Riot Fest has a type. Walking around the festival grounds, I saw people sporting mohawks, anarchy symbol tattoos, and leather jackets in the 90 degree heat. These are the diehard rock fans, flocking to Douglas Park in Chicago to dance, mosh, and sing their hearts out to legends like Suicidal Tendencies, established pop-punkers like the Front Bottoms and Mom Jeans., and energetic up-and-comers like Beach Goons.
That’s not to say that Riot Fest lacks depth. Punk, metal, and hardcore fans are definitely in their element here, but they also host bands that offer more than distortion pedals and marathon guitar solos. Rock-and-Roll-Hall-of-Famer Blondie had virtually the entire fest swaying and swinging to “The Tide is High” and indie darling Liz Phair reminded the early crowd of their love for 2000’s pop music with “Why Can’t I?”
Perhaps the most interesting lineup choice was Father John Misty, who most would expect to see headlining Newport Folk Festival rather than competing with Incubus for the Sunday night 8-o’clock crowd. He seemed to relish in his unique contribution, commenting on the punk nature of wearing a white suit and playing an acoustic guitar at a punk festival before charging into “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Signs,” to which almost the whole crowd seemed to know every word.
After scrambling to make the fest worthwhile for those who were originally enticed by the promise of a Blink-182 performance, Riot Fest was still able to cater to the masses looking to belt their teenage anthems. Headliner Weezer played all the hits, though provided nothing special in the way of showmanship, and Taking Back Sunday balanced songs from their new albums with the obvious crowd-pleasers like “MakeDamnSure.”
If you’re not a hardcore fan, there are gonna be some acts that you just don’t want to see. Beach Rats, a metal supergroup, will not catch the fancy of those in need of melody, and there were plenty of bands like The Avengers championing tired and generic punk rock. But performances from bands like Twin Peaks and Speedy Ortiz proved that Riot Fest curators are just as in touch with the critically-acclaimed side of alt rock as they are with their niche moshers.
By Staff Writer Sam Harton