Real Friends Credit: Courtesy the artist

By my count, 18 local acts play this year’s Riot Fest, including repeaters such as White Mystery, the Lawrence Arms, and Alkaline Trio. From among the festival newbies for 2015, Reader staff picked five favorites—and we tried to spread the love around, so no offense to suburban pop-punk band Knuckle Puck (who were subject of a recent feature story) or emo mainstays Into It. Over It. (who turn up in the paper plenty already). Leor Galil

Real Friends
Fri 9/11, 2:15 PM, Rise Stage

A new class of pop-punk groups has cropped up playing hooky, bittersweet songs like the early aughts never ended, and Tinley Park five-piece Real Friends are at its head—they hit number 24 on the Billboard 200 with their 2014 debut, Maybe This Place Is the Same and We’re Just Changing (Fearless). Front man Dan Lambton writes blunt lyrics flooded with post-adolescent alienation and romantic despair, as though he enjoys opening up old wounds and then rubbing salt in them; he doesn’t tend to leave much to the imagination, but his direct approach suits the album’s blitz of cannonball riffs and fervent scream-­singing. Leor Galil

Credit: Courtesy the artist

88 Fingers Louie

Fri 9/11, 3:30 PM, Riot Stage

At some point 88 Fingers Louie became better known as the band that gave rise to Rise Against: guitarist Dan “Mr. Precision” Wleklinski and bassist Joe Principe left in 1999 to form that juggernaut of hardcore-punk sing-alongs (the latter isn’t part of this reunion). But before that breakup, 88 Fingers Louie were among the best exponents of the heavily compressed, melodic punk sound birthed by Fat Wreck Chords (though they released their full-lengths on Hopeless). They did it right: ridiculously fast one-two kick-drum rhythms, perfectly crisp off-the-beat crashes, smoking harmonic guitar leads, twangy bass, and vocals that would sound wholly disenchanted if they weren’t given a little pop tweak. This version of the band has been active for a couple years now, and they’re doing it right again. Kevin Warwick

Alex Wiley
Alex WileyCredit: John Sturdy

Alex Wiley

Fri 9/11, 6:30 PM, Radicals Stage

Adventurous rapper Alex Wiley recently parted ways with his label, local indie Closed Sessions, and he’s decamping for LA, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Chicago’s scene continues to claim him as its own. His March mixtape One Singular Flame Emoji is a mosaic of glistening pop and somber hip-hop, with every detail polished till it feels as huge and colorful as his personality. Wiley has since dropped several singles to preview another mixtape, and his steamroller flow and poison-dart rage on the recent “Japanese” demonstrates his continued commitment to pushing himself in new directions. Leor Galil

Meat Wave
Meat WaveCredit: Katie Hovland

Meat Wave

Sat 9/12, 3 PM, Revolt Stage

If there were ever a Chicago band perfect for Riot Fest, it’s Meat Wave. Their sound combines most of the things that bring people out to the festival in the first place: nostalgia-seeking stalwarts will dig the Rick Froberg-style guitar acrobatics, while the just-graduated-from-Warped-Tour kids will go for the band’s pushy, aggressive delivery of their whopping melodies. Meat Wave have been grinding for years, and they only get better with time. Delusion Moon, their second killer full-length, comes out via SideOneDummy next week. Luca Cimarusti

BrokedownsCredit: Courtesy the artist


Sat 9/12, 3:30 PM, Radicals Stage

The Brokedowns have been playing gruff, slovenly midwestern punk since the early aughts, and they don’t have to worry about how well it’ll age—a band like this starts out like a worn-in denim jacket. So let’s be thankful that these Elgin roughhousers keep releasing albums of raw, gnarled pop-punk, the same flavor as their contemporaries in Dillinger Four. With their catchy, anthemic melodies and misanthropic lyrics, the short, barreling blasts on last year’s Life Is a Breeze (Red Scare) sound ragged, off the rails, and at least a little pissed, like these guys are only a couple more Budweisers away from breaking a limb. Kevin Warwick  v