Riot Fest 2017 Review

This year, WLUW returned to Riot Fest in Douglas Park for a packed weekend of rioting. We covered some of the highlights from the fest below, but stay tuned for more coverage and photos posted on our social media accounts. 

Queens of the Stone Age 

Kicking off their set with songs from their latest album, Queens of the Stone Age, fronted by the King of the Wild West himself, Josh Homme, clad in a plaid flannel, reeled the crowd in closer and closer with each strum of his guitar, as the light show providing support to QOTSA’s performance pulled that imaginary rope even tighter. Josh teased the crowd, singing songs like an earlier artist from the day, Danzig’s tune “Mother”. Every song bled seamlessly within one another, with the absolute power of their instruments and supporting devices. It wasn’t until Homme uttered the lyrics of the new album’s single Feet Don’t Fail Me, did the crowd realize the next song. Josh was poetic with his comments in between songs, with his comments such “Five minutes ago will always remain five minutes ago, and 5 minutes from now will always remain in the future, and it will remain unsure. Right now is all we have, and we’ll have it together”, before starting an oldie, Smooth Sailing. After performing more songs from their latest album, QOTSA shredded into No One Knows, as the cameras were so heavily focused on Josh’s foot trembling under his set of pedals. A slew of older songs, with one of my groovy favorites, and definitely a favorite with the rest of the crowd, “I Wanna Make It Wit Chu” prevailed as Josh took a drag from his cigarette in between lines, and rest of the band followed with backing vocals. The guitar riffs for the rest of the set continued to pulse through each audience member with such force and vigor as they relived years of their past music, with guitar and drum solos to make any fan happy. Closing their set, QOTSA definitely showed Chicago as much love as they could.

-Austin Edington


Laden in all white skirt and shirt combo, Angus Andrews of Liars strutted across the riot main stage Friday performing mostly older material and a few songs from his latest, TFCF. The sun was hot as hell and I was eager to see how the experimental project would execute the complex layering of sounds. Angus played a synth board while two in the back ripped on a filtered guitar and drums. The intense release of self was channeled through droning vocals, body thrashing and hair whipping. All appropriate considering the content on his new work commemorates the 15-year ending of a creative relationship with his band mate. The energy was thick and the crowd in the front was totally entranced by his dark and erratic set.

-Madeline Wakenight 

Beach Slang

Adorned in his usual attire of a bowtie, and his corduroy pants, Beach Slang played early in the day, bringing donuts for some lucky attendees to “help sober up the lousy hungover animals”. Doing exactly what they set out to do, Beach Slang punched Chicago right in the heart with their fast, melodic tunes, accompanied by their stomach-turning lyrics, reminding the audience of the emotions we all feel, as the lead singer practically made love to the microphone. Covering Santana’s Smooth half-way through their set, the lead singer James reminded the audience that Beach Slang will never be professional, as they always have been. Spin the Dial hit to the crowd like a ball of lead, kickstarting a wave of moshing and failed attempts at crowdsurfing. James drank throughout Beach Slang’s set, as the heat of the early afternoon laid like a shroud over everyone present. However, despite the heat and a few minor technical difficulties, the audience and the band, remained supportive, with a wave of chants aimed towards the road manager. Having fun with their last part of their show, they covered bits of Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy” with a poor and joking remix of the lyrics, the beginning of RHCP’s “Give It Away”, and finally with more of a serious, dedicated tone, the entirety of “Where Is My Mind” from the Pixies.

-Austin Edington 

TV On The Radio 

TV on the Radio took the stage as the sun was setting, and their dreamy melodies quickly drew the audience in like a magnetic pull, as more and more people filled in to see the power and good vibrations, making every piece of the puzzle a picturesque experience. Those smooth vibes didn’t last, as the band propelled themselves into harder tracks such as “Lazerray”, further proving the awesome talent of each member of the band, making the bigger picture of TV On The Radio a match made in rock and roll heaven. The chunky bass lines preluding a number of their songs laid a heavy foundation for each song as TV On The Radio mastered a wide range of genres, from blues rock, to new wave, to indie, providing to be pleasing to the ear for each member of the crowd. For those in the audience who weren’t fans before seeing them, TV on the Radio ensured with combined ethereal skill, that everyone walked away happy by the end of their set.

-Austin Edington 

Built to Spill 

When I first saw that Built to Spill was playing Riot Fest, I was pretty stoked. To then see that they will be playing my favorite Built to Spill record in its entirety (Keep It Like a Secret), I just about lost my mind. What I didn’t expect was that they performed as a trio, as opposed to the usual 5-piece. Questioning what the show would sound like with limited instrumentation, they kicked off their album celebration with “The Plan” with a full sound. During the set, singer/guitarist Doug Martsch took over the performance with guitar solos, guitar loops and pedal experimentation to fill in the missing pieces that the full band would have had. The crowd reaction included a lot of jumping in excitement as the band went from track to track, including their arguably most popular song “Carry the Zero”. Unlike some other full album performances at Riot Fest this year, Built to Spill didn’t end up playing anything else from their discography at the festival, however, they had some time for those other fan-favorites at their Riot Fest Late-Night show the night before with Dinosaur Jr.  

