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posted: 9/13/2012 6:00 AM

Alkaline Trio 'psyched' to rock Riot Fest

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  • Alkaline Trio plays Sunday, Sept. 16, at Riot Fest in Humboldt Park in Chicago.

    Alkaline Trio plays Sunday, Sept. 16, at Riot Fest in Humboldt Park in Chicago.

  • Video: Alkaline Trio video

By Brian Singer
Daily Herald Correspondent

Matt Skiba, founding member of Alkaline Trio, says he wakes up and falls sleep each day thinking about playing Riot Fest Sunday in the slot between two of his idols -- Iggy and the Stooges and The Jesus and Mary Chain.

The Chicago fest starts with shows Friday, Sept, 14, at the Congress Theater and then moves to Humboldt Park for a two-day lineup of punk, rock and alternative bands. Among the draws are Elvis Costello and The Imposters, Rise Against, The Offspring, Gogol Bordello, Dropkick Murphys and Andrew W.K.

"It's crazy how this punk-rock festival started out small," Skiba notes, "and now it's grown so much. It's cool to see our friends from Chicago put on something like this."

Alkaline Trio -- taking the stage at 6:25 p.m. Sunday -- will be on home turf. Skiba, who plays guitar and sings for the band, grew up in McHenry. Bassist/singer Dan Andriano hails from Elgin.

And while Skiba played in bands in high school, he didn't initially plan for a career in music. He attended Chicago's Columbia College to study graphic design but dropped out when the program started to change.

"I heard this rumor that they were bringing in computers to the program," Skiba recounts. "Before that it was all analog, very hands-on -- cut and paste stuff, which I liked -- and I knew I can't look at a computer screen all day.

"After I heard about it, I bailed."

In 1996, Skiba formed Alkaline Trio with some friends from McHenry, simultaneously working as a bike messenger in Chicago to help pay the bills.

"I needed a job that I could leave and come back to whenever I wanted," Skiba says. "It's a tough job, no one wants to do that gig. I got a few lumps, hit a few times by Chevys and trucks."

Soon the original lineup was changed to include Derek Grant of Detroit and Andriano, who connected them with their first label, Asian Man Records. Friendships with managers, other emerging acts and promoters ensured the band's eventual success.

"We actually have had tremendous luck coming from the suburbs and being able to play in the city, then from there to different states and countries," Skiba says. "Chicago is a big metropolitan city, but it also has a very unique and amazing small-town feel -- people are helpful, polite and proud of their town and have an attitude where if you're cool with them they're cool with you."

Their big break came in 2001 with the release of their third studio album, "From Here to Infirmary," featuring hits "Stupid Kid" and "Private Eye." Their success came at a time when punk and alternative rock bands were in high demand. Other artists like Blink-182, The Offspring and Sum-41 were dominating the charts and stages all over the country.

Skiba explains that their success was graciously heralded by those other bands, who gave Alkaline Trio a spot on their tours.

"We never really quite got that big, but it was cool to be a part of that explosion," Skiba says. "We were never in it for money or the fame, we were just psyched to be there at all."

After 16 years and eight studio albums, Alkaline Trio is still "psyched" to give those at Riot Fest a performance they won't forget.

"When we're on tour we try to keep our voices sharp, we get up there and put on the best show we can," Skiba says, "because people are paying good money to see us and we don't want to let them down."

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