Riot Fest 2018 took place in Chicago’s Douglas Park, located in the West Side, near Lawndale. Festivities began Friday, September 14th and concluded Sunday, September 16th.
It was an exciting time, as usual. Each year after the weekend is over, I say to myself I will never do this again but I keep doing it anyway. I already have my tickets for next year, Riot Fest’s 15th anniversary. There were rumblings that this year might not happen; others thought this was the last year it would happen. The doubts set in after the passing of co-founder Sean McKeough in 2016, following what had to be an expensive year which saw Riot Fest consolidated to just two weekends in Denver and Chicago featuring Morrissey and a reformed Misfits (all the money and booze that could be afforded to both of those artists would be indeed an expensive financial burden). This saw 2017’s fest shaved down to just Chicago, the city it all began in back when it was a set of club shows scattered across the city featuring a who’s who in punk rock.
This past summer was rocked with more panic after a security breach of their ticket vendor, Ticketfly, and a long wait between the release of the first wave of band announcements in May to the eventual daily schedule released only last week. Not to mention the scramble to replace the cancellation of headliner Blink-182 due to persisting health issues fallen upon drummer Travis Barker. Even with the news that they had gotten three groups (Weezer, Taking Back Sunday, and Run the Jewels) to take the place of one group, there were concerns that this would not go off as planned. The summer of 2018 had also seen the end of the long-running corporate punk synergy Vans’ Warped Tour. Where are punks to go? You still have Riot Fest. You all still have Riot Fest!
The great thing about Riot Fest as opposed to Lollapalooza, which has also adopted Chicago as home for a music fest destination, is that the line up never feels as bloated. What I have noticed is that over the years, Riot Fest has taken an approach to further diversify their line up, moving beyond just stalwarts of punk, metal, and all the subgenres that occupy within those classifications. 2018 perhaps best demonstrates this with names like Blondie, Elvis Costello, Digable Planets, Cypress Hill, Beck, and Incubus getting slotted in. This felt like Riot Fest at its most mainstream even if in previous years they had featured bands that were exclusively mainstream.
But this year also felt like it was digging most into its roots. Between featuring notable punk groups like FEAR, Dillinger Four, Bad Religion, Jesus Lizard, and Suicidal Tendencies, they were looking to the future propping up both established newcomers and up-and-comers like Bully, Direct Hit!, and Blood People. All in all, Riot Fest 2018 was a worthwhile experience as I graduate from noob to grizzled vet. I think after surviving last year’s while suffering a fever, I earned my stripes.
So, below, instead of a true “recap,” I will instead post notes I took from each day. They might be a little on the… wobbly side mentally and I’ll do my best to clean them up to be more coherent and provide notes and clarification, but keep in mind I died and this is me as a corpse writing this up. A round of artists I had seen or heard will be provided for each day.
And here’s a map of the park for reference.
RIOT FEST DAY 1 – FRIDAY 9/14
-Rise Stage to Radicals Stage (minutes) – 2:19:21
-Rise to Rebel – 4:09:49
-Rebel to Roots/Riot – 3:08:45
-Speedy Ortiz soundchecking about peanut butter
-Lotta Bullet Club love. It is international law that you must return the Too Sweet when called upon to deliver. You can’t fight the law.
-By the end of the weekend I will have seen three dozen variations of girls I have dated
-its 85 degrees… You don’t need a damn beanie. Trying too hard to look cool, Jimbo Jones!
-The Fever 333 = A demonstration of freedom
-Connie’s Pizza has best deal; $7 for a deep dish slice and bottle of water
-Everyone is friends; no barriers. This is a community for all frustrated with what passes for society
-Price gouging for booze at a music festival? Unheard of!
-pizza surfing with the Aquabats
-You can not only find love at Riot Fest, you can get on stage and profess that love to someone
-i saw the lost Baldwin brother
-Music festivals are essentially band bingo: you can check off a handful of bands in one evening you’d spend years trying to see
-a big point of the festival is to expose yourself to music you’ve never taken the time to listen to
-hackey sack and Digable Planets – Hackey sack was initiated by this guy I have seen at each Riot Fest (and the one Lolla I attended); he’s a well-known person on the festival circuit – always dancing, wears the same shredded shirt, knee pads, bandana… I don’t know his name. If you do, tell me!
