Riot Fest revs up the Reunionator | Music Feature | Chicago Reader

Riot Fest revs up the Reunionator 

Now that it's impossible to get rid of bands for good, the next step is to decide which are worth revisiting.

Riot Fest books more than enough reunited bands every year to earn its reputation as a nostalgia trip—and for better or worse, they're often among the highlights of the weekend. The reunions on the 2015 lineup include beloved metal oddballs (System of a Down, Faith No More), aughties Warped Tour crowd pleasers (Alexisonfire, the Academy Is . . . ), cult favorites from the punk and emo scenes (88 Fingers Louie, Desaparecidos), and the following half dozen Reader staff picks. Leor Galil

click to enlarge BILLY KIDD
  • Billy Kidd

No Doubt
Fri 9/11, 8:45 PM, Riot Stage

No Doubt burst out of California's third-wave ska scene in the 90s to become crossover pop stars who were equally ubiquitous on alt-rock radio playlists and at middle school dances. The group went out on top, going on hiatus after the inescapable 2001 album Rock Steady, which blended dancehall and Top 40 and pointed to Gwen Stefani's promising future as a pop artist. Unfortunately the band's 2012 comeback album, Push and Shove, has barely a trace of their old suntanned euphoria—though sometimes a watery ska lick rises above the anodyne radio-rock mishmash. Leor Galil

click to enlarge ARIEL LEBEAU
  • Ariel Lebeau

The Movielife
Sat 9/12, 2:15 PM, Roots Stage

When the Movielife released This Time Next Year in 2000, this influential melodic hardcore band blazed a trail that was soon followed by fellow Long Islanders Taking Back Sunday and Brand New (and then quickly trampled by the Warped Tour crowd). Movielife had brushes with the kind of fame those two groups achieved—their final releases, The Movielife Has a Gambling Problem (2001) and Forty Hour Train Back to Penn (2003), were released by pop-punk tastemakers Drive-­Thru—but they retained the sort of aggressive, no-­nonsense sound you still hear spilling out of packed VFW halls on chilly east-coast evenings. Drew Hunt

click to enlarge ROBIN LAANANEN
  • Robin Laananen

Babes in Toyland
Sat 9/12, 3:25 PM, Rebel Stage

Of all the female-fronted bands to come out of the grunge scene of the late 80s and early 90s, Babes in Toyland were the meanest. Though they released only three full-lengths during their initial run, they went further and harder than most of their alt-rock peers, toying with hardcore, noise rock, and even heavy metal, making for a complex, twisted, aggressive sound. The band called it quits in 2001, announced a reunion in 2014, and in February played their first show in 18 years. They're in full swing now, anchored by cofounders Kat Bjelland (vocals, guitar) and Lori Barbero (drums); though bassist Maureen Herman was replaced this year by Clara Salyer, they're hitting the touring circuit and talking about making a new record. Luca Cimarusti

click to enlarge COURTESY RIOT FEST
  • Courtesy Riot Fest

American Nightmare
Sat 9/12, 3:30 PM, Roots Stage

Wesley Eisold is best known today as the gaunt, leather-jacketed front man of gothy synth-pop project Cold Cave, but in the late 90s and early 00s, he led a very different kind of band. American Nightmare—known as Give Up the Ghost following legal action by another band of the same name—was a furiously heavy hardcore monster, and Eisold's shredded vocals and almost poetic lyrics stood like a ship's figurehead at the forefront of the band's mayhem. These guys have only grown more popular since their 2004 dissolution; they've been playing reunion shows regularly since 2011, and they can still bring it onstage. Luca Cimarusti

click to enlarge PATRICK MULLIGAN
  • Patrick Mulligan

Sat 9/12, 5:30 PM, Radicals Stage

This bastardized mid-90s version of Gorilla Biscuits—named for front man Anthony Civarelli—had a few almost-hits with the catchy, radio-­ready hardcore numbers on 1995's Set Your Goals ("Can't Wait One Minute More," "So Far, So Good . . . So What"), but the album also has its share of straight-up, hard-nosed scorchers. Notwithstanding the fuzzy dice and Swingers-style getups on the cover ('95 was not a good year for fashion), "Do Something" and "Gang Opinion" are beautiful reminders that three of Civ's members—and Walter Schreifels, who was never in the band but claims to have written most of Set Your Goals—also had a hand in Gorilla Biscuits' 1989 landmark Start Today, the quintessential melodic hardcore record of all time. Kevin Warwick

click to enlarge Drive Like Jehu in August 2014 in Balboa Park, San Diego, with organist Carol Williams - ILLAZILLA
  • Drive Like Jehu in August 2014 in Balboa Park, San Diego, with organist Carol Williams
  • IllaZilla

Drive Like Jehu
Sat 9/12, 6:40 PM, Rebel Stage

Drive Like Jehu songs never end. On the seminal 1994 album Yank Crime, the San Diego band's swan song, guitarists John Reis and Rick Froberg—two titans of a posthardcore subgenre they helped create—run up and down their guitars and piece together discordant, jagged notes as though they're devising an infinite jigsaw puzzle on the spot. Their rock-rock-relax-­rock-breakdown-rock-stop-restart-rock approach is exhausting and thrilling, and since Drive Like Jehu split in 1995 they've developed more sharply honed and concise versions of this dizzying formula in an incredible string of bands—including Hot Snakes, the Night Marchers, the Sultans, and Obits. But this is the reunion that posthardcore devotees have been pining for, and it might just be the weekend's best. Kevin Warwick  v

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