Supports: Touché Amoré, The Lawrence Arms
Riot Fest: Rise Against
Venue: Aragon Ballroom, Chicago
Local heroes raise the roof at pre-Riot Fest Aftershow
“You know you’re doing something right,” beams Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath, “when there are Teletubbies at your show.” Before he’s even finished saying it, one of the four very noticeable guys in this expansive crowd dressed like the odd children’s television characters makes his way across the top of the crowd and over the railing. Surreal, yes, but then it is taking a place in a venue that has fake castle turrets and a painted night sky inside it.
The very first of a whole bunch of Riot Fest aftershows celebrating the tenth anniversary of the festival goes some way in demonstrating just what an insanely good line-up is on offer this year – opening up for the hometown band is Touché Amoré and fellow locals The Lawrence Arms, both of whom unleash stunning performances, something accentuated by the fact they’re not actually playing the festival proper.
Rise Against are, but that doesn’t stop them putting on a festival show. Though they just released their seventh record, The Black Market, only two songs make the cut – the sublime lead single I Don’t Want To Be Here Anymore – performed with a forceful passion that sends both Teletubbies and humans in the vast pit absolutely wild – and People Live Here, which McIlrath plays with guitarist Zach Blair as part of the acoustic segment that ends the main set. If anything, it’s those three songs which demonstrate, despite the band’s incredible success, just how vital Rise Against still are. It starts with Hero Of War – McIlrath acknowledging the poignant significance of the date before playing it – and ends with a truly stirring version of Swing Life Away.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Rise Against have gone soft. Ready To Fall, Long Forgotten Sons and Chamber The Cartridge are vicious and urgent, the crowd pumping their fists and chanting “Rise!” during the intro to the latter. If, indeed, there is a band that could arm the masses and effect change, it’s probably Rise Against. That’s something confirmed by the power that both Prayer Of The Refugee and Satellite exude, all four members demonstrating they’re at the absolute top of their game. The garish neon letters spelling out RISE behind them might seem incongruous – more ’90s nu-rave than politically-charged punk – but the encore’s one-two punch of Survive and Savior leaves no doubt who and what this band are all about. And as the final note of the evening fades out and people begin to make their way outside, McIlrath stands drenched in sweat, a broken string hanging down from the neck of his guitar.