Philip Montoro What are the misfires on the Riot Fest bill? Have any of the repeaters worn out their welcome? Are there acts you would’ve expected to see, given their touring and album cycles, that aren’t here? Does anybody on the bill totally suck, either as a person or as a musician, and need to go away?
This seems like a good opportunity to explain the Reader music department’s stance on negative coverage. We generally follow a “punch up” rule, where we don’t use our limited resources to dump on small, obscure artists. Riot Fest books small, obscure artists, but in and of itself it’s not obscure. So we’re in a gray area.
Jamie Ludwig Well, one of the artists I was going to mention, Die Antwoord, is off the bill.
S. Nicole Lane That’s a relief. A video surfaced of them yelling homophobic slurs. Plus they just suck.
Jamie The reason given was an alleged hate crime against Andy from Hercules and Love Affair, who is openly gay.
Philip Who’s still on the bill who shouldn’t be?
Nicole The Story So Far lead singer drop-kicked a girl off the stage a few years ago and then called her a “stupid whore” in his apology. I love defending pop punk, but sometimes (a lot of the time) they make it so hard.
Leor Galil At least Riot Fest didn’t book pop-punk troll Ronnie Radke!
Salem Collo-Julin The Flaming Lips? This reads to me like when people who are ten years younger than me get excited about Full House.
Nicole Also, why the hell is Andrew W.K. on the bill every single year?
Leor It’s Riot Fest tradition!
Nicole They could have picked a better tradition.
Sat 9/14, 2:45-3:30 PM, Riot Stage
Sat 9/14, 7:30-8:30 PM
The Village People
Sun 9/15, 2:35-3:20 PM, Radicals Stage
Taking Back Sunday
Sun 9/15, 8:15-9:45 PM, Rise Stage
Philip Aw, what do you have against Andrew W.K., Nicole? He’s so . . . earnest!
Nicole I tried to listen to him yesterday, actually! I was like, “OK, I will try.” And then I stopped trying after two songs.
Salem I love Andrew W.K. in person at, like, a shopping mall or at someone’s party, but I don’t think I love him while sweating it out in the park.
Philip It’s hard to do a balloon drop during “Party Hard” when there’s no ceiling.
Does anybody know who’s in the Village People now? Is that set gonna make everybody sad?
Leor I think seeing the Village People today is a lot like seeing Gwar—the people may change, but the costumes stay the same.
Jamie Maybe the Village People and Gwar will trade costumes. I think Gwar could pull off a pretty good “YMCA.”
Philip I always thought of Gwar as more of an “In the Navy” band.
Salem I have no idea why the Village People are booked. It almost seems like, “We need a gay nostalgia act!”
Leor I’d rather see the Village People with one original member than Taking Back Sunday again. As much as I stick up for emo, I’m a bit perplexed why TBS keeps getting booked.
Nicole Riot Fest’s holy trinity: Gwar, Andrew W.K., and TBS. I grew up with Adam. His accent is odd and made-up and I don’t know why he talks like that.
Philip Is there anybody active in emo big enough to fill the usual TBS slot?
Jamie I think the Village People are actually an interesting pick. There are other genres where Riot Fest has drawn a thread to early music that shaped punk (country, reggae), but they haven’t done as much with dance music, and definitely not disco.
Salem I just kinda feel sad thinking about the cop, the cowboy, and the construction worker wandering alone through Douglas Park trying to get a hot dog in peace.
Philip Some folks are definitely still mad at Bikini Kill for playing the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, I think in the early 2000s, because MichFest was trans exclusionary. Does anybody want to go there?
Salem I was at that show! The situation was pretty complicated. I feel like I’ve mostly heard backlash against Kathleen Hanna specifically about that (and from younger people than I). I’d be interested to read takes from others who were actively going to the festivals during that era.
Nicole I know there are larger conversations about riot grrrl in general being transphobic.
