With a name like Riot Fest, you’d think the only bands that would be playing sound like Cannibal Corpse or Megadeth. The festival actually does a really good job of mixing it up-maybe more so than a lot of the “bigger” festivals that come through Chicago on a yearly basis. There are some hard rock/metal bands, but there’s also room for hip-hop, post-punk, and straight up pop. Heck, they had Elvis Costello headline in 2011 (I think), and he’s about as far from Megadeth as you get. They’re hitting Toronto and Denver in addition to Chicago, so the lineups vary a little bit. I think overall we got the best of the three. Here’s my recommendations on who you should see this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Friday September 13th:
The gates open at 2:30, but most people are still going to be at work at that hour. The first band I would see is Chicago’s own Smoking Popes. They play at 5:15, so you can bail a little early from work and get down to Humboldt Park. They’re on the Roots Stage, followed by Bad Religion and Sublime W/Rome. I’d skip both of those and leave Smoking Popes set a little early to catch Andrew WK at 5:45. This is when the party starts. He’s playing the Rise Stage, and his set comes right before GWAR and Danzig. Now, I’ve got no problem if you wanna wait it out and see GWAR. Everyone should see them once.
If you’re not into Gwar, you’re in luck. Atmosphere is playing the Riot Stage at 7:45. I think he’s a good choice to get the crowd moving and amped up for the nights headliner-Fallout Boy (another Chicago band). If you’re old like me and want to call it a night early, you can head over to the Rock Stage and see Joan Jett & The Blackhearts at 8:30.
Saturday September 14th:
Saturday kicks off quite a bit earlier, and unfortunately they’ve booked some good bands to start the day. Normally I would never suggest going to a fest when the clock still reads AM, but I’m making an exception here. On the Rise Stage LA-based band Kitten plays from 11:30-noon. I know it’s early, but they put on a really great show. They also just released a new EP that you should pick up. After that you have a choice-walk over to the Roots Stage to see Surfer Blood at 12:30, or stay put for The Dear Hunter. For me, I’m staying put because after The Dear Hunter comes Stars. One of my favorite groups, Stars is one of the biggest head-scratchers of the festival. They don’t really fit in with the other bands playing, but I’m happy that they’ll be in Chicago again. Saw them at Metro back in March and they were unbelievable.
By now it’s only 2pm and you’ve already been at Riot Fest for almost three hours. Time to grab some drinks and check out some of the carnival atmosphere for an hour or so. The next slot that is an absolute must is Dinosaur jr at 3:15 on the Riot Stage, followed by Guided By Voices. After that go get some grub, but don’t fill up too much. You might rock out so hard with The Lawerence Arms that you end up spewing your corn dog all over the person in front of you. They’re on the Rise Stage at 6:45. Skip the last song of their set and make your way down to the Rock Stage to take the power back with Public Enemy (giant clock necklace optional)!
The sub-headlining slot is a bit of a conundrum. Do you want to see Taking Back Sunday or The Violent Femmes? My heart goes with The Femmes, but I understand if you don’t feel like seeing a bunch of old guys play that song from Grosse Pointe Blank. Just make sure you get over to the Riot Stage in time to see all of Blink-182’s headlining set.
Sunday September 15th:
Usually Sunday’s are the weakest day of a festival because they’re banking on you coming out for the headliner no matter what. This year the headliner is a reunion of The Replacements, so they might be right. Amazingly, the day is front-loaded with a ton of great bands. At 12:15 Maps & Atlases get things going on the Roots Stage. It doesn’t take long for conflict to arise, with Mission Of Burma hitting at 1:25 and The Wonder Years at 1:30. For my money, I’m going to see The Wonder Years. They’ve put out two of the best rock albums of the past five years. I understand the nostalgia factor for Mission Of Burma, and if you need to see them to satisfy some lingering regret about not seeing them the first time around then fine. MoB is on the Roots Stage and Wonder Years are at the Rock Stage.
Following that, I think you have to go see Against Me! on the Roots Stage at 2:35. It overlaps slightly with sets by Bad Books and Bob Mould, but if you take off early you can catch all of Mould’s set which starts at 3:20 on the Riot Stage. After that you’ve got some time. You could catch Twin Peaks at 4:30 on the Rebel Stage, but I think hitting the bathroom, getting something to eat and drink is your best bet because there won’t be another space until the end.
Brand New plays at 6:00 on the Roots Stage. This kicks off a zig-zag across the park where you can catch them, then AFI on Riot Stage, Pixies back at Roots Stage, and finish off with The Replacements headlining the Riot Stage. Obviously if you want to be a little closer for The Replacements you’ll have to just park yourself there all day.
And that’s it. I hope everyone has a fun, safe weekend! Plenty of public transportation and taxi’s around, so no need to drink and drive. Here’s a link to my schedule so you can pull it up at any time on your phone, and here’s a Spotify playlist I put together featuring 30 bands that you can see at Riot Fest. OH! And don’t forget to check out the John Stamos butter sculpture!