Mother Nature was as angsty as a sky full of AFI fans on the final day of Riot Fest as Sunday afternoon rains turned Humboldt Park into a muddy mess. Drenched festgoers trudged through the muck and hopped deep puddles to check out bands on five stages. Dyed mohawks drooped under their own soggy weight. Eyeliner bled down pale faces. Band tees and tattoos were obscured under jackets and umbrellas. Ponchos, maybe for the first time ever, were punk.
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While it was the most challenging of Riot Fest's three days, Sunday offered perhaps the greatest rewards for those who persevered. The mostly rain-free early afternoon crowd was treated to sets by Peter Hook & the Light (performing only Joy Division songs), Mission of Burma and weirdo Japanese "action comic punk band" Peelander-Z, which is basically the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers playing Casualties covers.
L.A.'s Best Coast brought some California rays to the overcast park. Even "When the Sun Don't Shine" seemed to warm the dripping-wet audience. One stage over, local breakout quartet Twin Peaks kicked out the jams in a whirl of youthful energy. They even threw in They Might Be Giants' Malcolm in the Middle theme, "Boss of Me," a song the band of mostly 19-year-olds probably consider an oldie. A guy onstage dressed as a McDonald's milkshake tossed dry T-shirts to thankful fans. One of the band members invited everyone to an afterparty, which one can only assume was being thrown in his parents' basement.
Another local fave, the carrot-topped siblings of White Mystery, banged out a 30-minute set that was a perfect segue into Pixies. Frank Black and company started off the lackluster set with a pair of covers, the Fall's "Big New Prinz" and the Jesus and Mary Chain's "Head On." Coming into the show having released an EP less than two weeks ago (another is due this year), the group didn't gain any noticeable fuel from the new material, including "Indie Cindy" and "What Goes Boom," which were played back to back without much crowd response. While Kim Deal replacement Kim Shattuck of the Muffs stepped up capably on backing vocals and bass (despite ending one song a couple bars before the rest of the band), it was hard not to miss Deal's bouncy, smiley presence as a foil for Black's grumpster vibe. Though I did hear someone scream, "I like the new Kim Deal!"
For some, the whole day was merely a preamble to the Replacements. The Minneapolis band broke up after a show in Grant Park on July 4, 1991, so it was fitting that Chicago would host one of the reunion shows. Tossing away the set's countdown clock, a graying but feisty Paul Westerberg sang, "How young are you? How old am I?" Those lyrics, from "I Will Dare," had to resonate with the audience dotted with Gen X-ers, their age thrown into sharp relief at a fest full of Millennials. Westerberg's voice still has that youthful grit that gave even his sweetest lyrics a touch of melancholy.
As the Replacements capped things off, another downpour began. The audience ended the night as it spent most of the day: wet and cold and happy.