All Words and Photos: Emily Sisson
Fans gathered early afternoon at Douglas Park for yet another explosive music lineup this year at Riot Fest in Chicago IL.
The atmosphere at this year’s Riot Fest had attendees enjoying day-one activities amongst picture-perfect weather and peaceful local surroundings. With Riot Fest being held at Douglass Park, this has continued to stir up concerns within the community with locals complaining of excessive noise, exacerbated traffic, and the misuse of a park that rightfully belongs to a local community, not denizen rock fans. This year, however, the neighborhood seemed much more welcoming to both the festival as well as its fans. Unlike years prior I did not see any “RIOT FEST BEWARE” or ” LEAVE NOW RIOT FEST” graffiti scattering the surrounding streets. This could be a result of organizers’ cooperation to move around stage locations to appease nearby local hospitals or possibly that of silent acquiescence. Regardless, Douglass Park has been home to Riot Fest since 2015 and doesn’t seem to be moving any time soon.
Fans had the choice of who they wanted to see kick off this year’s festival, choosing either Young Culture on the Radical stage, The Aquadolls on the Rise stage, or FEA on the Rebel stage.
One of the bands on this year’s roster that fans were eager to see was Code Orange. When the band played their set, the crowd filled up with an undoubtedly large turnout. Their latest album “The Above” just released sep 29th features their song Take Shape (feat. Billy Corgan) which now stands over 1,460,550 Spotify plays. The band started the show performing “Grooming My Replacement “ and then transitioned seamlessly to play their brand new song “Theater Of Cruelty”. Along with this, the unveiling of a euphonious sonic boom “Mirror”, a now-released track off that same album. The dust didn’t have time to settle and by the end of the set, Frontman Jami Morgan jumped into the crowd to yell ” This one is for all the young bands in the hardcore scene. This is for Turnstile, this is for Drain, this is for Nothing !!! ” Just before he dived into the crowd, head first, to be passed around on top the arms of hundreds of rowdy fans.
The Interrupters also made a recurring appearance at the Riot Fest this year as well as headlining in their own Riot Fest after-party show hosted at Concord Music Hall. Following tradition, the band arrived on stage to the tune of “Ghost Town” by the Specials and after a warm Chicago welcome, they moved into their first song “Take Back the Power”. Their new album “In the Wild” was released in April of this year and has been well received. Songs the band performed off the album include “Raised by Wolves” and “In the Mirror”. Midway into the show guitarist Kevin Bivona stops the show momentarily to taunt drummer Jesse Bivona about his performance “Hey you broke your snare drum! You must be hitting harder than usual, that wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with maybe Josh from the Foo Fighters watching you from the side of the stage… would it?” Long time fans of the band may have been expecting to hear a gnarly cover of Billie Elish’s ” Bad Guy” seeing as their cover was released as a single back in 2019, but to myself, it came as a surprise.
Among the many sets at Riot Fest, this year composed of members that are seasoned vet musicians was that of the band Quicksand. Quicksand immediately grabbed the crowd’s attention opening with their #1 song on Spotify “Fazer”. Once eyes and ears were grabbed, the band immediately invited their crowd into a groovy melodic trance. One would note in retrospect that singer and guitarist Walter Schreifels took on the large undertaking of playing all three days of Riot Fest this year with three different bands (Quicksand, Rival Schools, Gorilla Biscuits). Anyone who knows Quicksand knows they believe time makes the heart grow stronger. The band previously has made fans wait 22 years in between album releases. As he reflects on the release of “Distant Populations” bassist Sergio Vega, “We felt like we needed to make a record that was worth waiting that long for.” However, Quicksand wouldn’t make fans wait any longer as they performed three songs that the band hadn’t performed in 14 years! Amongst those long-lost songs performed are “Slip”, “Can Opener ”and “Baphomet”! The band exits the stage after their closing song “Transparent” but not before frontman Walter exclaims his final statement “Have an amazing Riot Fest! turns out there are some good bands here…”
Back in November last year the band Turnstile was nominated for three Grammys; Best Rock Performance, Best Metal Performance, and Best Rock Song. Now front and center on the Roots stage, they stood ready to rock the socks off the Riot Fest crowd. The set brought on by Turnstile immediately filled the crowd with an infectious energy that spread rampant through the stampede. It’s a no-brainer, that a late-night set and pre-performance to The Foo Fighters would create anticipation for the night’s Headlining band, but Turnstyle would not disappoint. Their Opening song “MYSTERY” is the first song off their 2021 album release “GLOW ON’ and many other songs performed at this year’s festival; “ENDLESS” “UNDERWATER BOI” “NEW HEART DESIGN” “FLY AGAIN” “BLACKOUT” “ALIEN LOVE CALL” “HOLIDAY” were all included. This band has not only earned a spot for themselves in the hardcore scene but has reminded us what it looks like to see a performance free in spirit amongst a climbing moment in a band’s career. The band is having fun with it, giving everyone in the audience what they came for, an electric performance that makes you move!
The Foo Fighters took the stage late Friday evening to a dedicated sea of fans. The rock legends knew that opening up with the song “All My Life” was exactly the kind of high-energy rock and roll mojo this crowd was aching for. Dave Grohl continues to pay his respects to the city of Chicago every year he plays. “We don’t have to go into it but I want you guys to know that the first time I ever saw a live band play a show was at Cubby Bear when I was 13 years old. I say it every time I play here…. I had never seen a rock and roll band on stage. That s- -t changed my life forever. So whenever we play this city I always give props…. Without you, I don’t think I’d be doing this thing.” Their third song “No Son Of Mine” was interlocked with snippets of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica and “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath, an obvious homage to the band’s predecessors and heroes. Following the loss of former drummer “ Taylor Hawkins”, Grohl mentioned he and the band have made a vow to play “Aurora” — Hawkins’ favorite song — “every night for the rest of their lives.” After that and a nostalgic performance of “Monkey Wrench” Grohl makes a pivot ” I’m gonna flip the script…” He then spots a fan in the crowd “We got some punk rocker in the front who wants White Limo….. You said White Limo, we never do White Limo…. I don’t know if I know this song, but this mother f–ker in the front knows, so we’re gonna give you some White Limo “. And so it was. Some fans crowd surfed to the front in hopes of catching a breath, while others swayed and jumped, packed in so closely together, they couldn’t see their toes.
With all the bands on the day one set complete and with five minutes of stage time left, there was only one thing the crowd was still waiting to hear, “Everlong”. “Every time we come to this city we play a show and we play the last song and I don’t F–king say goodbye. because I hope I’ll see you again. I hate f–king saying goodbye so I’m not going to say it. Because you’re the f–king reason we come back. So if you come back, we’ll come back.” Once the song started with an uplifting heave the crowd began to dance and scream their hearts out. But true to his word when the song ended there was no ” Thank you goodbye”, so the fans of Chicago shall once again eagerly await Foo’s Fantastic return.