metal + hardcore
pop punk + alt-rock
indie spins


Tuesday Ten: Rides & Riots

While it does boast one of the most impressive festival lineups of the year, Riot Fest isn’t just about the music–it’s also home to the most punk rock carnival around. And as we prepare ourselves for the wild ride of this year’s fest, we asked ourselves a question that few have dared to ask before: What if the artists playing this year’s Riot Fest were carnival attractions?

Andrew WK (Slingshot)


The Slingshot, if you’re unfamiliar, is the “ride” where they strap you and a friend into a gravity ball of doom that is then launched into the air like a bungee cat toy. It’s a combination of a lot of shouting, an unbelievable rush of adrenaline, and,  probably, a nosebleed. This is Andrew W.K. in a nutshell. Yes, at first the ride might seem a little scary, but the adrenaline rush turns it into a PARTY, PEOPLE! Andrew W.K. will be the guy giving you a motivational pep talk beforehand as well as the guy strapped into the Slingshot, screaming and partying hard right by your side. (Alyssa Dempsey)

AWOLNATION (Gravitron)


Finding yourself at a carnival is never a bad thing. The sights, smells, and attractions fill your mind with excitement and adrenaline before even walking through the gates. No attribute entices this exhilaration so much so as the festival rides, especially those that make you feel out of this world, like the Gravitron. Stepping onto the circular spaceship and taking your place against the padded wall panels is soon followed by rapid spinning, “flying” up and down, and getting the impression that you’re bound by no laws–especially those of gravity. A week later, the ride will be packed up and moved to the next city, but if you have an AWOLNATION album, you won’t have to wait another year to experience the intergalactic feeling once again. The sonic space oddity provides you with all the wonder the Gravitron holds by the method of fearless indie rock tracks laced with moony beats, insane vocal tricks, and even a rambunctious 80’s pop influence–in some cases. Diving into the band’s discography launches you into the sensory overload delivered by the carnival ride, and finally removing your headphones leaves you with the same disoriented feeling you stumble from the Gravitron with. Whipping around a metal tube lined with colorful lights and filled with loud music might only come once a year, but AWOLNATION have ensured that the effects can be felt long into the carnival’s offseason. (Emillie Marvel)

Bad Suns (Swings)


There’s a sort of stagnant feeling you get once you’ve ridden the fast thrill rides and exhausted all the carnival games. You just ate nachos and cotton candy, and if you get on the Gravitron one more time, you’ll be sick. So what’s around when you’re ready for something chill, without stopping your night of fun? The spinning swings. Now, if you’re at Toronto Riot Fest and in the same predicament, it’s time to watch the smooth alt-rock band Bad Suns. They’re a lot like the spinning swings, actually–the music’s not too fast-paced, there’s enough energy to keep up your mood, and the deep melodies make for some nice low-key rock. Image spinning on your swing up in the cool night air with the crazy carnival lights dissolving to a blur; if it were a movie, Bad Suns would definitely be the soundtrack in the background. Whenever you need some tunes with a cool tone that aren’t slow or sluggish, Bad Suns are your band. (Hannah Pierangelo)

Bring Me The Horizon (Corkscrew)


The corkscrew is one carnival ride that lives up to its name. Like the twisting tool, the ride is filled with one spiral after another. There’s nothing subtle about the corkscrew–much like Bring Me The Horizon. The ride’s steady climb into the sky almost seems to stretch as much as your anticipation (or dread, depending on how you look at it), and it makes me think of the careful way the band layers each instrument to set the stage for the highest level of raw energy and passion possible. As you feel the roller coaster’s cars begin to tip over the peak of the ride, you know it’s going to launch everyone into some sort of frenzy, whether it be clenching to the bar until your knuckles turn white or keeping your arms in the air like a freefall; like the physics of the ride that keep you in your seat, Bring Me The Horizon know exactly how to keep the music from getting too overwhelming while maintaining that power. Bring Me aren’t just the roller coaster, but also the bar, with a startling dose of reality through honest lyrics to keep you grounded. And by the end of the ride, as you’re trying to catch your breath, you might just want to go again–both Bring Me The Horizon and the corkscrew are here to deliver the truth, and they’ll sweep you off your feet while doing so. (Emily Yee)

City & Colour (Ferris Wheel)


After you’ve had your fair share of moshing and riding the craziest carnival rides you can find, make sure you also take the time to explore Riot Fest’s softer side. Under the moniker City & Colour, Dallas Green’s acoustic melodies can resemble the ferris wheel you’ll find dominating the skyline. His music is generally calm and relaxing, but emotionally jarring at points when the lyrics really bite at you–similar to when you accidentally rock your seat as you’re getting close to the top. So when you meet up with that special person you found through #FindMeADateToRiotFest, set the mood by taking them on the ferris wheel and to see City & Colour. (Catherine Yi)

