Suburban band The Academy Is... re-forms to play Riot Fest

 
 
Updated 9/9/2015 10:32 AM
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  • The Academy Is..., a pop-rock band that formed in the suburbs, will play its celebrated 2005 album "Almost Here" at the Riot Fest rock and punk festival in Chicago this weekend.

    The Academy Is..., a pop-rock band that formed in the suburbs, will play its celebrated 2005 album "Almost Here" at the Riot Fest rock and punk festival in Chicago this weekend. Courtesy of Alan Ferguson

  • The Academy Is..., a pop-rock band that formed in the suburbs, will play its celebrated 2005 album "Almost Here" at the Riot Fest rock and punk festival in Chicago this weekend.

    The Academy Is..., a pop-rock band that formed in the suburbs, will play its celebrated 2005 album "Almost Here" at the Riot Fest rock and punk festival in Chicago this weekend. Courtesy of Alan Ferguson

  • Iggy Pop paved the way for punk rock with his work with the Stooges. He is a headliner at Riot Fest this weekend.

    Iggy Pop paved the way for punk rock with his work with the Stooges. He is a headliner at Riot Fest this weekend. Photo by Katie Hovland

  • Hip-hop trio De La Soul has been making smart rap music since the 1980s.

    Hip-hop trio De La Soul has been making smart rap music since the 1980s. Photo courtesy of De La Soul

  • Acclaimed punk band Against Me!, which released one of 2014's best records with "Transgender Dysphoria Blues," plays Friday at Riot Fest.

    Acclaimed punk band Against Me!, which released one of 2014's best records with "Transgender Dysphoria Blues," plays Friday at Riot Fest. Photo by Ryan Russell

  • Chicago-based "Celtic-punk" band Flatfoot 56 is one of the local acts performing at Riot Fest.

    Chicago-based "Celtic-punk" band Flatfoot 56 is one of the local acts performing at Riot Fest. Photo courtesy of Flatfoot 56

Band reunions have become common occurrences at big rock festivals, but Adam T. Siska, bassist for the local pop-rock band The Academy Is..., says he's not sure that particular R-word applies to his group.

The Academy Is..., which broke up roughly four years ago, will re-form this weekend to play its celebrated 2005 album "Almost Here" in its entirety at Riot Fest, the three-day rock and punk festival in Chicago.

Siska, a native of Fox River Grove, said the band is excited to perform the album on stage, but he said it's not clear whether there will be more live Academy performances after Riot Fest.

"Right now, we just want to see how that show goes," Siska said during a recent phone interview. "It's the 10th anniversary for the 'Almost Here' record, and we're looking at this show as a celebration of the record and what it meant to us. It should be a blast, but I'm not sure whether we'll continue it or not."

"Almost Here" was the band's debut full-length record, and it immediately established The Academy Is... as a key player in a wave of young pop-rock bands that hit the scene during the 2000s. Chicago and its suburbs produced a number of those bands, including Fall Out Boy and the Plain White T's.

The Academy Is... formed in 2003, when Siska met frontman William Beckett while the two attended Barrington High School. Schaumburg native Mike Carden helped complete the core of the band.

The group's early days consisted of shows at suburban VFW halls, along with the occasional gig at a club in the city. The members were inspired by the alternative rock of the 1990s, Siska said, including records like "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" by the Smashing Pumpkins, another group rooted in the suburbs.

"They were the band that made us feel that a bunch of kids from the suburbs could actually make it doing this," he said.

"Almost Here" was the turning point, Siska said. The album showed off the band's knack for crafting earnest, melodic pop songs that occasionally flashed a punk-rock edge. And it came at a time when younger audiences wanted an alternative to the rap-rock and "nu-metal" sounds of the day.

"It's not exaggerating to say that 'Almost Here' changed our lives, which is why I think it will be so fun to revisit it," he said. "I was 17 when it came out, and obviously I'm in a different place now. We all are. So it will be cool to see it from a different perspective."

In the years since The Academy Is... broke up, Siska has remained active in music. He was the touring bassist for the rock band Say Anything for awhile, and he has recently played and toured with pop star Carly Rae Jepsen.

He plans to continue working as a touring musician, but right now all he's focused on is Riot Fest, an event that also will include performances from such legendary artists as Iggy Pop, Jimmy Cliff, Motorhead, No Doubt and Ice Cube.

"Honestly, I think Riot Fest is the best rock festival in the whole country," he said. "When you look at the bands in this year's lineup, it's just amazing. To be part of that, especially with my old band -- it should be something special."

A look at key bands to see at Riot Fest

Riot Fest began as a showcase for punk rock, but its lineups have grown increasingly diverse over the years.

The 2015 festival, which brings dozens of bands to seven stages at Chicago's Douglas Park this weekend, could be the most musically eclectic yet, offering healthy doses of hip-hop, heavy metal, reggae and pop along with punk.

To help narrow the field a bit, here are some must-see acts on this year's stacked lineup.

Against Me!: This acclaimed punk-rock band's 2014 album, "Transgender Dysphoria Blues," was one of the best records of that year, and frontwoman Laura Jane Grace is a fierce presence on stage. (4:45 p.m. Friday)

Iggy Pop: Often referred to as the Godfather of Punk, the indefatigable Pop paved the way for punk's arrival in the late 1970s with his searing work as frontman for the Stooges. (8:55 p.m. Saturday)

De La Soul: The veteran hip-hop trio has been making smart, vital rap music since the late 1980s, producing classics of the genre such as "3 Feet High and Rising" and "De La Soul is Dead." A new album from the group is due this fall. (3 p.m. Sunday)

L7: This fantastic band, which delivered a blistering hybrid of punk, metal and alternative rock in the 1980s and 1990s, has recently re-formed. Let's hope this reunion sticks. (6:40 p.m. Sunday)

Jimmy Cliff: One of the weekend's tough double-bookings: Playing at roughly the same time as L7 is one of the most important figures in reggae. Cliff exposed the music to a worldwide audience in the 1970s. He's remained active ever since; his 2012 album, "Rebirth," won a Grammy for Best Reggae Album. (7 p.m. Sunday)

Chicago favorites: As always, Riot Fest features numerous bands from Chicago and the suburbs. Here are just a few to consider:

• White Mystery is a stellar brother-sister garage-rock duo from the city. (7 p.m. Friday)

• Flatfoot 56, which formed in the neighborhoods near Midway Airport, is part of the city's vital Celtic-punk scene. (8:30 p.m. Saturday)

• Knuckle Puck hails from the South suburbs and is a rising star in the pop-punk world. (8:15 p.m. Sunday)

For a full list of bands, go to riotfest.org.

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