Philip Honestly I think riot grrrl only catches that heat because it set itself up as something revolutionary and progressive. In the early 90s, you’d be hard-pressed to find a mainstream scene that didn’t have transphobic people in it, but I’ve rarely heard any others retroactively criticized on those grounds. (And yes, I’m enough of a snob to call riot grrrl “mainstream.”)
Salem At the time, knowledge of what constituted transphobia was not widespread. Not that this is good—I’m super happy that these things are discussed by more people now. But I remember seeing their first Chicago show in 1991, and they were being verbally pelted with “Show us your boobs!”-style ridiculousness by several of the men in the room. This was a normal thing then.
Philip How many hip-hop acts are there on the bill this year, Leor?
Leor Riot Fest used to be pretty great at booking rising rappers, but Lando Chill is one of the few on this year’s bill.
I’m curious who y’all think should have played Riot Fest this year!
Jamie I’m honestly surprised they still haven’t booked Idles.
Leor I wonder how much better Riot Fest could’ve done by Lando Chill and attendees by booking more up-and-coming rappers. Chicago has plenty who’d appeal to Riot Fest’s base. I mean, why didn’t Riot Fest book Mykele Deville? And I realize Why? Records is still new, but all four rappers in the collective would go over well.
Salem I would like to see the Effigies, Germs, Misfits, Dickies . . .
PhilipGirl Band, definitely! Drug Apts two times over!
Jamie What’s been funny about Riot Fest is that despite all the styles they’ve incorporated, there’s so much territory they haven’t really explored, such as garage and psych (and probably a lot of you know I’ve had dreams of a D-beat/crust stage for years).
I’d also like to see the Seratones, Tropa Magica, or Big Joanie—more POC punk/crossover artists in general!
Philip I bet Deafkids would go over like gangbusters at Riot Fest.
Leor I’m a little surprised Riot Fest didn’t book Duster, who recently reunited behind an expansive Numero reissue. Instead they headline Sleeping Village the second night of the fest.
Salem Why has Riot Fest not really jumped into garage? There’s been a bunch of suitably wonderful choices for that in the past 15 years.
Philip I am permanently offended that the Dirtbombs have never played Riot Fest. But I think Mick maybe just doesn’t like circuses like this.
The Dirtbombs perform “Ever Lovin’ Man” at Amoeba Records in San Francisco in 2008.
Leor I think Riot Fest has had some interest in garage. Alex White credits Riot Fest with helping get White Mystery moving pretty early in the band’s career.
Foxing, who recently played a free fest outside Wrigley and have played Riot Fest before, would have been perfect.
Philip My old White Outs bandmate Dave is in Surfbort. They’d be a good fit, if they care.
Salem Right, but if the Village People are their answer for bringing out the 70s disco connection, I’m totally unclear about what an entire stage of country at Riot Fest would look like.
Nicole They have Lucero booked, which is also alt-country.
Jamie From the start, Riot Fest drew these threads that show the progression of punk. I think they’ve done a decent job of that with country music, and there are a lot of newer groups still exploring the intersections of country and punk.
Philip I think Riot Fest does better with genres that have some genealogical overlap with punk. Disco really didn’t—”disco punk,” insofar as it ever existed, didn’t happen till like 2000 or so.
Philip They’ve got something to put in you! (I played with them in Detroit in the early 2000s. They did not put anything in me.)
Salem They’re back at Reggies’ in October if you want to try again, Philip.
In conclusion I don’t think this festival is much of a riot, but I really like Patti Smith and am glad Riot Fest is paying her. Ditto to Bikini Kill and the Wu-Tang Clan. Best of luck, your friend, Salem.
Philip I’m glad to see Hot Snakes again. And I will always think the B-52s were badasses.
Leor I will do my best to avoid Frank Iero, who I imagine Riot Fest keeps booking in hopes of landing a My Chemical Romance reunion. And I’ll show up early for Pkew Pkew Pkew.
Nicole This will be my third time seeing the B-52s! Pumped for that.
Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. You can also follow him on Twitter.