-one bro to another: Let’s touch dicks!
-The perfect respite in the evening is taking a sit while listening to white boy soul rock in 2018 (Arkells)
-Yes someone had an inflatable sex doll. And yes it had an erect penis.
-All of a sudden I struggle to recall my cousin’s wife’s name. This plagues me all through the Atmosphere set.
– Eureka! I smack my head and bring it to mind. Holly. Her name is Holly. Now I can enjoy my night.
– The sun is down. The air is cool. The sky is clear. I cannot see dick. Maybe that’s a good thing given previous experiences
– I totally intend for the crowd for the Cypress Hill set to smell like Otto’s jacket
– when you look like Warren Buffet on casual Friday, you’re still out of your element
– I always thought they meant Second Bass, as into two basses, not Second Base when they were talking about the Second Base Mobile. And even then, I had no idea it was about touching boob.
– hey! Mixmaster Mike!
– Nothing but white people be dancing
– Cypress Hill must be stalling for time so the crowd can get nicely toasted. Or they’re trying to arrange for Peter Frampton’s orchestra
– White people have appropriated the 90s b-boy style and it is not good
– Why do all the whitest people always stop in front of me and do their white people thing?
Bands/Artist Round Up (Seen or Heard)
- Speedy Ortiz
- Blood People – new band out of Chicago that will fill that Distillers-sized hole in your life
- Direct Hit!
- The Fever 333 – politically charged, social justice thrash-core warriors
- Liz Phair
- The Aquabats – Family-friendly punk rock helping you to riot responsibly
- K. Flay
- Sum 41 – I haven’t listened to these guys in 13 years but I could still sing along to “Fat Lip”
- Digable Planets – I always thought it was pronounced “Dijable” like the hard g in “digit” but I was a dumb child growing up
- Face to Face
- Cypress Hill
RIOT FEST DAY 2 – SATURDAY 9/15
– start your day talking to two old Vietnam vets on the L. It’s surreal conversation, especially when they ask if you and your friend are married and when you say no they ask why not. I mean… whatever, man.
– Day two… Still an early start and about the same number of people here at noon as yesterday at 11
– fuck it. Got a Heineken. If it smells like butt and tastes like piss, it must a Heineken
– Big mohawk man: You’re friend doesn’t have a beer!
– bad choice #1: Heineken
– Ahh, teenage punks with their ripped jeans and chains and patches
– Recognition for repping a roller derby shirt
– Beach Bunny: poppy upbeat and fun.
– Nothing like a loud man on a bullhorn taunting you to buy beer
– Guess what Total Chaos sounds like. Go ahead. Guess.
– A friendly game of pass the beach ball teaches a fatal end when Cindy kicks it over the fence into a restricted area. Cindy’s friends seek blood for the lost ball.
– The Frights – punk rock needs to look like a used car lot with those wacky wavy arm flailing inflatable tube men
– Blueberry Red Bull tastes frighteningly more blueberry than real blueberries
– I’ve officially had more energy drinks in the last eight days than my whole life
– gonna sit a spell in the shade and enjoy some Mannequin Pussy
– it is a thing a glory when you see a pack of Freddie Mercury’s roaming
– when you squeeze half a lemon, it looks like a vagina and when you slurp the juice, it looks like cunnilingus
– Gary Numan is looking to the past to take the future to it’s logical conclusion. Or he’s really into Dune.
– Bully didn’t have to bully me into enjoying their set.
– What runs on cat power anyway? Cats conserve like 90% of their energy and the rest is spent chasing string
– for maximum cat power, stand closer to the stage
– Twin Peaks is not as trippy as the David Lynch show
– I’m beginning to suspect David Lynch has no involvement with this band whatsoever
– Bold choice to open with Love Like Blood
– Killing Joke is fuckin’ music, like… you can have sex to it
– Sorry Elvis, or should I say Declan MacManus! But Jaz Coleman has a hold on me
– I can see Elvis Costello therefore I saw Elvis Costello
– jackass, your friends aren’t gonna see you waving your damn beer
– they propped up the corpse of notorious Shelbyville resident Jerry Lee Lewis at a piano and Weekend at Bernie’s’d his set. Plays damn fine piano for a dead man
– Perfect timing allows me to catch Obstacle 1 after leaving Jerry Lee (left Interpol after Evil)
– now I can see me some Jesus Lizard. Who’s ready to get weird??!
