Riot Fest may be the only festival that can rely so heavily on the angstier side of the alternative rock spectrum to create their lineup and still pull indie darlings and some of the biggest headliners in modern rock music. Festivals like Lollapalooza or Coachella book a much more diverse variety of acts, of course, but those are mainstream events that try to pull every and any music lover from around the world by catering to almost every genre that could possibly sell tickets. Riot Fest, on the other hand, makes an effort to appeal exclusively to your inner rocker. You envision distortion pedals, mosh pits, and performances that define the alt-rock space.
While Warped Tour has been booking the same 20 acts over the past decade, they’ve been relying on nostalgia to sell a large portion of tickets for the last five years. Riot Fest remembers that diehard rockers are first and foremost music lovers, and that even though you may still lunge at the opportunity to belt “Misery Business” on karaoke night, the reason most rock-lovers love this genre, in particular, is that it’s so diverse and ever-changing, so that there is always a new band on the horizon. It appeals to every generation, creating a balance of new indie and alt-rock while not forgetting the nostalgia that exists within every rock fan.
And the result is a lineup like no other. Riot Fest is diverse enough to draw in rock n’ rollers from all over the country, because where else can you see Father John Misty and Alkaline Trio and Blondie in the same swing? But it’s also specialized enough to feel like a safe and communal space for the diehards who just love rock music.
As someone who is satisfied by both these qualifiers, I’m giddily excited about Riot Fest 2018. I spent my youth in the late 2000’s suburban Georgia going to Warped Tour, wearing way too much eyeliner, and jumping at any chance to see any alternative rock band that could be my next obsession. Now, my playlists are more populated with indie standouts like “Addictions” by Lucy Dacus rather than emo anthems like “Helena” by My Chemical Romance, yet somehow, Riot Fest caters to that exciting young angst as well as my calmer tendencies. I feel like I will spend equal parts of my time at Riot Fest lounging on the lawn and dancing (or moshing) in the pit.
It’s a rare space where two of your most-anticipated acts are the Wonder Years and the Districts, and I’m particularly excited to see what the diverse collection of non-headlining alt-rockers like Moose Blood, Liz Phair, and Twin Peaks bring to the Riot Fest weekend. The headliners are impressive as well, including pop-punk phenomenon Blink-182, 2000’s alt-rock prince Beck, and new wave pop legend Elvis Costello. As usual, the Riot Fest lineup matches no other festival in the world, and I have no doubts that traveling a few hours to Chicago in September will be well worth my while.
Riot Fest 2018 will take place in Douglas Park in Chicago, Illinois on the weekend of September 14-16. Almost 40,000 people typically attend per day, and local as well as national vendors participate to make the festival a vibrant and exciting weekend. Established in 2005, the festival has become a Midwestern safe haven for rock-lovers all over the world and continues to provide unique lineups and communal culture that makes it a one-of-a-kind event.
By Staff Writer Sam Harton