The forecast called for rain on Sunday in Fort York, the site of Riot Fest Toronto. The day
prior, tornado warnings had forced Riot Fest New York to close up shop early. But on September 9th, the punk rock Gods shed a favorable light upon a small patch of Toronto where punks of all ages came to revel in the experience of their favorite bands, including legends such as NoFX and the main attraction, Descendents. Not a single drop of rain fell from the sky, which intermittently opened up to allow the sun to warm the backs of those in attendance.
The gates opened around noon and a steady flow of people filed through, browsing
merch, grabbing food and meeting their friends in anticipation of a long day of moshing, sing-alongs and crowd-surfing.
Music began at 1:00 and would continue until past 11:00, with a steady array of punk, rock, ska and even an Andrew W.K. solo performance. Although every single band
and performer put on a fantastic show, some were more memorable than others.
One notable set was that of renowned party-rocker Andrew W.K. who was performing as a solo act with a simple backing track and his keyboard to support him. From the moment he ran on stage, the atmosphere shifted from a concert to a party and he wasn’t going to let any of the festival-goers forget that, bombarding their more-than-willing ears with an obliterating set of party anthems that had them dancing and singing along.
Another highlight of the day came when veteran ska-punkers Less Than Jake hit the stage, featuring Chris Rhodes of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones as a second trombonist; he was filling in for saxophone player J.R. Wasilewski, who was attending to family matters. This minor inconvenience didn’t stop Less Than Jake from providing the fun-filled environment they are known for as they played both new and old fan favorites,
such as “Look What Happened,” “Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts,” and “All My
Best Friends are Metalheads.” As the music belted over the grounds, crowd-surfers rolled over the barricade like waves on a beach, proving that it’s nearly impossible to be sad during a Less Than Jake show.
Although Less Than Jake’s set resulted in the most crowd-surfing, NoFX’s set resulted in the most instances of items being thrown on stage, more specifically at frontman Fat Mike, who is known for his sarcastic yet vitriolic nature with fans. NoFX solidified their place as one of the funniest bands in punk, openly debating which songs to play next and including fans in their crass brand of onstage humor – all in good fun, of course. Highlights of their set included the classic song “Linoleum” off of their seminal album Punk in Drublic and such modern day hits as “Franco Un-American” and “Separation of Church and Skate.”
Stealing the show, however, were Toronto locals and hometown heroes Fucked Up who embraced their city with an ecstatic feeling of love, accentuated by frontman Damian Abraham’s captivating nature and personal experience with the crowd. From the minute he hit the stage, Abraham’s passion for the music was sent throughout the entire crowd. He immediately descended the stage, deciding to perform the entire show up against the barricade and, in some instances, in the crowd itself. In front of the wall of sound produced by Fucked Up’s three guitar players, Abraham growled forth his lyrics while taking pictures with fans mid-song and even stopping to pose with the security guards surrounding him. Their set was capped off by a stunning performance of “The Other Shoe” off of their critically acclaimed album David Comes to Life, with the crowd screaming along to the lyrics “We’re dying on the inside!”
After almost nine hours of music the moment everyone had waited for finally arrived; performers and fans alike took their places to experience what Fat Mike described as “The 20th best band from L.A. from 1981.” The Descendents walked on stage to a sea of people eager to witness their unique brand of punk that is credited with influencing most, if not all, of modern day pop-punk. Vocalist Milo Aukerman catapulted into the song “Everything Sucks” and there was no looking back as they rocketed forward at breakneck speed through 26 songs, including the favorite “Suburban Home” and its classic line of “I want to be stereotyped / I want to be classified.” If this amazing display of their musical veracity wasn’t enough, the crowd was treated to a special birthday celebration honoring drummer Bill Stevenson’s 49th birthday, which was the day after on September 10th. Eric Melvin and Fat Mike of NoFX came out before the Descendents’ encore with a chocolate cake, presenting it to Stevenson, who was bombarded with chants of “Speech! Speech! Speech!” from the crowd. He was more than happy to oblige and thanked everybody for their kindness, then proceeded to fart into guitarist Stephen Egerton’s microphone, reminding the crowd that he is still a kid at heart. With bellies full of cake the band returned for one last song, treating the crowd to “Catalina” and finishing Riot Fest with a bang.