-Paul Quinn 

New Order

One of the main attractions of this year’s Riot Fest was New Order, who was sandwiched between Ministry and Nine Inch Nails on Friday. A huge takeaway from their performance was covering two Joy Division songs: “Disorder”, which played second in their set, and “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, which was played as the encore of the evening. With having a set that totaled eleven songs, fans watching the performance were left with wanting more (Age of Consent would have been nice to hear), however, it did seem like most attendees were hanging out and waiting for Nine Inch Nails to close out the night.

-Paul Quinn 

Dinosaur Jr 

Dinosaur Jr. put on one of the most underrated performances at this year’s Riot Fest, with covers by The Cure (Just Like Heaven), Deep Wound (Training Ground), and Last Rights (Chunks). The biggest aspect of their set was that they also were celebrating an album at Riot Fest that they played in full: You’re Living All Over Me, which turned 30 years old this year. J. Mascis and his group put on an amazing show for all the Jawbreaker fans trying to get a good spot for their reunion.

-Paul Quinn 

Bad Brains

Yes, Bad Brains played Riot Fest. Yes, they had their original line-up. And, yes, they still play hardcore punk music. This was one of the first shows since frontman/legend H.R. had brain surgery (seriously) after dealing with SUNCT, which is a neurological condition that will give you harsh headaches, randomly, at all times of the day. Making a full recovery from the surgery, the hardcore reggae punks played a scorching set including “Banned in D.C.”, “Attitude”, “Pay to Cum”. To really cap off their set, the highly influential punk band brought out the singer from Lamb of God, Randy Blythe, to finish the set.

-Paul Quinn 


The one and only Buzzcocks were also included on the packed Riot Fest line-up, and brought a wave of nostalgic punk tunes on the first day. With an earlier set time, fans were still rolling in and probably stayed at the same stage for the rest of the day (X, Death From Above, Ministry, and Nine Inch Nails all followed). With only half of their original line-up, the Buzzcocks proved to fans that they can still play punk rock music and compete with the bands who were more than half their age. Having Buzzcocks on the line-up really proves that Riot Fest is the grown-up version of Vans Warped Tour.

-Paul Quinn 

Best Coast

Not sure what was more majestic during Best Coast’s set this past Sunday evening; their music playing through the speakers on the Radicals Stage, or their beautiful hair flowing in the wind. It is hard to describe Best Coast’s effortless musicianship and their captivating stage presence, but we will give it our best shot. By opening with “Bratty B,” lead singer Bethany Cosentino instantly welcomed the crowd into an intimate look at her world. Filled with witty and outspoken lyrics, Best Coast’s music makes you feel as though you’re driving down the highway on a warm summer night. Crowd favorites included “Crazy for You” and “Feeling OK,” which were preceded by Cosentino reminding the crowd to simply be kind to one another and accept everyone for who they are. Best Coast’s performance was a refreshing change of pace during Riot Fest’s upbeat weekend.

-Chloe Churukian & Olivia Cerza 


After being hyped up by DJ Tyga, M.I.A. came on in a black and orange “Fly Pirates” jumpsuit with her dance crew. Coming at a fully amped crowd, Sri Lankan born and London raised, M.I.A. opened her set with 2016’s politically charged track, “Borders.” The crowd felt like a high-energy dance party with M.I.A. returning the energy. From climbing her set, to climbing into the crowd, this lady didn’t stop moving.

-Frankie Diemer 

The Teaches of Peaches

Performing shirtless is not Peaches main *shock* factor, or her main point. Transcending gender norms in her power pop music through explosive and explicit lyrics like “F*** The Pain Away” and “D*** In The Air”, Peaches amplifies the voice of female sexuality and empowerment. What’s in The Teaches of Peaches? Explosive language and poignant sexual empowerment.

-Frankie Diemer 

Vic Mensa

The first word that comes to mind when thinking about Vic Mensa’s performance this weekend at Riot Fest is “storyteller.” Turning inward during his Friday night set, Mensa told bone-chilling tales about Chicago’s gun violence that hit close to home. The Hyde Park native opened up about losing his older brother to gang violence, putting his heart on the stage and dedicating “Heaven on Earth” to him. However, Mensa did not fail in getting the crowd charged up with club hits like, “U Mad,” truly showing his musical range within those seemingly short 60 minutes. The simple pleasure one gets from listening to Mensa’s versatile and emotionally honest raps is something next-level; especially when you’re hearing it live.