Death Cab For Cutie (Carousel)


There’s something undeniably timeless about the carousel. Its simple, classic charm offers something for every generation of carnival-goer, whether you’re stepping on for the first time as a child or introducing your own kids to it years down the road. In a way, it’s not too unlike the music of Death Cab For Cutie–timeless and charming. The indie rock poster boys have spent close to twenty years perfecting the balance between easy-listening accessibility and emotionally charged introspection, with the former mirroring the carousel’s fun-for-the-whole-family appeal and the latter tying in perfectly to that Holden Caulfield complex you’ll inevitably develop as a teenager (if you somehow haven’t read the book…basically there’s a carousel). And while you might find yourself rushing more quickly towards the roller coasters over the years, you’ll never fully leave that carousel love behind–just like the hold Death Cab’s music will always have on you. (Eleanor Grace)

La Dispute (Kamikaze)


La Dispute can definitely make your head spin. C’mon and hop on this Kamikaze because it’s going to be one hell of a ride. The juxtaposition of La Dispute’s poetic lyrics with their sometimes delicate, sometimes harsh vocals plays out just like the Kamikaze carnival attraction that swings passengers backwards and forwards, building momentum before flipping them upside down. Lead by frontman Jordan Dreyer, La Dispute songs will typically start off slow with trancelike melodies and words that resemble iambic pentameter rather than lyrics to a post hardcore song. They’ll slowly swing you like a pendulum at first, just like the Kamikazi, before pushing you back against your seat and sending you upside down. Aside from the actual sounds produced by the Michigan-based foursome, the intricate lyrics alone are enough to leave your head spinning and stomach in knots–in a good way. (Alyson Stokes)

Say Anything (Funhouse)


Is it just me, or are carnivals creepy? Sure, they’re all fun and games, until you run into clowns or decide to enter the Fun House–a place where Say Anything are the masters. Their bouncy pop punk overtones mask their tongue-in-cheek lyrics that will have your head spinning almost as much as those oversized robotic monsters in the corner. Everything seems normal at first, as the ride that is Say Anything sets off with a jolt into the unknown. But then the hairs on the back of your neck start to stand up. Something feels off. You can’t quite place it–the beat is irresistible, but the words you hear don’t quite fit, like the heads of those animated dolls, their eyes rolling in directions inhumanly possible. The lyrical content about “babies with guns” and “left my inner child dead in the drain” isn’t quite what you’d expect from the fast-paced, usually upbeat melodies. But it’s the synths that give it the carnival feel that you can’t help but feel weirded out and fascinated by, all at once. So scream along with vocalist Max Bemis and let yourself spiral out of control with the music until your eyes go out of focus and the world seems like it’s behind a fisheye effect. With its weird contortions and bright explosions of color, you’ll get lost inside their intricate melodies, only to come out the other side exhilarated, wide-eyed, but–most importantly–wanting to dive straight back in. (Alex Bear)

The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die (Tilt-A-Whirl)


Listening to The World Is A Beautiful Place is comparable to the Tilt-A-Whirl;  in fact, we might as well re-name the band “The Whirl Is a Beautiful Place” for the sake of this article. But in all seriousness, TWIABP is a band that sports frenetic vocals, mixed emotions, and ambient instrumentals akin to spinning around in a circle at high speeds and in all directions, and ultimately ending up feeling dizzy and confused, or perhaps even an emotional wreck after you vomit on your friend’s shoes. You hop off the ride and lose all sense of reality as you stumble to try to find your step…and then you ride it again. Listening to TWIABP is a similar concept; you vibe out to the slow ambience, you ease into the subtle textures, you’re turned off by the vocals at first but they grow on you. Suddenly there’s a trumpet part, then a cello, then a scream, and before you know it there is so much going on that you can’t help but embrace the emotional ride. And when it’s over, although you may have an existential crisis, it kind of feels good–so you do it again. (Ethan Rose)

Wounds (Orbiter)


When you think of bands coming from Ireland, huge names like U2 and Mumford and Sons probably come to mind. But while that’s all well and good, there’s a band on the rise causing quite a storm: Wounds. Their kickass, straightforward rock and roll with a little bit of punk flavor might make fans of the aforementioned bands blush, but if you like your music with a little bit more leather and swagger, look no further. Much like the Orbiter ride at your local carnival, that you approach with caution, but eventually get talked into checking out and become obsessed with its fast paced twists and turns, Wounds will have you coming back for more. (Tarynn Law)

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