Riot Fest 2021

Douglass Park // Chicago, IL // September 17-19, 2021

Punk, hip-hop, metal, and DEVO!

Riot Fest has always been one of the most popular and most diverse festivals in Chicago, so it was extra heartbreaking when the festival was canceled in 2020. Despite major setbacks and numerous artist cancellations, Riot Fest still boasted an impressive lineup that had fans crowd-surfing, moshing, and jumping up and down against the barricade. The Smashing Pumpkins headlined on Friday after a massive rainstorm left the grounds damp and muddy (a classic Riot Fest moment!), and lead singer/guitarist Billy Corgan was dressed to the nines in a kimono-style robe and face paint. The band played some of their biggest hits after teasing the crowd that they were only going to play new music.

Saturday boasted far nicer weather (albeit a little hot for September), and Chicago’s own hip-hop artist Vic Mensa played on the largest stage. Backed by a band as well as a DJ, Mensa seemed a little nervous but incredibly excited to perform. His song “16 Shots” about Laquan McDonald’s murder at the hands of a Chicago police officer had everyone in the crowd shouting “fuck 12” and throwing middle fingers up against the police department.

Vic Mensa. Photo by Kate Scott

Saturday night, hip-hop legends Run the Jewels headlined the festival alongside Taking Back Sunday and Andrew W.K. While all of the acts were incredible, Andrew W.K. is a staple of Riot Fest and had the most energetic set of the night. Within minutes of his first song, fans were already crowd-surfing to the front of the barricade. With the release of his new album, God is Partying, just a week before the show, it was amazing to see how many people in the crowd already knew the words to his brand new songs.

Andrew W.K. Photo by Kate Scott

Sunday’s lineup was the most eclectic, and it was arguably the best day of the weekend. Repeat favorites like K. Flay and The Flaming Lips drew in large crowds, while headliners Machine Gun Kelly and Slipknot caused chaos in their own ways (say what you will about MGK, he knows how to play the role of a rockstar). However, the #1 band of the weekend has to go to DEVO. Sure, there were people in the crowd who were too young to really know DEVO, and there were people who only went to DEVO’s set to see them play “Whip It”. But, for those who stuck around and watched their performance, they were treated to the most theatrical, exciting set of the weekend. Lead singer and songwriter Mark Mothersbaugh sounded the same as he did in 1979, and the band’s multiple costume changes completely fit with the accompanying songs.

DEVO. Photo by Kate Scott

Riot Fest is slated to return in 2022 with headliners My Chemical Romance and The Misfits already confirmed (cue screaming emo and punk fans in their 30s wearing vintage Hot Topic shirts). If the headliners are that amazing, we can’t wait to see who else will be there. ABBA, anyone?