd, as dusk set in and a chilly wind blew.  And “I Swear it’s the Last Time,” was a crowd pleaser, with numerous fans belting out, “and we’ll talk about leaving town.”  The fan response proved however that Less than Jake will surely be missed after they leave town.

— Sasha Lindsay


Hot Water Music

Chris Wollard of Hot Water Music at Riot Fest, Toronto. (Photo: Lisa Gillan)


Despite a late start, this band was definitely not in Hot Water.  The crowd never grew impatient and anticipated being immersed in Hot Water Music.  Lead vocalist, Chuck Ragan, was decked out in dark colours and opened with “Remedy,” as the venue became more crowded.  The lyrics, “I woke to the sound and the rhythm of rain…” seemed almost fitting, since rain was in the forecast but only a few, slight droplets came but was short-lived.  Ragan’s vocals became more intense and gravelly with the haunting, “Rooftops,” as he screamed and sang out the lyrics.  “Paper Thin” and “State of Grace” had the crowd in a serene state, forming a slight buzz in the air.  Nearing the end of the set, fans became more energetic, while singing and dancing.  Marked by a loud applause, HWM left fans wanting more.

— Sasha Lindsay


Fucked Up

Damian Abraham of Fucked Up. (Courtesy of Matador Records)


Fresh from a North American tour in support of their third album and long-list nominee for the 2012 Polaris Music Prize David Comes To Life, hometown favourites Fucked Up burst into the track “Queen of Hearts” from the aforementioned album, front man Damian Abraham jumped down to the barricade in front of the stage so he could share hugs, swap sweat and involve the hyperactive crowd. The energy was amped and you could feel the mutual love between Abraham and his supporters.

Abraham cited his excitement at being home, and playing on the same bill as NOFX and Descendents who he said were early influences on his musical choices. “This is my favourite city on the whole fucking planet,” he said “this is my favourite show we’ve ever played here.” Abraham thanked the crowd and security guards and then encouraged everyone to sing along “we’re dying on the inside” as the band launched into “The Other Shoe.” If anyone didn’t understand why people love this band so much they got it after this performance.

– Lisa Gillan



Fat Mike of NOFX at Riot Fest, Toronto. (Photo: Lisa Gillan)


Everyone from small children to old grey beards was in front of the stage for NOFX’s set. The band took the stage with jokes and a jovial energy. They didn’t involve the crowd as much as Fucked Up before them, but the fans involved themselves, throwing things on stage from time to time, tossing around a blown up condom, like a beach ball, and of course dancing in the pit. The band played a mass amount of tracks including songs from their upcoming album Self Entitled, poking fun along the way at the short length of the average punk song. They made some mistakes in a few of their songs, but it suited the style and didn’t ruin the show for anyone. They were clearly trying to cram as many songs as possible into their allotted hour and they did not disappoint.

– Lisa Gillan



Milo Aukerman perfoming with Descendents at Riot Fest, Toronto. (Photo: Lisa Gillan)


Punk rock legends Descendents brought the festival home with a powerful set that showed these guys have punk rock ground into their bones. They began so powerfully that they had to stop for repairs right after the first song as guitarist Stephen Egerton broke a string. The energy and enthusiasm of the band was equivalent to a group at least half their age, but the level of their performance and ownership of the stage showed their experience. After their set it was announced that it was drummer, Bill Stevenson’s 49th birthday. To celebrate the occasion, he was presented with a cake and the crowd sang “Happy Birthday.”

Following the festivities the audience chanted “play more songs,” and the band obliged with two more because, they said, they “played all the songs too fast enough,” so they had time. While this was the inaugural Riot Fest in Toronto, expect more in years to come, but it will be hard to top the energetic performances this year.

– Lisa Gillan


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