Riot Fest 2013

Wet, awesome, brutal… these are just some of the words that come to mind when thinking about last weekend’s Riot fest in Chicago, Illinois on September 13-15. This  year Riot Fest not only had headliners including Fall Out Boy, Blink-182, and The Replacements, but had buckets of rain, locally prepared food, and news reporters trying to catch a juicy story. It has rivaled the Vans Warped Tour for the past few years with its ever expanding number of stages and bands. This year the entire three day event took place in Humboldt Park on five stages as opposed to the sharing the spotlight with the Congress Theater. The three day binge of bands went from burning hot to freezing cold when rain drenched the park on Sunday. But with 81 bands spanning from Public Enemy to GWAR and dozens of local restaurants selling food on site, who could complain? Some stand out moments form Riot fest include: Fall Out Boys performance with Jeff Pazzati from Naked Raygun for their Save Rock and Roll tour, Danzig’s 25th anniversary show getting added to the show at the last minute, AFI’s cover of The Cure’s Just Like Heaven, the second show from The Replacements in 22 years, and Rocket from the Crypt’s random rainy day back massage just to name a few.


AFI’s performance was especially memorable due to Davey Havok’s energetic and emotion filled routine. His ability to bring in the entire crowd when he sprints form one side of the stage to the other is astonishing. At one point in the show he hopped out into the sea of adoring fans and sang almost an entire song standing on their hands. Riot Fest may have been one of the first few stops on their tour but AFI has the whole show down to a science. From backstories between songs to just the right dance moves and hitting all the high notes, their set was fantastic.

Also Rancid and Bad Religion put on a fantastic performance full of songs that were missing from their last tour. Rancid played plenty of older songs that missed the cut for their set with the Transplants, while Bad Religion played a completely different set form their past few festivals like Punk Rock Bowling and Musink. The new sets of both bands re-energized fans that may have caught either of them on their previous tours this year and had an overwhelming positive response.

Sometimes it’s the small things that make the most memorable moments. During Rocket from the Crypt’s set the rain that made the day almost miserable subsided and just to make the crowed feel better they directed everyone to turn around and give the person behind them a back rub. There have been plenty of stage antics that come and go but I would love to see more bands implement something like this into their set. There is nothing better than a back rub from a complete stranger after standing in the rain for five or more hours. Although most of Riot Fest went off without a hitch, it did have some draw backs. 1229938_10201418575977838_1514227063_n

Riot Fest decided to skip some of the expected luxuries avid concert goers expect like paper schedules and wristbands. This decision not only revoked the ability to leave and return to the show for three day pass holders but also caused fans to miss some of their favorite bands due to sub-par phone signal to look at the schedule online if it wasn’t already printed. The only noticeable justification for this decision was the fact Riot Fest released a small amount of early bird specials before the bands were announced at the low price of $55, but it is unclear if the fans can overlook these flaws for cheaper tickets. Regardless of the draw backs this year’s bill was cram packed with fantastic bands. All three days sported a diverse range of acts to appeal to all audiences. That being said, all of the stages didn’t stick to one genre. Being a fan of punk I noticed there were several gaps without any punk bands playing only to turn around and see two or three bands in that style playing at the same time. This could have just been due to the caliber of bands that were playing but it would have been preferred if each stage was somewhat dedicated to a certain genre.

1236537_10201418575817834_555559521_nTraditionally Riot Fest’s bill had a large, or at least focused base of punk bands dominating the bill. This year however the difference in band types took a turn for the worse and disappointed some Riot Fest veterans. The clash of old school punk fans and younger fans who attended the show specifically for bands like Fall Out Boy and Blink-182 resulted in a huge amount of people in the first few rows of the pit to be taken out because they couldn’t breathe. At two points in Fall Out Boy’s set the band had to stop for several minutes while security assisted fallen crowd members and gave medical assistance to those who needed it before continuing the show. News stations around the united states talked about how violent Riot Fest was with stories about the six people that were sent to the hospital “in fair or critical condition” from the show. That number may seem big at first but when it is taken in conjunction with the fact that over 42,000 people attended the event, the fact that festivals across the country usually have a higher injury rate, Riot Fest becomes clear.

In conclusion, Riot fest should be on every concert junkie’s watch list. Their ability to bring in fans from across the globe outweighs the few flaws the show may have had. Being a California resident I can’t recommend Riot Fest enough. Festivals in Los Angeles are usually over $100 a day with bands that aren’t as well known. The $55 early bird special for Riot Fest is almost unparalleled, and their consistent ability to do new things and create an unforgettable experience should be justification enough to purchase a ticket. This fantastic festival has increased in size every year for good reason. If ABC news is talking about it, why aren’t you? Riot Fest is bound to only get bigger and better next year so you have no excuse to let this one pass you by.

Review by: Eric Walden 

Photos by: Susan Hollingsworth