Photography By: Adam Harrison
Words By: Raven Benwait
Riot Fest 2015 had been announced to take place in three special cities – Chicago, Toronto and Denver. The performers arrived at Toronto’s very own Downsview Park on Saturday, September 19 for a weekend to remember.
Carnival style tents were set up, rides including a Ferris wheel, food trucks and games for everyone! Four stages were also set up for the day – Riot, Roots, Rock and Radicals. Line ups and line ups were crowding the park grounds, as people were ready for a super day filled with music, beer, food and fun!
To start off the day, Punk Rock band Bayside arrived at the Riot Stage a little after noon. Not many people knew much about them, but they did bring some great energy to the stage, especially being the first band. A fan favourite seemed to be “Sick Sick Sick,” with its catchy chorus. Another great one was “Devolution and Desire” from their self-titled album.
Die Mannequin, a Toronto based band entered the Roots Stage by 1:15. Front woman, Care Failure entered the stage with her aggressive presence. “Dead Honey” was a great one, as you could hear her hit the high notes with great accuracy. A small mosh-pit formed by both men and women during the song “Bad Medicine,” which was performed with aggression and energy. Die Mannequin is an original band, especially with Care Failure as their vocalist. I’ve been listening to them for many years now and until this day, I’ve never heard anything like them.
Right after, we saw Rarity play at the Radicals Stage. From Hamilton, Ontario, these guys brought their Punk style. I had never heard of this band before. As I was mowing down my Smokes Poutine goodies, I heard fast guitar rhythms and aggressive vocals. I ran to their stage and noticed the small crowd and meaningful lyrics assisted by a more aggressive Punk sound. A bunch of guys even formed a mosh-pit. Rarity is definitely a band to check out further.
Right after Rarity’s last song, a huge rainstorm began. People were running on the grounds at the park, fighting to stay warm and dry under the tents. We waited and waited, but the rain would not seem to stop. Some of the more hardcore fans didn’t want to miss their bands, despite the rain, such as Gwar. Fortunately, a wonderful woman came around handing out rain ponchos, so we were right back up and ready to fight the rain.
Cancer Bats arrived to kick some ass on the Riot Stage around 4:25pm. They opened with “Pneumonia Hawk,” followed by “Bricks & Mortar.” Instantly, the crowd became extremely destructive with the hardcore musical vibe. “Road Sick” and “R.A.T.S.” were another two great songs. “Lucifer’s Rocking Chair” called for a circle pit, so we all joined the pit of death as several people were flying in mud. We all obviously lost it when they covered “Sabotage” by Beastie Boys… I mean, it’s Beastie Boys! Last but not least was “Satellites,” which is known to be a fan favourite. Everyone was screaming and the mosh-pit was jam packed. I thought Cancer Bats fans were the most aggressive of the day, as we walked out covered in mud and pain.
Finally Riot Fest began to get more packed, especially because the rain was over. Many people came for Against Me!, who opened up their set with “True Trans Soul Rebel,” followed by “FuckMyLife666” and “Transgender Dysphoria Blues.” This Punk Rock band had teenagers screaming lyrics along with them. I watched as people jumped toward the stage screaming with so much passion. Against Me! also played “Thrash Unreal” and “Black Me Out.” Most of the fans were teenagers, so when they played “I was a Teenage Anarchist,” oh you should have seen the reactions. It was inDeed anarchy. People were flying around everywhere, pushing each other. Guess that’s what you get when you join a group of teenage anarchists!
The crowd grew drastically for Coheed and Cambria on the Roots Stage. They opened up with “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3.” They also played “Here We Are Juggernaut,” “A Favour House Atlantic” and “Blood Red Summer.” There were hundreds and hundreds of people singing along with them. I was quite impressed with Claudio Sanchez who did a great job with his vocals, guitar and obviously that awesome afro. The Progressive Rock band also played “You Got Spirit, Kid” followed by “Here to Mars,” which several people sang along to. “Welcome Home” ended off their hour long set, leaving Coheed and Cambria fans quite happy.
