Chicago is known for huge music festivals. Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, and Spring Awakening draw in hundreds of thousands of music lovers during the summer, but Riot Fest may be the most loved festival for Chicagoans. Over three days, dozens of punk, rock, hip-hop, and metal bands take to the stages throughout Douglas Park; this year, Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, and Jawbreaker (who reunited especially for Riot Fest) were the headliners.

While Nine Inch Nails headlined Day 1, the day started off fairly quiet. Having a festival start on a Friday means smaller crowds during the day, but that didn’t stop Friday’s bands from being some of the best of the weekend. The iconic punk group Buzzcocks played some of their biggest hits, including “Orgasm Addict” and “Autonomy”, while hip-hop/food mogul Action Bronson rapped across the park. Bronson didn’t have a DJ or backing band, but he did have a drive with all of his backing tracks. Seeing the star of Fuck, That’s Delicious controlling his own beats and backtracks with a little black box was pretty impressive. He could have easily had a huge setup but instead chose to keep it humble.

Mayday Parade’s crowd was one of the most dedicated of the day, with fans standing at the barricade for hours to see Derek Sanders’ long locks and sick dance moves. The band released the 10th anniversary edition of A Lesson in Romantics in March, which featured never-before-heard demos and received criticism from their producer for not giving former vocalist Jason Lancaster credit in the commentary. Despite the band moving on from Lancaster, the fans were elated to hear such songs as “Jamie All Over”, which featured a surprise duet with Joe Taylor of Knuckle Puck.

One of the day’s most powerful sets came from Chicago rapper Vic Mensa. The 24-year old made a name for himself with his 2015 single “U Mad” featuring Kanye West. Since then, Mensa’s songwriting has evolved into an introspective, political look at the world around him. His hour-long set at Riot Fest included songs from his new album, The Autobiography, as well as “16 Shots”, a scathing call to arms against officer Jason Van Dyke, who shot black teenarger Laquan McDonald 16 times. Mensa has often been in the shadow of other Chicago rappers like West and Chance the Rapper, but he is finally starting to get the credit he deserves for being an extraordinary writer and rapper.

A Day To Remember

Action Bronson


Death From Above 1979

Dirty Heads

Mayday Parade


New Order

The Cribs

Vic Mensa