-Chloe Churukian & Frankie Diemer 


Paramore’s performance was undoubtedly one of the highlights of my weekend. Goddess (and frontwoman) Hayley Williams’ passion and energy was infectious, which was made apparent through the crowd’s constant excitement. As their set flowed seamlessly from old to new songs, Paramore didn’t disappoint in any way. Classics like “Brick by Boring Brick” and “Ignorance” ignited a nostalgic fury within the crowd, while newer songs including “Forgiveness” and “Hard Times” reminded everyone that Paramore is not defined solely by music they released years ago. During her introduction for “Misery Business,” Williams asked the members of the audience to close their eyes and imagine the person that they were 10 years prior. By acknowledging all of the growth the crowd and Williams had undergone in the past 10 years, “Misery Business” became an anthem of empowerment and new beginnings. Before closing their set with “Rose-Colored Boy,” Williams described Riot Fest as a positive and essential celebration of music and expressed that she was very excited for Paramore to have been a part of it. I could not agree more.

-Olivia Cerza 

Cap’n Jazz 

Cap’n Jazz’s fun and sloppy performance was everything I had hoped it would be and more. Although the band was only able to release one studio album in 1995 before breaking up, their influence on the formation of the Midwestern emo scene is undeniably important. It’s been over two decades since Cap’n Jazz has released any new music, but it seems as if this year’s Riot Fest would not have been the same without them. Right off the bat, these Chicago natives opened their set with “Oh Messy Life,” an ode to adolescence which perfectly embodies the essence of the group. Between songs, singer Tim Kinsella shared witty remarks, drunken stories, and spontaneous interactions with the crowd, which constantly kept the audience on their toes. The set also included passionate performances of “Little League” and “Puddle Splashers,” as well as a memorable rendition of A-Ha’s classic, “Take on Me.” With their fascinating music choices, endearing personalities, and timeless spirit, Cap’n Jazz claimed their spot as one of the most memorable performances throughout the weekend.

-Oliva Cerza 

The Regrettes 

While only giving this band a 30-minute set was a criminal offense, The Regrettes jam-packed every second of their memorable performance with great music and love. Kicking off their show with “I Don’t Like You” immediately created a fun and electric atmosphere. This band’s energy is contagious. Lead singer Lydia Night dedicated “Seashore” to Donald Trump, as well as all of the “mini little Trumps” we face every day in our own personal lives. The many mosh pits (including Night’s specific request for the audience to participate in a “Wall of Death,” which was when Olivia’s life flashed before her eyes) were matched with The Regrettes’ upbeat and groovy tunes. The crowd’s excitement was reciprocated by the members of the band as they danced and sweat along with us. The humid heat and insane amounts of dust in the air didn’t slow this showdown, as the crowd (and especially Austin) continuously talked back and forth with Night and bassist Sage Chavis in between songs. As the show came to a close, The Regrettes gave a sneak peek into their upcoming projects by sharing a new song.

-Olivia Cerza & Austin Edington 

Action Bronson 

From the first “put your motherf***ing hands up”, Action Bronson kept his flow going his whole set smoother than country crock butter. Following up with his second song “The Chairman’s Intent”, a fan favorite, fans waived his book “F**k, That’s Delicious” in the air the whole time. Stopping his set to tell the crowd to “grab their groin for this nasty beat”, Action is nothing short of a performer. Commanding every beat with a phone, Action had control over the crowd, preluding every song with laughable comments to keep the vibe going, from “shake ya ass for this one”, to “put your middle fingers up for this one”. Action’s lyrics, as he comments, are all spoken with a serious air of passion, discussing his own personal struggles such as “I would give my right lung if I could dunk just one time”, or him repeating “don’t hurt me again, don’t hurt me again…” Smoke billowed through the crowd the whole set, as if when Action demanded that the crowd to “spark up”, he ignited an army of fog machines to pursue over the skyline in the distance. Restarting “9-24-7000” because he was unimpressed with his own flow,  Action ensured the best for us, only taking a small sip of water before tossing the bottle behind him. Finishing up his last song, Action left the crowd wanting for more as he chanted “Ride that Harley into the sunset”, throwing the mic in the air, Bronson walked off the stage, taking his last words’ advice.

-Austin Edington 


So THIS was the performance that ended Riot Fest. THIS was the band that Riot Fest magically brought back together. Jawbreaker, an late 80s and early 90s punk band from California who has toured with Nirvana and Green Day, were making their third performance in only 21 years, where they had two small warm-up gigs earlier this summer. Kicking things off with Boxcar (1234 who’s punk, what’s the score?), Jawbreaker kicked off an electric, high-energy set full of fan favorites. This was easily one of the best performances all weekend.

-Paul Quinn 

Thank you Riot Fest for putting on such a show. We’ll be back next year ~~ 

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