Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Cock SParrer at Riot Fest, September 2014

If I were the sort of Sparrer fan who wrote fan fiction (and trust me, I'm sure they are out there somewhere), I might imagine a dream scenario where Sparrer play to their largest ever crowd, and as the sun slowly sets over the punks, skins and who knows what, the crowd sing England Belongs To Me in unison, and ferris wheel lights up in red, white and blue behind it all. What a picture.

Except this wasn't the imaginings of someone somewhere on the internet, but instead what actually happened at Riot Fest Chicago last weekend. And it was beautiful. As beautiful as a muddy gathering of the unique and wonderful can get when everything is accompanied by the smell of port-a-loos...

We arrived in Chicago Thursday afternoon, met up with Dad and the other reprobates and then set about running up two bar tabs that would make Lemmy proud. Waking up the next morning to the sound of splashing rain on the windows was not an exciting prospect considering there were merch tents to be set up. Luckily the Pirates are a hardy bunch and very resourceful. We McGyvered the shit out of that situation. Even when wet and cold, we were never miserable (unlike the silly girls from the stall next door, they were just miserable).
We Know How To Live

The club show Friday night was our first chance to get out of the rain and defrost. The Concord Music Hall was a nice venue, the staff we met during the day were lovely. A very funny moment was when Sparrer agent Ron introduced himself to the stage manager Burgundy. You can do the joke yourselves. I say the staff during the day because it seemed to me that whilst security did their job at night, they could have been a little less zealous in barging through the crowd to sort out what they thought were scuffles. We're a punk crowd and in the large we can look after ourselves thank you.

Victory opened the show and I highly recommend you check them out. Somewhere between Bishop's Green and stompy Harrington Saints. Stiff Little Fingers played their second set of the day, having played the main festival only hours earlier. They brought all the classics and we had a great singalong. And then it was Sparrer...

...who thought they'd give some of the lesser played live tracks a run out. Which suited me right down to the ground. We were treated to The Sun Says, Working Pts 1, 2 & 3 and Secret Army, a song that is sometimes put on the subs bench to make way for other, younger players. I've written before about how much I love seeing bands having fun on stage and this gig really did remind me why they are friends first and a band second.

Back to the hotel and on to the moonshine, a story I will have to save for another day.

What a difference the weather makes. Saturday was glorious. The sun, the cider and the free backstage bar that my ever resourceful pirate women found... What wasn't fucking glorious was the sudden onslaught of wasps (yes Yanks you call them bees, I call them wasps, either way evil bastards). You've never seen bigger and meaner looking punks shrieking and jumping around. Hilarious. We had a little boogie to The Crombies. The day was on a roll.

From the very talented and funny @RiotFest Twitter account
Then there was an encounter with a Chicago fireman who loved Sparrer, some Buzzcocks, the loss of an entire pint in the pursuit of wasp death, being photographed by the official Riot Fest photographer (yeah 'official', we thought the same, turns out he actually was), making friends with an awesome group of artists who make beautiful printed leather goods, and being chased by a zombie in a ski mask. None of this is made up.

And then it was time for Sparrer to start. Like clockwork, the band on the stage next door finished and the wings banner began to rise, accompanied by the Overture we all know so well. I broke the rule of a lifetime and watched from side of stage. And I am so pleased I did. Because if I'm going to do it once, I'm glad it was this one.
"And that stall over there has the best deep fried cheese curds..."

They honestly played one of the best sets I've ever seen them play. It was the first time I've been able to see them play an outdoor festival set and I had serious doubts about losing the energy from the crowd. I couldn't have been more wrong. Take Em All sounded just as powerful. The pit looked just as feisty. And as at every Sparrer show I've ever been at, there were two teenage skinhead girls on the barrier (Hi Cammie and Erin, we think you are fucking brilliant!).

And the crowd just got bigger and bigger with every song. A very, very smart move on behalf of RiotMike and the team to put the Descendents on the stage next door directly after Sparrer. I get the impression that a number of their fans became Sparrer fans during that set. An impression confirmed by Pirates who helped a number of people buy their first ever copy of Shock Troops over the next few days.

You should watch this video taken by some bloke called Skippy to really get a feel for the size of it (Ding!).

And the sun did set as they played England, the ferris wheel illuminating the night sky. Being stuck in America during our green card process is making me very homesick. Very London sick. But hearing that anthem sung at me by thousands and thousands of punks and skins? That just made me very proud.

Sunday RiotFest was a whole 'nother adventure, and so it deserves a tale all of its own.
Laters punks, feels good to be writing again xxx