My mother and stepdad flew to Chicago to visit me for the weekend. I always enjoy their visits. While they normally visit over Labor Day weekend, they decided to switch things up and come in June instead. Why? Because the legendary band the Cure were playing at UIC Pavilion! My mother has been a fan of the Cure for over 35 years, really since their inception. Yet she had never seen them perform live. This was not only an excellent time to spend time with family, but also check off a band on her bucket list. Win-win.
I saw the Cure for the first time at Riot Fest during the fall of 2014. For those not savvy on music festivals or the big to dos of Chicago, Riot Fest is a punky alternative to other music festivals like Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza. That year, the Cure were headlining. I had been listening to them since I started high school, but had never seen them live. This is primarily for two reasons; 1) I didn’t live in or near areas that regularly got large acts, and 2) the Cure didn’t tour often and when they did, it was to go to major metropolitan areas.
When it comes to outdoor music festivals, I’m not a fan. The weather can be bad, the crowd can be unruly, and the prices can be unjustifiable considering I would typically only know a handful of bands. However, more and more festivals are popping and up and they’re getting bigger every year. Business models for bands have changed drastically in the last decade or so. With many larger acts, they can actually make more money by only playing a handful of festivals as opposed to going out on a proper tour. The Cure has been doing that for years and I figured that was the only way I could’ve seen them. So, I sucked it up and paid approximately $70 for a single-day pass to Riot Fest just to see the Cure.
That day at Riot Fest was long and boring for the most part. I’m a punctual person, so I arrived early anticipating long lines. Upon arrival, the lines weren’t that long, but I waited in them for over an hour listening to the war stories of the previous few days including torrential downpours and awesome rock shows. I spent some time reviewing the line-up for the day. And really, there was no one I really cared about seeing until Patti Smith took the stage at around 5 PM. When the gates opened, I walked around for a bit to get a layout of the vendors and stages and other happenings at the festival.
I checked out a few bands briefly, but they really weren’t my thing. The whole experience for the first half of the day was boring. I was alone, didn’t care about the bands that were playing, and dealing with some personal issues that had happened within the last two weeks; I had moved out of an ex-girlfriend’s place and lost of my job the same week. Though, I could see how things could be fun. However, it wasn’t clicking for me at the time.
Patti Smith was playing right before the Cure on the same stage. I had seen her the previous year at the Vic. And if I wanted a good spot, I would need to be in the area to see the band before her which was Tegan & Sara. I wasn’t quite familiar with their songs, but I really dug them. Most importantly, I got to get a spot that was good for that show and when it would be over, squeeze a little closer to the front for Patti Smith and then repeat for the Cure.
Patti put on an excellent and raucous rock and roll show, but I had to go to the bathroom really bad. So, I left my amazing spot to go use the restroom. I hurried back to the stage and settled in. I would have to wait for over an hour for the show. While my spot wasn’t as great as it was before, it wasn’t bad. It was adequate.
I was so ready for the Cure to play because they were the only band I had to see and the only reason why I came to Riot Fest. The closer is came to time for them the play, the crowd got bigger and more packed. I was squished, hot, hungry, thirsty, a little lonely, but I didn’t care. I was going to see an amazing band forget about my recent troubles for a few hours.
There were a group of guys standing behind me acting like jackasses before the show, but I did my best to ignore them. One of them was complaining about having to pee. The crowd was so huge and compact that movement was extremely limited. You couldn’t move your arms let alone dance. In a desperate move not to lose his place and awkwardly swim through the sea of sweaty bodies, he decided to pee into a water bottle. Not a bad move. I couldn’t blame him given the situation, though it still really annoyed me because some guy was peeing a foot behind me. When he was done, he dropped the bottle onto the ground. First of all, I hate litter bugs and I’ve had moments where I confront someone for their blatant disregard for the planet. However, this situation was made even worse because he forgot to put the cap back on the bottle thus splashing piss on the back of my leg. To say I went nuclear was an understatement. I had spent all day dealing with festival bullshit only to see this one band and I wasn’t going to let this one jackass ruin it. I turned around and angrily confronted him in a way only someone so tired, miserable, and heartbroken could do. His friends didn’t even support him as he took a few steps back stuttering some excuse about how he didn’t pee in that bottle. To see the fear and embarrassment in his eyes was extremely cathartic.
When the band took the stage, it was one of the best shows I had ever seen. The melancholy lyrics and new wave instrumentals were exactly what I needed to salve my wounds. Robert Smith wasn’t very personable and didn’t address the audience. It was strictly business. One song after another without missing a beat. At the end of the day, it was worth it.
Fast forward two years later and I’m at UIC Pavilion sitting in a seat which was a comfortable change of pace from the last time I saw the band. It was great seeing them in an actual venue because I didn’t think they would go on a proper tour outside of a festival. Smith and the crew played a lot of hits, several deep cuts from Bloodflowers, and even played a new song that hasn’t been released. My mother was extremely excited and yelling when her favorite songs came on and screaming requests for others. It made me happy to see her so excited to finally see one of her favorite bands.
Though not my favorite song of the Cure’s, I’ve always been partial to “Close to Me” from 1985’s The Head On the Door. It has a playful melody and a cool bassline. It stands out for me most of all for the music video. It is one of my favorite music videos of all time. In it, there is an armoire on the edge of a cliff. The band is inside playing the music on found objects; the bass is being plucked on a comb. Eventually, the armoire falls over into the sea. The water is filling up inside and the band is struggling to not drown. It is delightfully playful and visually interesting.
Things have greatly improved for me since the fall of 2014, but I’ll never forget that show for being an escape. This show was fantastic as well, but for different reasons. Sitting comfortably in a seat in a building has it’s advantages. But I earned the show last time. I was on a mission and had put up with so much to complete it. Though, I still don’t like large music festivals.
Note: the proper video isn’t on Youtube, so you’ll have to just settle with this one with a weird picture-in-picture effect