One Three-Day Pass to Riot Fest, $167.23
Riot Fest, a punk, rock, and alternative music festival runs a neat little racket: Before all of the bands are announced, you can buy discounted two- and three-day passes. After they announce some more bands, you can buy full-price multi-day passes. Then they announce all the bands, but not which day they’re playing, and about a month before the show, they release the schedule and single-day tickets go on sale. Unless you are a festival-lover, into pop-punk, or perhaps both, you probably want a single-day ticket.
I am neither of these, and I wanted a single-day ticket, but there was a lot at stake. The Replacements were playing on Sunday night. The Replacements—who conjure memories both pleasant and painful, the upper Midwest and Paul Westerberg’s cheekbones—are one of my favorite bands, and have been inactive for 22 years. Jumping to the worst conclusion, I assumed thousands of other fans would be waiting by their computers for single-day tickets to go on sale. The tickets would sell out, and I would be left without. And then what? I would end up sitting at home, knowing they were cranking out the hits five miles south of my apartment. This wouldn’t do. I felt a nervous mixture of giddiness and guilt as I added the three-day pass to my shopping cart.
Fifty drink tickets, $50, and a bottle of water, $1
Friday night’s lineup was a must-miss event, and I decided it was worth one-third of the ticket price, $55, to stay home instead of making use of my all-weekend pass. It was the right choice.
Saturday could have easily followed the same pattern, but at this point I was engaging in some mental self-flagellation about wasting so much money. I might as well go for a while, I thought, just because I could. “Maybe I’ll have fun!” said the misanthrope who hadn’t been to a music festival in eight years.
Upon arrival, I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of teenagers hanging around. Where did they all come from? When were their parents coming to get them? Did they have cigarettes, and if so, could I bum one? I wandered through the crowd trying to find my friend, treating this as an anthropological data-gathering experiment rather than a hot, dirty festival packed with other humans.
An oasis appeared in the form of a sign reading BEVERAGE TICKETS. I reasoned that 50 tickets would last me for the entire weekend, and they almost did. I handed over seven tickets for an Old Style, reluctantly, and tipped the lady, non-reluctantly.
I found my friend. God bless her, she loves her nineties punk. The band Pennywise was about to start playing on one of the other stages. “I’m about to go watch this shitty pop-punk band, you wanna come?” she asked. I followed her, wondering how long my remaining 43 tickets would last in this environment.
A few beers and a few bands later, I was done for the day. On my way home I walked by some kids selling bottled water and chips in front of their apartment building. “Water, one dollar!” the girl announced. I said no thanks and kept walking. “Aw, come on, you look thirsty,” she said. “It’s only a dollar!” Alright, I said, I’ll buy a bottle of water for one dollar. She was a convincing salesperson. I asked them if they were doing good business that day, with the festival. She smiled shyly and looked off to the side. “Yeah, you know, we’re trying.”
Brunch, $15, cocktails, $20, more drink tickets, $17, hot dog, $5
Sunday was the day for us old folks. Rock and roll reunion tours have done a healthy business since the rise of the Internet. It’s easier for a band to gauge whether their public is still as adoring as they used to be, and whether said public is willing to pay $60 a pop to hear them run through their back catalog. Yes, there’s something unsettling about cynical, revenue-soaked mass nostalgia. But I’m also not going to pass up an opportunity to see Iggy Pop crawl on all fours while singing “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” leathery as he may be.
Riot Fest offers generational tiers of nostalgia, from eighties college radio staples to early-aughts emo. In fact, I did not see one group who was not there as That Band Mark II, or III, or IV, including my raison d’aller. Headliners for all three days were bands who had reunited after a breakup or hiatus. Even the stuff aimed towards a younger demographic was looking backwards, and the cycle is getting shorter: Friday’s headliner, Fall Out Boy, had been on hiatus for only three years.
It rained on Sunday, almost all day, alternating between an annoying mist and substantial drops. Obviously, the park had turned into a giant mud pit. In the spirit of avoiding this for as long as possible – The Replacements didn’t go on until 9:15 that night – my friends and I started the day with a late brunch. I fortified myself with a breakfast burrito. It was 3 p.m. We thought about heading to the park. It was still raining. We went to the bar instead. I ordered a Campari and soda, which was so unpalatable that I had to send it back (I thought I had enjoyed one of these cocktails before, but this must have been a false memory, because Campari tastes like rotting leaves covered in arsenic). The waitress kindly removed it from our tab, adding a much-appreciated ten dollars to my coffers.
Fearing extreme drunkenness if we stayed at the bar, we half-heartedly headed over to the festival. My friend miraculously found parking right across the street from the entrance, because she is a street parking wizard and also because she has a tiny Mr. Bean-style car that can fit into wee spots.
The day went on. Bands were watched, but I didn’t care about any of them. I was trying to achieve and maintain some optimal state of inebriation. Sadly, this involved buying more drink tickets. The Replacements are a drinkin’ band, you see, so all of this was integral to my being truly part of the whole experience, not because I’m a sot. After finishing up Saturday’s tickets, I gave my friend some cash and asked him to get me some more while he was bolstering his own stock. One rule of Riot Fest— and perhaps of fests in general—is that once your friend walks off, you might not see them again for a long time. I lost track of him, and of my request, and went and bought another drink’s worth of tickets myself. He returned with ten more for me. Too much math, too much booze, but I was masterfully maintaining that delicate balance between sober and “YOU DON’T KNOW ME!” An unknown was introduced to the equation in the form of a hot dog.
To kill some time, we headed over to the merchandise booths. I forked over another $25 for a Replacements T-shirt. The vendor told me I looked like an actress whose face has been described as “interesting” and “ugly,” though considering he didn’t recoil in horror, I suppose he meant it as a compliment.
Finally, The Replacements took the stage.
It was great! They played a lot of songs from their first album, which was weird. But still great and I enjoyed it a lot! I sang along, I danced, I smiled, and I felt the power of shared experience. But also, at that point, I had been trudging around outside for two days, and was tired, drunk and down almost $300. I was approximately one city block away from the stage. The rain had started up again.
As of Sunday, there were still single-day tickets available.