For six years now, Riot Fest has been an outdoor spectacle, taking over a public park for days to celebrate “punk,” whatever that means in 2017—this year it runs from Friday, September 15, through Sunday, September 17. Riot Fest is now carrying on without cofounder and producer Sean P. McKeough, who died at age 42 in November. Spurred in part by McKeough’s passing, organizers discontinued Riot Fest’s Denver edition, leaving this hometown party the last one standing. Chicago’s Riot Fest seems to be slimming down too, after growing fast its first few years outside—the 2017 lineup is 91 acts, down from more than 120 last year.
Fri 9/15 through Sun 9/17, noon-10 PM, Douglas Park, 1401 S. Sacramento, $79.98 per day, $149.98 two-day pass, $198.98 three-day pass, all ages
As a brand, though, Riot Fest is as ambitious as ever—earlier this year it staffed up an online magazine on its website, and in July it launched a pop-up restaurant in Wicker Park called Riot Feast. The quality of the fest’s bookings hasn’t fallen off a bit, despite the slightly less gargantuan bill—though I suppose you should know that I say this as a fan of Jawbreaker, who’ve reunited after 21 years to play this Riot Fest. Part of that consistency comes from familiar names, in keeping with tradition: Is Riot Fest even allowed to do this without Andrew W.K. and Gwar? (Other high-profile repeaters include third-wave emo heartthrobs Taking Back Sunday, prehistoric indie-rock juggernauts Dinosaur Jr., and old-school punk romantics the Buzzcocks.) Speaking of tradition, the festival features ten acts playing classic albums in full, and in our preview package Luca Cimarusti revisits all of them. You can also read Ed Blair on Riot Fest’s editorial approach, Kevin Warwick on the bands worth showing up early to see, and several pieces by yours truly—I talked with Mr. W.K. and one of the creators of a new Jawbreaker documentary, Don’t Break Down, among other things.
A healthy number of this year’s performers challenge the notion that punk has to be played with guitars, among them raunchy pop experimentalist Peaches, electronic mutant Tobacco, and hip-hop spacemen Shabazz Palaces. Rapper Vic Mensa probably belongs in that category too, and he’s also one of ten locals on the bill—not a record for Riot Fest, but better than Lollapalooza has ever done.
Not that you need me to tell you this, but you can find festival rules, recommended transit options, and other information at riotfest.org. That site is also a good place to start if you’re anxious about last-minute changes to the schedule or the set times—at least if you’re not already following @RiotFest on Twitter. v
To see some of the best acts on the bill—including Downtown Boys, Invsn, and Fishbone—you’re gonna have to skip brunch.
By Kevin Warwick
Gentle readers, witness our dumbest way yet of rounding up the local acts on the bill.
By Leor Galil
Don’t Break Down: A Film About Jawbreaker unpacks the group’s legend, even for people who don’t know it has one.
By Leor Galil
Old favorites from Dinosaur Jr. and the Wu-Tang Clan still sound fresh, but a few of these alleged classics have passed their expiration dates.
By Luca Cimarusti
He’s been on every lineup since 2012, but what does he remember?
By Leor Galil
Riot Fest launches an online magazine—because sometimes Twitter just isn’t enough.
By Ed Blair