“I’m addicted to words and they are useless, in this department.”
Those lyrics plucked from a Motion City Soundtrack song, circa 2005, are apt to describe my emotional state of being. Saying goodbye is hard. For me, Motion City Soundtrack were invented to help cope with loss. So, what happens when I have to say goodbye to Motion City Soundtrack? I was hoping to find that answer this weekend, along with countless others, during my third annual venture to partake in the appropriately named Riot Fest music festival in Chicago.
I’m not really sure what logistics are involved in hosting an event that is set in an urban park attracts somewhere between 20,000-30,000 hardcore, screaming fans. With 130+ bands across all mainstream genres (albeit rock is the standard) and numerous behind-the-scenes people, judging by the number of porta-potties alone, the pre-fest checklist is probably long enough to induce extreme anxiety. All of the people involved deserve a gratuitously heartfelt thank you.
Riot Fest, as a brand, takes on a somewhat brash and very bold personality, much akin to the musicians and fans that they attract. Every year they offer a slot to Jessie and the Rippers, more popularly known as Uncle Jesse’s band from Full House. Sadly, the Rippers have never taken the festival up on the offer. Also every year, Riot Fest puts out a list of items and people that are banned from entering the festival. This year, the list of banned people included Donald Trump, Justin Bieber, Brock Turner, and C.M Punk.
Just as important to the event’s success are the people that arrive in droves to watch their favorite bands and discover new bands to call favorites. Unless you happen to be placed on the “banned people” list, the atmosphere is very accepting of all sorts of different beings.
Enough about Riot Fest. I need to say a few things about Motion City Soundtrack.
Before I get too emotional, let me do my best to set the stage. Motion City Soundtrack, or MCS as the kids call them, played their final two shows ever this past weekend. I know that I already said this, but the shear dismay of the news justifies the repetition. The second-to-last performance was an hourlong set on Saturday afternoon; their final, more intimate performance being Sunday evening at a smaller venue. The band had just returned to the States a few days prior from a final trip to Japan, but they appeared to have no jet-lag playing to the Riot Fest crowd.
On Saturday, I arrived to the front right of stage minutes before 2 p.m. and easily secured a spot against the gate. Normally, the very front is not my preferred position to view a full-stage concert, but there was no way that I was missing anything. I thought that I was ready. I had dressed appropriately to spend the afternoon out in the beautiful sunshine: I’d applied sunscreen and my water bottles were fully loaded.
Another local Minnesota act, Hippo Campus, were on stage at 2 p.m. They delivered a fine set filled with songs from their discography as well as a few new tracks. I always dig the H-Campus and was happy to see them take the very same stage that Rob Zombie would occupy later on Sunday. When their set concluded, I was pleasantly entertained by the Smoking Popes on an adjacent stage. During that time, the MCS banner began to ascend, gear was being roadied, and a very genuine buzz was building about the audience around me.
I started to get nervous. I do not care for crowds of large size. Ironically, the band that I listen to on my headphones to help me manage my anxiety had begun to become the cause of my anxiety. Of course, I wouldn’t really be such a big fan of MCS if I haven’t already overcome worse, so I stayed strong and began to prepare for what was to come the best that I could. Then, somebody in the crowd fainted and had to have medical attention. Strangely, this got me out of my own head enough to let my worries dissipate and allow me to truly enjoy the show. I did feel terribly bad for that lad, though. I hope that he is alright. And everything is alright.
At a quarter past 3 p.m., Justin Pierre, the band’s co-founder and frontman, came out by himself at first to start “Capital H.” In short time, he was joined by the rest of the band. As he exclaimed, “I’ll be back tomorrow,” I nearly teared up, reading too literally into the lyrics. Another reason that I will always hold MCS close to my heart. After a few songs, Pierre addressed the crowd, acknowledging that there “are a lot of emotions on stage.” Then the rocking continued. They played “It Had To Be You,” “Broken Heart,” and “Everything Is Alright,” to name a few. For the life of me, I cannot remember the final song of their set. The whole thing was a blur.
Suddenly, the music stopped, Pierre made a finale goodbye statement, the band took a group photo with the lively audience as the backdrop, they threw some souvenirs into the crowd, and that was the end. After all, this was a festival — and Bob Mould was up next on the adjacent stage.
Monday will mark the first day in nearly two decades that we have lived in a world where Motion City Soundtrack are not a band currently practicing music. Though MCS have helped me find ways to deal with my hardships, and, at times, that can be saddening, they have also helped rejuvenate my sense of optimism. That could be argued to be their greatest accomplishment. Motion City Soundtrack, It’s (been) A Pleasure To Meet You. Goodbye and good luck.
Chris Odegard is an MPR member from New Ulm, Minn.