Looking Ahead • Riot Fest 2016 Returns to Douglas Park
Another year and another packed summer festival season has largely come and gone. As the sun begins to chill across the midwest and we turn for our light jackets, moving ever deeper into the hibernation period, Riot Fest once again returns to remind us of the warmth lost, and hold us over until the next edition. Entering its eleventh year, the unique and multi-faceted end to the festival season returns with a vengeance for its second year in its new home of Douglas Park.
Positioned strategically just after the start of both the college and high school start dates, Riot Fest has evolved into what could be considered the portrait of what a music festival can look like in 2016. Devoid of fluorescent fanny packs and hoards of teenagers, Riot Fest has maintained an edge that comes with hosting in the Little Village neighborhood, and draws from an increasingly interesting cross-section of local music lovers.
Offering an increasing cross-section of new, aging and alternative acts, the festival has evolved over the years without losing the essence of what made it unique in the first place. Earlier this year the Chicago Nightlife Awards presented organizers with 'Promoter of the Year' and the marked growth over the last few years is a testament to those efforts. This year, as in years past, Riot Fest serves up an eclectic and interesting with everything from Joey Bada$$ and Method Man & Redman to the original Misfits and The Flaming Lips.
Despite growing from humble beginnings as a multi-venue affair carrying the flag for all things rock back in 2005, Riot Fest has emerged as a music lover's festival. A three-day escape into a place where 'EDM' and all it's pandering lightwork and simple facade are eschewed for an appreciation for musicianship and a lineage of such that reaches beyond the big-box acts that appear atop prominent fests from coast to coast. The lineup for Riot Fest comes carefully-curated and packed to the brim. Spread across six stages and three days, acts include everything from well-worn greats to surprising reunions to local up and comers in a way that makes sense, in turn creating an all-inclusive atmosphere that's immensely refreshing come September.
Prospective highlights from peeking at the schedule are an example of the festivals wide range in music. For the punk fans, Social Distortion, Bad Religion , The Vandals and Leftover Crack are all classic groups from different corners of the genre. There's also this band The Misfits that you may have heard of, performing with their original lineup, including front-man Glenn Danzig and bassist Jerry Only (like many punk bands, The Misfits don't always get along too well, and this is the bands first true reunion in years - it's a big deal). Reggae is held down by Julian Marley, performing Bob Marley's Exodus. Local rock outfit The Walters earned themselves a nice slot, playing at 4:30 on the Storyheart Stage, continuing on a successful 2016 as one of the few Chicago-based acts on the bill this year. Acts such as The Hold Steady, Bob Mould of Husker Du, Brand New and Andrew WK hold down the rock side of things. Rap fans can check out the continued reunion from mercurial duo Death Grips, following a controversial retirement that makes their 7:45 set on Sunday night one not to miss. The hip-hop list goes on, and being a Chicago festival, we're glad to see Riot Fest continue to impress in this area, enlisting none other than People Under The Stairs, Denzel Curry, Pouya, GZA, Nas, and more.
With a carnival to boot that should prove a perfect backdrop to Rob Zombie's set performing 'White Zombie's Astro-Creep 2000' on Sunday, Riot Fest continues to operate as the perfect close to a crowded and sometimes underwhelming summer festival schedule in Chicago. By progressively moving forward while maintaining the tenants of what made it popular in the first place, Riot Fest has emerged in its eleventh year as the quintessential Chicago festival experience.