You would have been hard pressed to find anyone more excited for this year’s edition of Riot Fest than ShowYouSuck. If you followed his Twitter feed in the days and weeks leading up to the annual festival, you saw just how excited he was. I caught up with the Chicago based rapper on Friday of the festival and his excitement was even more evident. “I’m so stoked, that is going to be like, the greatest day of my life. This is my favorite festival ever,” he told me at a break between sets. The rapper may have seemed like an outlier when the bill (that featured mostly punk, hardcore and metal bands) was announced, but ShowYouSuck came up in the Chicago hardcore scene. He explained during his set on Sunday that he used to open at hardcore shows to an audience that was unfamiliar to anything he had done. Intimidating? For some it might be, but he made the most of every opportunity, building a devout following along the way. While primarily a rock festival, Riot Fest does expose the masses to hip hop, bringing in rap icons Wu Tang Clan this year and Public Enemy in 2013. For the unfamiliar, those two groups are historic titans in the genre, each marking a specific time of renaissance in hip hop. That fact was not lost on Show as he reflected, “It’s crazy. The only rap that has been on Riot Fest has been heavy hitters, and people who have kind of surpassed genre. So for me to be added to that, dude, it’s the hugest honor ever. It’s sort of like clarification I’m going somewhat in the right direction.”
That clarification, and vindication, has never been more apparent for the new class of Chicago hip hop. Chance the Rapper, arguably the biggest rapper coming out of Chicago, closed out this year’s Lollapalooza with a Sunday headlining spot. ProbCause, fresh off a tour with Cherub, had his own headlining gig at the EDM-heavy North Coast Festival just weeks ago. ShowYouSuck proudly carried that torch into Humboldt Park for Riot Fest. “It’s so awesome I can be mentioned in that. I feel like I’m known as a guy on my own. When people put together Chicago rapper lists, a lot of them, I don’t make it on. I’m definitely kind of in my own bubble which is cool. If I get lumped together, I love it. If you lump me by myself, I love it. As long as you’re spreading it, I’m all about it,” he said. “I don’t mind, you kind of have to get mentally ready to be lumped with people, that’s just how it is.”
So where to start with his music? He suggested “Big Gulp” off One Man Pizza Party 3, which he described as “What I’m all about,” before transitioning into the Dude Bro EP, which marks a move in his more current direction, which will be followed up with his yet to be released Bummer project. He plans on releasing some new music before his upcoming European tour, but you could always get at him on Twitter (he’s very active and chances are he’ll respond) or catch him getting a garlic and sausage pizza at Pete’s in Edgewater.
After performing at the Cobra Lounge for a Red Bull Sound Select Afterparty on Saturday, ShowYouSuck took the stage for his set Sunday afternoon. As I made my way to the front, I wondered how big of a crowd would attend and if they’d provide the energy that Show exudes in his songs. That proved to be a foolish thought as the crowd was: substantially larger than I anticipated and Show (along with Auggie the 9th, Manny Muscles and MikeJaxx onstage) whipped the crowd into a frenzy. He started with the aforementioned “Big Gulp” and the crowd immediately erupted into a mosh pit. If you needed more evidence that he belonged, during “The Return of Headbanger’s Ball” he coordinated a “Wall of Love,” a positive spin on Walls of Death that are prominent at hardcore shows. He climbed speakers with Auggie and led the crowd in a chant of “Show you’re so awesome, Show You Suck” (a nod to Primus). Silly String and Halloween candy were launched into the crowd. Pizzas were handed out, to fans and security guards, before slices were flung into the crowd.
Gimmicks are great, provided they’re original and genuine, but they’re nothing without the music. After leading off with “Big Gulp” he added “80’s Boobs,” “Make-Out King” and even a crowd sing-a-long to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” It was easily one of the most fun sets of the entire weekend. Show closed his set with “Girls, Nachos” before promptly stage diving into the crowd (the only way to end a show in my opinion) to be carried off like a king.
During his set, Show exclaimed “I made it!” A lucky few of us already figured that he had, but his set assured that many more would agree.