Chicago’s go-to punk, rock, and alternative music festival, Riot Fest, is fast approaching. The festival will forcibly occupy Humboldt Park from September 13 to 15.
Since 2005, Riot Fest has balanced out Chicago’s festival season with music and reunions not brought to you by Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, or North Coast. And, if music at a music festival isn’t your thing, it’s also a carnival with rides, freak shows, and even a ferris wheel.
FRIDAY | Riot fest jumps right in on Day 1, and boy does it start with a bang. The day’s lineup ranges from the poetic hip hop of Saul Williams to punk rockers like Screeching Weasel and Bad Religion.
Rounding out the bill on Friday is a healthy dose of metal, including a 25th anniversary Danzig performance, Hatebreed, and the ever-entertaining (and messy) GWAR. Here are some of the other acts we’ll be catching on Friday.
Dessa | Roots Stage | 4:15-4:45
Dessa, of the hip hop collective DOOMTREE, makes her Riot Fest debut on Friday. In June, her Parts of Speech album was released on both CD and vinyl, and the rapper is currently touring in support of the album, which also includes stops at Midpoint Music Fest and Pygmalion.
Dessa is praised for her witticism, soulful vocals, and range as a recording artist. Regardless of the tone of a single song, Dessa adapts expertly and remains forceful. She is a courageous in her delivery and confident in her skills, which should make for an impressive set.
Andrew W.K. | Rise Stage | 5:45-6:30
Known for his non-stop party attitude, Andrew W.K. is a festival favorite. Whether you like his music or think he’s just some dude in a white shirt, his live show is something out of this world. We once saw him play about 6 minutes of air guitar as an encore. Real instruments or not, you can expect a lot of dancing and erratic movements over at the Rise Stage at 5:45.
A must-see for those who party hard.
SATURDAY | The Roots Stage is the place to be, as Day 2 of Riot Fest kicks off with a bang and gets better and better as the night continues. But if you do feel like moving around a bit, here’s a bit of what’s happening elsewhere in Humboldt Park.
At 2:30, classic ’80s English ska band The Selecter play the Riot Stage, gypsy punk group DeVotchka fill the Rise Stage at 4:45, and the infamous Public Enemy hits the Rock Stage at 7:45. Here’s what you’re in store for on the Roots Stage, where you will find me most of the day.
X | Roots Stage | 1:45-2:30
Los Angeles punk rock at its best. X helped create the sound of American punk in the late ’70s and continued doing so well into the ’80s. In fact, the band even received an Official Certificate of Recognition from the City of Los Angeles for their contribution to the city’s music and culture.
Their first album, the aptly titled Los Angeles, is a desert-island favorite of mine. Don’t let the early time slot fool you; X is an exciting addition to this amazing Riot Fest lineup.
Dinosaur Jr. | Roots Stage | 3:15-4:00
Another reunion show of sorts, Dinosaur Jr. have been touring and recording new music again since 2005, and have released three new albums since reuniting. If anything, they are better now than ever before.
Frontman J. Mascis is still delivering soaring rock solos from a purple Fender Jazzmaster, Lou Barlow, original bassist and founding member of both Sebadoh and The Folk Implosion, is back behind the bass, and as always Murph pounds on the drums. They’ve been touring around Europe and the states extensively this year and are ready to hit the Roots Stage Saturday night.
Guided by Voices | Roots Stage | 4:45-5:45
Easily one of the most influential indie bands of the past two decades, Dayton Ohio’s Guided by Voices will be performing at Riot Fest on Saturday. Known for their lo-fi power pop songwriting and prolific recording career, they have made a huge impact on the indie world. Their influence can be heard in fellow lo-fi heavyweights like Neutral Milk Hotel and The Apples In Stereo.
After a 6-year breakup, the band reunited in 2010 and has been touring and recording under their “classic” line up. This same lineup recorded their 1994 lo-fi masterpiece, Bee Thousand. Ever prolific, the band released a whopping three albums in 2012 alone, and yet another, English Little League, this past July. Expect short indie pop tunes and plenty of scissor kicks from energetic frontman Robert Pollard when Guided by Voices take the Roots Stage. A must-see this weekend!
