Almost certainly the best annual punk festival ever, Riot Fest gets a lot of its energy from its multivenue format—it’s no trapped-in-one-place-for-three-days swampfest like Pitchfork or Lollapalooza. Another compelling feature is its stylistic diversity. Pop-punk, ska, hardcore, emo, shockabilly, and even metal are well represented; you get both, say, the fierce political rage of Anti-Flag and the fuck-everybody foulness of the Meatmen.
Founder Mike “Riot” Petryshyn (named head talent buyer for the Congress Theater in August) loves nudging some of the greatest names from the midwest’s punk past into reuniting for his fest. Naked Raygun had such a blast when they got back together here in 2006 that they decided to keep it up. An early version of the band—Jeff Pezzati, Santiago Durango, Camilo Gonzalez, and Jim Colao—is playing this year’s fest, sharing a bill with the original lineup of the Effigies in an already sold-out benefit for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Tim Kinsella’s Cap’n Jazz didn’t reunite specifically for Riot Fest—they’ve been at it all summer, including a triumphant gig at Wicker Park Fest—but this may be the last chance to glimpse them in the wild: Kinsella’s said they’ll play their last show in the fall, but hasn’t disclosed whether this will be that show. Probably the biggest reunion story, though, is legendary early-80s political hardcore band Articles of Faith, who remained defiantly Rust Belt at a time when their brand of music seemed centered in DC. Their records still sound fresher and fiercer than those of some of their more famous peers. They’ll be bringing their original lineup and a new EP to their first live performance in 25 years.
Competition for tickets to these shows is cutthroat, so don’t procrastinate. But the talent bench for Riot Fest is deep, and some of the least-hyped bills—Propagandhi and Cobra Skulls, Bhopal Stiffs and Mexican Cheerleader, the Cro-Mags and OFF!—should be an excellent deal.
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