The night began to arrive, as fans watched the sunset. There were people waiting for their bands, and some people taking advantage of the rides as we could hear pericing screams coming from the park.
The screams were not only from the rides, but also from the Riot Stage crowded by teenage girls, where All Time Low arrived. They opened with “Satellite,” followed by “Lost in Stereo” and “Stella.” People were singing along as All Time Low was sharing their Pop Punk Style. As mentioned earlier, majority of the crowd was teenage girls, so when an older song “Weightless,” one began, girls were screaming louder than ever! All Time Low was constantly entertaining the crowd with their shenanigans and jokes. The Maryland band also covered “Break Stuff,” by Limp Bizkit, which is far off from their usual Pop Punk Style. They closed with “Dear Maria, Count Me In,” which I had to admit made me feel a little warm inside, as we all went through girly Pop Punk phases at least once in our lives. So many people (mainly girls) were singing along to this one, remembering the early 2007 album So Wrong It’s Right.
Finally it was time for Weezer to play Pinkerton in full. Pinkerton includes, “Tired of Sex,” “Getchoo,” “The Good Life,” “Falling for You” and more. Weezer is the perfect sing-along band. Despite the cold weather, the fans were all huddled together, singing with Weezer, while throwing around a glowing beach ball. It was nice to see how almost everyone I was surrounded by knew the words so well, despite it being a 1996 album. Weezer closed off the album with “Butterfly.” Ofcourse, they were not done yet! In addition to Pinkerton, they played “You Gave Your Love to Me Softly,” “Island in the Sun” and “Pork and Beans.” If you have not yet seen Weezer, I recommend you do so.
Right after Weezer finished, countless fans ran as fast as they could to the Riot Stage, because it was time for the act we had all been waiting for – Alexisonfire! We pushed, we shoved, we jumped fences… it was complete anarchy, but all for Alexisonfire. They opened with “Accidents” at 9:40 and everyone began to go insane, singing along with Dallas Green and his sweet vocals. They also played “Boiled Frogs,” followed by “Old Crows” and “The Northern.” I don’t mean to fan girl, but I can’t explain the feeling of Alexisonfire being back on stage after the heartbreaking hiatus. It was simply amazing and being in the crowd, I felt like we were all one. There was no hate; we were there simply for the music and to see Alexisonfire reunite.
Alexisonfire continued the set with “Heading for the Sun,” “Dog’s Blood,” “Rough Hands,” and of course “Drunks, Lovers, Sinners and Saints.” The biggest fan favourite was “This Could Be Anywhere in the World,” which everyone sang together – “the city, the city is haunted, by ghosts!” The lighting was phenomenal during this song, especially during the chorus when sparks of coloured fog blasted along with Dallas Green’s vocals.
The closed with one of their most legendary songs, “Young Cardinals,” another insane one which had fans crowd surfing from the back of the venue, all the way to the front. They played “Happiness by the Kilowatt” to close, with a mesh of “Hold on We’re Goin’ Home,” by Drake. This set made the crowd joyful, but the happiness didn’t end just yet.
A few months ago, Alexisonfire brought their Instagram page to life and fans were in shock, as it led to their Riot Fest tour dates. This Riot Fest tour led to Alexisonfire being back.
“Thank you for believing in this band when we couldn’t even believe in this band,” said Wade MacNeil, “Thank you for sticking with us. We promise to never leave you again. No more sentimental shit. Alexisonfire is officially back.”
The crowd roared and scream – best news of the day I’d say, but sadly it was later followed up with an online statement from the band saying they will not be reuniting or touring any time soon.
Overall, day 1 of Riot Fest was fantastic despite the rain. The festival was very well organized, the bands were great and all on time and everyone left with sore legs and smiles on their faces, which exactly how a Rock and Roll festival should be.