Riot Fest Proves Once Again That Punk Isn't Dead, and Festivals Can Be Exciting

A collaborative piece by L. Mounts and Managing Editor, Rivka Yeker

Since 2005, Riot Fest has brought a variety of legendary bands to Chicago, but only in 2012 did it start its festivities down from a five-day venue-hopping challenge to a weekend of mud, madness, and music that’ll make you really think twice about who you want to add to your concert experience list. Appearing in Denver September 2-4 and Chicago 16-18, Riot Fest has brought together an incredible collection of artists in its 11th year, and here’s a rundown of some of what they have to offer in their first wave of bands.

L. Mounts:
The Original Misfits: "They said it would never happen…” was the tagline that appeared last week when Riot Fest made a separate announcement that Danzig, Jerry Only, and Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein would be reuniting for the first time in 33 years as the Misfits on the Riot Fest stage. In 2013, Danzig performed with his band at Riot Fest and invited Doyle on stage for some Misfits tunes, and it was easily in the top five craziest mosh pits I have ever experienced. With the original lineup at the top of the list, it should be nothing but an all-out brawl between punks, young and old.

Morrissey: It’s easy to clown on Morrissey. The dude is a known asshat and intolerable fancy boy, but he’s undeniably an incredible songwriter and music icon. Though he’s appeared in Chicago every so often over the last few years, this will be his first major festival performance in the city and I will definitely be there to watch him cry on stage about meat.

Death Cab For Cutie: A band I’ve always wanted to see live, but I’ll be catching them at Summerfest in Milwaukee, just in case this next act appears at the same time.
Rivka: But they also put on a killer show playing all the songs your heart has ever wanted (and needed)!

Rob Zombie: I have seen Rob Zombie perform once before in 2007, and it actually was a super fun show. But, I am genuinely stoked for this specific performance because he will be performing the 1995 White Zombie album Astro-Creep: 2000, which was one of my favorite heavy music albums growing up. A lot of it is very off the wall and I’ll be interested to see how he recreates it in a live setting.

The Specials, The Toasters: The English Beat just played two back to back nights at Space in Evanston, and I’m still kicking myself for not catching it. Perhaps just as good are fellow ska legends The Specials, who I don’t think have performed in quite some time, at least not in Chicago. The Toasters, just as legendary, will be making one of their first appearances in a while as well. Catch me skanking with the moms as they try to convince themselves I’m not 20.

Deftones: I haven’t seen Deftones since they played with Alice In Chains in 2010. They were great then, and I don’t expect anything less from them this year, especially following an excellent new record, Gore.

Jimmy Eat World, Motion City Soundtrack: Give me the first two albums and alternative women I’m too intimidated to speak to, and I’ll be there (jokes aside, this is MCS’s last show ever and I’ve never seen them so I’ll be there regardless).
Becky: Seconded ^

Descendents, NOFX, Bad Religion, Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, GWAR, Andrew W.K.: All Riot Fest standards and all bands that are worth seeing. I missed Me First, the punk rock covers band featuring Fat Mike of NOFX, the last time they played Riot Fest, so I’ll be making an effort to see them for sure. Descendents will definitely be an act to catch since their new album and first in 12 years, Hypercaffium Spazzinate, will be released in July and I can’t wait to hear the new songs live. NOFX and Bad Religion are punk standards that I’ve loved since I was in 5th grade, and if I have the time, I’ll make it out to see them both again. Andrew W.K. plays the same set every time but if you love to party then don’t miss it. GWAR is GWAR, like it or don’t.

Refused, The Hives: Two of Sweden’s finest punk exports return to Chicago for performances that should be nothing less than high-energy fun. I got to see Refused on their first reunion tour and they were incredible, and I’ll be excited to hear songs from their new album Freedom for the first time. The Hives are a band that is so difficult not to enjoy, and you’re a liar if you think that you don’t pretend to know all the words to ‘Hate To Say I Told You So.’

Bob Mould: The Hüsker Dü vocalist/guitarist has been experiencing a wave of revivalism since his stellar 2012 album Silver Age, a return to loud rock music for the first time since his days in the band Sugar. I’ve seen him three times so far, and there’s no reason I won’t aim for four at the festivities this year.

The Hold Steady: Absolutely one of my favorite bands in the world, but this performance is particularly special to me. Brooklyn’s alternative rock masters The Hold Steady are returning to Riot Fest this year performing the album Boys And Girls In America in its entirety. The album is in my top five favorite albums ever recorded, and I will be front row, with every word shouted out, annoying the people next to me, with no cares in the goddamn world.


Meat Puppets, Fucked Up: Two bands whose live performances are incredibly fun and worth catching. I’ve got two Meat Puppets shows under my belt and one of Fucked Up (the latter I haven’t seen since 2011), and they’re both classic acts in their own right. Watch Meat Puppets jam at the rodeo, watch Fucked Up smile while punching.

The Dillinger Escape Plan: If you don’t see them you’re wrong.

Girls Against Boys: The strongest ‘90s reunion Riot Fest has had next to Faith No More and Drive Like Jehu.

Fu Manchu, Dee Snider: I WANNA ROCK.

Big D And The Kids Table: My favorite third-wave ska band who somehow I’ve missed until now.

Billy Talent: Catch me front row losing my voice. Canada’s finest. I have been listening to them for 13 years. That is insane to me.

Touché Amoré, Diarrhea Planet, Plague Vendor, The Dirty Nil: New bands I’m always excited about. Some of punk’s newest and finest faces.

Rivka Yeker:
While Logan covered most of the solid bands playing at Riot Fest this year, here are some that I’m pretty stoked about myself!

White Lung: This band has that post-punk dramatic sound you want to hear live. To be honest, I hope it rains during their set, just so the music fits the mood.

The Wonder Years: The best band in modern pop punk. While I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to see them at a venue at this point (because of how much their fanbase has grown since I first got into them and it’s overwhelming), I’ve seen them around seven times, including Riot Fest 2013, and they always come forth with an incredible energy you can’t find anywhere else.

Bleached, Tancred, Worriers: A solid list of bands that will get you movin’ and groovin’. Lead by some talented women, bordering on pop punk, but including those consistent rock rifts keeping them interesting and exciting to see.

Laura Stevenson: If you like Bomb! The Music Industry, sweet and stunning voices, and unreal lyricism, you need to check out Laura Stevenson. I saw her do a solo set last year and at Riot Fest 2014, and I was blown away. Her voice carries and hits ya right in the chest.

All Dogs, Eskimeaux: Bedroom-pop jams, the kind of stuff you wanna listen to in the summer with the windows down. I saw Eskimeaux with Mitski last year, and literally melted into vocalist Gabrielle Smith’s voice. It’ll make you feel things, even amidst the muddiness and restlessness of Riot Fest.

Underøath, Thursday, Set Your Goals: Honestly, if you have nothing else going on, how could you miss these bands? I think SYG is one of those bands I’ve seen like seven times on accident, but I have not regretted any of those times. Embrace your emo and pop punk roots! You’ll have a good time!

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