Violent Femmes | Roots Stage | 8:45-9:45
Until about 1980, the only thing that made Milwaukee famous was Schlitz Beer, then burst onto the music scene Violent Femmes with their infectious brand of acoustic alternative rock about sex, drugs, and big hands. Most of you know the rest of the story (and can google it, if not). The band has put out eight studio albums in their career and are now reuniting yet again this year for the first time… since the last one (2009).
As amazing as ever, if you’re not catching Violent Femmes this year, you’re missing out. They’re still strutting their stuff, and you know I might just check them out on Saturday.
SUNDAY | This is it, the end of this magical weekend of pop-punk and carnies. The afternoon is filled with some great acts such as post-punk legend Peter Hook & The Light performing a set of Joy Division songs at 12:45 on the Riot Stage, while Bob Mould, known for ’90s alternative bands Hüsker Dü and Sugar, takes the stage at 3:20. And we can’t forget the last-minute addition of the Pixies on the Roots Stage at 8:00, just before The Replacements close out the evening.
Mission of Burma | Roots Stage | 1:25-1:55
Possibly one of the “sleeper hits” of Riot Fest, Mission of Burma came out of Boston in the late ’70s, and while they only lasted 4 years due to guitarist Roger Miller’s development of tinnitus (caused by the band’s extremely loud performances) they were a unique American post-punk act at a time when most post-punk was coming out of England.
19 years later, in 2002, the band reformed and have released 4 new albums in that time, on top of their tour schedule. When asked why Dinosaur Jr. decided to finally reunite, they cited Mission of Burma as one of the best examples of a great band reunion that didn’t suck, and maybe even improved over the long break. Catch them Sunday afternoon at the Roots Stage.
White Mystery | Rebel Stage | 7:30-8:00
White Mystery is the ferocious rock’n’roll sibling duo of Miss Alex White and Francis Scott Key White from Chicago. Only 28, Alex White has steadily become one of Chicago’s most prolific active musicians.
Having released albums, singles, and EPs under about a half dozen different monikers, White Mystery is currently where you will find her and her unique brand of melodic garage rock. This red-headed brother & sister combo is at the forefront of today’s garage rock revival, and their explosive live show is a revelation.
The Broadways | Rise Stage | 7:30-8:30
The Broadways time in the Chicago punk scene lasted about as long as one of their songs, but those who remember the band from its two active years are thrilled to have them reunite this year at Riot Fest. Forming out of the ashes of ska-punk troubadours Slapstick, The Broadways left behind the brass section of their ska days in favor of a more political, less traditional, punk rock sound that helped define Chicago punk in the ’90s.
If you’re at the fest this Saturday, be sure to relive (or experience for the first time) the fast-driving, bursts of punk rock that The Broadways bring to the stage.
The Replacements | Riot Stage | 9:15-10:30
It’s not too much of a stretch to say that in many ways, The Replacements are the whole reason festivals like Riot Fest even exist today. Led by singer/songwriter Paul Westerberg, the band provided the initial recipe for what has become the melting pot of genres we call alternative music today. Everyone from Green Day to the Goo Goo Dolls names the band among their biggest influences.
I can’t name a Replacements song I don’t like, and I’m sure I’m not alone. They’ve done it all, and although the lineup has changed since the ‘80s, with Westerberg back at the mic, their long-awaited reunion will be the perfect end to Riot Fest’s Sunday evening lineup.
With the weekend in sight, tickets are selling out fast. Single Day Passes for Friday & Sunday are still available for $59 each. But the only way you’ll be able to secure a Saturday ticket is with a 2-Day Pass for Friday & Saturday for $104.
But wait, there’s another way! We happen to have two 3-Day Passes, and we’re looking to give them a good home. Comment on this post and tell us briefly which act you’re most looking forward to seeing this year at Riot Fest, and you might just get the chance this weekend. The lucky party will be informed on Thursday, September 12 at noon and must confirm the tickets by 3pm. Friday is almost here, so get commenting!