I had the pleasure of attending Riot Fest this year in Chicago, Illinois. After right around three years of postponing, cancelling, and ticket transfers, I was finally able to go. I have a few weekend long festivals under my belt, but no Riot Fest experience prior to this year. In doing all my prior research of the festival, I found a few things to be daunting before going into the weekend. For starters, there was five stages, all with artists I wanted to watch at some point or another. Next, we stayed downtown, about a 25 minute ride on the Pinkline to get there, I was unsure how busy that would be in the mornings and at night after the headliners finished. Lastly, the crowds were HUGE bigger, than most festivals I have ever been to. Though I had my concerns, Riot Fest proved to be an amazing weekend.
Friday: The first day of the weekend was definitely the busiest and most exciting. The group I was with started off the day with watching Sincere Engineer to see the corn dog circle pit. As a band, not my style, but they fit the Riot Fest brand fairly well. I was able to catch a few personal favorites I have seen before that day, such as, Wargasm UK, Boston Manor, and Hot Mulligan. Bands I saw for the first time that day were LS Dunes, Descendents, Taking Back Sunday, and Alkaline Trio. Lastly, the reason we were all there, My Chemical Romance. For the most part, I was impressed by every artist I saw that day, aside from one or two. It was a long time coming for me to see Descendents, they exceeded my expectations greatly and would encourage everyone to see them. Boston Manor crushed it just as they have the eight other times I have seen them. Alkaline Trio was awesome, when I was paying attention. Not their fault, we just made friends with the people around us and ended up playing Uno while we waited for MCR. Now, My Chemical Romance was everything I could have asked for and more. The whole band sounded great and Gerard’s vocals were out of this world. The only bummer was how the crowd was treating each other. Too many people trying to push past the people that had been waiting there all day and not caring one bit. But, what can you do.
Saturday: Now, this day was almost as busy for me as Friday was. This was the most punk and hardcore heavy day of the whole weekend. The rest of my group, tired from the night before, decided to show up in the afternoon. That did not fly with me, so I went alone in the morning and made friends in line to hang with. Starting off, I watched POORSTACY, I only knew one of his songs at the time. He absolutely blew me away. Even playing mainstage in at noon did not stop him from getting the crowd to rage, his unique poppy yet still metal sound got my blood pumping and ready to go for the rest of the day. Mothica is one artist that I have to shout out. I have seen her name all over the place in recent months and knew I had to check her out. She was so impressive. I understand the hype, she has a beautiful voice, unique tones, catchy songs, and a great image. I was told by my Fiancée’s uncle, if I didn’t watch FEAR that I was making a huge mistake. Boy, he was right. Hardcore history displayed right out in front of me. Lee Ving in his old age was hilarious and I could see the years of experience and passion in him with every song they played. Movements and The Story So Far were exactly what I was prepared for, nothing surprising from either of them, but they were just as good as I remember. Madball was the band I was most excited to see that day and I made sure to go all in during their set. Walked away with minimal bruises and a mild headache from a few too many punches to the side of the head. Madball will forever and always rule the hardcore world. Unfortunately, I had to miss Bad Religion and Sunny Day Real Estate dude to scheduling conflicts. Last one, the original Misfits. Glenn Danzig on vocals, Jerry Only on bass, and of course Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein on lead guitar. I did not stay for the whole set, but they were unbelievable. Doyle is the most jacked and scary 58 year old I have ever seen. Jerry looked awesome and sounded even better. Glenn…oh Glenn. The voice of an angel with the looks of a gargoyle. All jokes of course, Glenn has seen some winters, but all things considered, he was up there moving and having some fun.
Sunday: The last day was by far the lightest and easiest day for us. We ended up leaving fairly early. Started off the day strong with the Bombpops who brought a fun skate punk sound to the early crowd. After that, I was able to watch Chastity, their cool emo-ish pop punk vibe helped the, stick out to me throughout the day. Then, Mom Jeans drew a huge crowd for their instantly recognizable midwest emo tone. Less Than Jake was a fun one to see that I have never been able to check out before. Ska-punk is not my thing, definitely is for nerds, but a fun set nevertheless. PVRIS surprised me with how early she performed and how it was not on the main stage. It was good, not great, but the crowd seemed super into it. The last one we checked out for Riot Fest 2022 was Jimmy Eat World. I think they were awesome, we did not stand too close but just from where we were, Jim’s voice sounded great. Drew a big crowd but not nearly big enough in my opinion. Everyone should have been there to watch them.
The weekend was awesome and I would definitely go back, I would just hope for a few changes. First, it needs to be held somewhere else, Douglass Park is definitely big enough, but the community around it does not support the fest organizers. For good reason though, the neighborhoods around do not reap any benefits from the festival. Either the fest needs to fork over some cash to help improve the community or move somewhere else…(Grant Park). The absolute worst part of the weekend was travelling at the end of the night. There was 40,000 people in attendance each day and they all wanted to leave the same way at the same time. There needs to be more trains available because no Ubers or Lyft’s were going to pick anyone up over there at that time of night in that traffic. Other than those two things, I would recommend everyone to go if you see the lineup that calls your name.