Riot Fest: Clutch

Maryland rockers battle the elements on day one of the eclectic Chicago rock fest

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If it weren’t for the line-up, you could be forgiven for think this is an English festival – rain pours down for the majority of the day, it’s freezing, there’s mud everywhere and pretty much everyone, no matter how excited they are at what truly is an incredible line-up, looks wet and cold and miserable.

And it’s not just the crowd either. For while the Maryland hard rockers try their best to – almost literally – break the ice, as the wind whips and the rain cascades their hard rock has, well, a kind of hard time.

Frontman Neil Fallon has a tough time raising energy levels, but has a valiant attempt anyway. On D.C. Sound Attack! he defies his presumably frozen fingers and attacks a cowbell, but all his posturing and movements seem slightly stiff – and unsurprisingly so, given that his joints are probably frozen together. Still, The Mob Goes Wild almost lives up to its name, its powerful and commanding bluesy swagger the clear highlight of a set that, through no fault of the band’s, struggles to truly come alive.

That said, credit where credit is due – the four-piece are defiant and unrelenting, and although they lose steam in the middle, as well as the attention of those on the periphery of the large crowd watching, they soldier on through defiantly and come through the other end by the time they reach the intense riffage of Burning Beard and the rollicking romp of set closer Electric Worry. And while it’s not quite enough to lift their set above anything more than average, you can feel that on any other day, they’d have fared much better. Their music should be fun, songs to get down and boogie and rock out to, and that just doesn’t happen. That said, the fact a large crowd sticks it out, showing their solidarity in these most trying conditions, is heart-warming to watch. It doesn’t, however, warm much else, unfortunately.