RIOT FEST DAY 2: Classic Modern Sounds and Non-stop Action – CHICAGO


I show up early so I can check out the first band on the set list – The Pizza Underground. This is child actor MacCaulay Culkin’s tribute to the Velvet Underground. Everyone I told this to thought it was a joke. I mean this is a tribute to the greatest alternative bands of all time. We’re going all the way back to 1967 with Lou  Reed and the Velvet Underground. The thing about it is the kids in the band decided to make this around a pizza theme so all the songs revolved around food. This is an odd decision made impromptu, I believe, in Culkin’s kitchen. Maybe it was decided upon after one too many bottles of wine or inspired by a dinner party that went way over its time limit. Either way it’s ridiculous but at the same time it’s a fun time. This is strictly for the type of alternative fan who doesn’t take the context too seriously.

I first heard about these guys on either Buzzwire or the Village Voice. The story I got was that they were booed off stage somewhere in Brooklyn. Maybe the audience was too serious about their rock music. Maybe they were offended with the content. Lou Reed was from Brooklyn, New York and is regarded as a kind of pop culture relic. Originally the idea of a Velvet Underground cover band by MacCaulay Culkin made me outraged. Then I find out that the cover band is based on a series of pizza songs and then I was livid. Now my inner self starts talking and it tells me to relax and to just go with it. I listened to the songs on Youtube and you know what happened next? I ended up liking it.

When I found out that this band tours somewhat rarely it is clear that this whole act is a novelty. If I caught them at Riot Fest I would be one of the few in the entire country that actually saw them. I would be right up there with the rock journalists and other media people. Now I never saw the original Velvet Underground but I could certainly make this performance. I would have serious bragging rights among the Alternative universe. As crazy as it all sound I began to get excited about this experience.

So there I was early Saturday morning standing in line waiting to get in for day two. I was going to grab a brew on the way up to the Riot Stage and park right along side the other fans in the mud. They played for exactly 30 minutes. We got to hear Mac and the other kids sing, “Papa John Says”, “Pizza” (a take off of Sweet Jane), “I’m Beginning to Eat The Slice”, and “Take A Bite of the Wild Slice”. They had a Nico character who was doing a German accent and she was banging on an empty pizza box with a wooden spoon, (like a tambourine).

I laughed at the lines in, “Pizza” – (Sweet Jane) when Mac goes, “Me I’m in a Pizza Band….”. They would all do that high pitched yodel / yell  on the chorus, “….pizzaaaaaaaa.. “ and the audience lapped it up. There wasn’t one disgruntled face in the audience from my point of view. Everyone was getting the joke. These weren’t complete songs. The Velvet Underground song parodies were strung along in a medly.

I liked the tour shirts. There was one in particular with a giant yellow anchovy fish on it, (instead of the banana) that I absolutely adored. It picks up on the Warhol accents in the original album cover, “The Velvet Undergound with Nico”. Now towards the end of the set Mac hinted on some new parodies based on Billy Joel which was met with acceptance and laughter. This was a fun set – remember? It’s light  hearted entertainment and these guys were good at it.

I read this review of Macaulay Culkin and it was in reference to his stalled career and drug problems and how sad his life was. The guy I saw that morning was up on stage rocking out and having the time of this life. Later he was seen leading a group of fans through the Zombie haunted house and they were having a blast. I take great comfort in that. Mac still has the limelight and he still has fans and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to lighten up… and have a slice.

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