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posted: 8/16/2013 5:43 AM

Local bands go big-time for Riot Fest

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  • Prospect Heights' Ben Weasel and Screenching Weasel will perform at this year's Riot Fest.

    Prospect Heights' Ben Weasel and Screenching Weasel will perform at this year's Riot Fest.


The summer festival season continues crashing through the walls of boredom. The next biggie, Riot Fest, brings nearly 80 bands to Chicago's Humboldt Park Sept. 13-15.

And while 10-years-ago me is bouncing off the walls at the idea of catching another Blink-182 show after all these years, 2013 me is drooling at the idea of taking in some of the local talent scheduled to appear at the Chicago incarnation of this festival, which is jam-packed with music, events and carnival fun.

Wilmette's Fall Out Boy is probably the most well-known of the local bunch, and they earned a Friday night headlining slot, playing alongside the likes of Danzig and Sublime, another band I jumped at the chance to see back in my just-out-of-college concert-going days.

Fall Out Boy was all over my radar in 2005 and 2006 with their pair of radio-loved hits "Sugar, We're Goin Down" and "Dance, Dance."

More recently, they've regrouped and reappeared on my car radio with "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)," but I'm sure die-hard fans of the emo rockers would tell me I missed a lot in between with the band members taking a brief hiatus and exploring other avenues, like Patrick Stump's solo album "Soul Punk."

Die-hard or no, like them or not, if you show up to see Fall Out Boy and don't feel yourself moving with the infectious rhythms, you're trying too hard to not have fun.

Joining them on Friday is Screeching Weasel, fronted by founder and Prospect Heights native Ben Weasel, the only member to have remained through all of the band's many, many incarnations.


They're punky. They're rock. They're beloved in the industry, but never quite hit mainstream success. If you liked early Blink-182 of the "Dude Ranch" variety, check these guys out.

And while you're at it, don't forget local music staple Smoking Popes. Their pop-punk sensibilities are less driving than Screeching Weasel, but what they lack in brute force, they make up for with catchy melodies and clever lyricism.

I remember listening to these guys from Crystal Lake, Elgin and Chicago back in the mid- and late '90s, but then they seemed to fall away from the scene for a while. They came back in the mid-2000s with reunion shows and a few new albums, including 2008's "Stay Down," which boasts in my mind one of the most intriguing album covers I've seen in a while.

Ever heard of Flatfoot 56? I hadn't until today. But this Chicago band of brothers (plus two friends) has been dishing out hard-core Celtic punk since 2000. It's fast. it's loud. It's fun. And you can dance to it.

Celtic rockers like Flogging Molly have increased in popularity at festivals like Lollapalooza, so if this band sounds live how they sound in the studio, expect Flatfoot 56 to put on a rollicking set and draw a boisterous crowd.

Saturday's lineup brings a mix of Chicago music with The Lawrence Arms, a band made up of members active in other Chicago-area bands, some of which will also be playing Riot Fest. Bass player Brendan Kelly played in The Broadways with guitarist Chris McCaughan. They're joined by Neil Hennessy, who also plays drums in the Smoking Popes.

The Lawrence Arms keeps the beat set on high, but the trio also plays around with vocal harmonies on their albums. And while the songs lack the catchiest of hooks, they seem more organic; each song is a free-flowing entity devoid of the typical verse-chorus-verse stylings of a lot of popular music.

Saturday also brings one of the more indie-oriented bands of the festival, Empires.

In their second visit to a major Chicago music festival (the first being a rain-postponed performance at last year's Lollapalooza), Empire will walk that fine line between indie and alternative, setting them apart from the mostly punk bands surrounding them.

Balancing guitar-heavy power with grunge-era crooning (bordering on Bush territory), the guys, one of whom hails from suburban Wheeling, are sure to draw a crowd and make a few fans. Assuming the weather cooperates this time around.

A reunion of The Broadways kicks off Sunday's set of local music. Featuring two members of The Lawrence Arms, the same unstructured feel permeates most of the band's music, focusing mostly on the raw energy that comes along with just loving playing together.

Experimental rockers Maps & Atlases will provide a breath of lighter air Sunday afternoon.

Not that the band should be discounted as light and frothy. The indie rockers, grounded by Park Ridge native and bass player Shiraz Dada, float an intricate style of rock that features but is not weighed down by complex guitar rhythms and tappity-tapping percussion.

It feels more like a tiptoe than a mosh, but one charged with so much kinetic energy you can't help but tap your toes to the beat.

Deal's Gone Bad brings the reggae rock to Sunday afternoon. This band, around since 1994, has been through a number of lineup changes, tickling the music with varied influences.

You might just want to sit and chill for a bit to Deal's Gone Bad's soulful, ska-tinged numbers.

Twin Peaks, one of the younger bands on the Sunday lineup, bring forth a set full of youthful, untainted energy.

They snarl. They jam. They're ready to take on the world.

And when they start to play, you're gonna move. Guaranteed.

Riot Fest: Friday through Sunday, Sept. 13-15, Humboldt Park, 1400 N. Sacramento Ave., Chicago; three-day passes are sold out, but some two- and single-day passes are still available;

• Brian Shamie is a Daily Herald copy editor who is feeling a little bit indie, a little bit punky this week. He writes about the summer music scene every Friday.

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