– it’s all about AARP members thrashing about, making grinding noises
– either David Yow dove into the crowd or he’s fallen and can’t get up
– sources tell me there was moshing at the Jerry Lee set
– it’s Beck, everyone’s favorite Scientologist
– if you took the acid, do not watch the background videos directly
– is it fair to say that Beck is the white Prince? Is that blasphemy?
– he’s so potent you’re always guaranteed to trip balls
– Beck brings Gary Numan on for Cars!!!!
Bands/Artist Round Up (Seen or Heard)
- Beach Bunny – a decent power-pop group and the perfect way to start a beautiful Saturday
- Total Chaos
- The Frights – generic, forgettable pop-punk
- Mannequin Pussy – sloppy noise
- Gary Numan
- Cat Power – sounded softer than usual
- Twin Peaks
- Killing Joke
- Elvis Costello
- Jerry Lee Lewis
- The Jesus Lizard
RIOT FEST DAY 5 – SUNDAY 9/16
– I died yesterday. Walking. Sun. Red Bulls. Cold medicine. It catches up to you. I am now become corpse, the blisters of feet.
– despite a diet rich in water and carbs and exercise limited to walking long distances in a small park, my physique on day three is only slightly schlubby. No tone or definition. Will need to do a massive weight lifting routine in a few days to repair this.
– I board the L train. I think about how much I miss my bed. A good night’s sleep will be my reward for this. The final day on the frontlines. Once more into the trenches.
– I wonder when looking upon all the fans in attendance wearing their punk rock uniforms, are these just for the weekend or is this their normal everyday dress?
– No Small Children – the secret punk lives of your fourth grade teacher
– lots of dragonflies this weekend. Super better than all those bees from other years
– took advantage of the new water fountains brought to you by Pedialyte
– oh, hey. A ska band. It must be 1995
– sometimes the best moments are just taking a break and lying in the shade of a tree
– waiting for FEAR, the video board on the stage appears to be playing some Matt Damon film. Maybe Good Will Hunting. That is… Huh.
– even weirder, it appears to be the same scene on a loop
– Pedialyte sugar packs for your water: it’s got what punks crave!
– those Pedialyte packets have revitalized me. I am now fruit sugar water
– Swmrs has a Green Day kid in it. Wonder how they got a nifty slot on a prominent stage, hmm????
– I’m tired of bands imploring me to clap. You don’t control me! We paid for YOU to be here and entertain US! YOU CLAP!
– 4pm becomes a dead zone for me as there are no bands playing I have an interest in seeing
– Johnny Marr plays How Soon is Now; your move, Moz
– I split to see Clutch and come back for Blondie and see an ocean of people too deep to swim.
– Debbie Harry has green hair. Greenie.
– wearing a cape that reads “STOP FUCKING THE PLANET”
– I wonder if the guy wearing the shirt with pictures of Chris Pratt all over it is aware that Pratt is the worst Chris?
– upon closer inspection, Debbie’s hair appears to be a wig
– Debbie curses that the stage faces due west as the sun sets during the Blondie set. Never heard so many fucks out of her mouth ever
– I am drained after Alkaline Trio. Must replenish for Bad Religion. A $5 snocone should do the trick
– no blue raspberry. Gotta go with cherry. It don’t taste like cough syrup so that’s a plus.
– even if you’re in no one’s way, people will go out of their way to get in your way
– I think people who smoke openly at festivals are worse than Nazis. Hot take coming through
– Bad Religion reminds us what vinyl records are, not aware that vinyl has seen a rise in popularity in the last decade. Maybe they need to spend less time yelling about the government and more time watching trends in pop culture
Bands/Artist Round Up (Seen or Heard)
- No Small Children
- The Dangerous Summer – meh
- Just Friends – funky ska (skunk?) youth crew
- Calpurnia – meh
- FEAR – hey, I like saxophones but not New York
- The Avengers
- Suicidal Tendencies – incoherent stage banter gets in the way of credible thrashing
- Alkaline Trio – Come on. You knew I was gonna be there for my favorite band
- Bad Religion – Performing all of Suffer for its 30th anniversary and these old punks brought it