Douglass Park// Chicago, IL // September 15-17, 2023
The festival for punks, emos, and everyone in between reached new heights this year.
Riot Fest outdid themselves this year. Chicago’s favorite alternative festival had some of the most highly anticipated acts, including the return of the iconic supergroup The Postal Service. The crowd during The Postal Service was on another level-hearing tens of thousands of people singing “Such Great Heights” in unison with Ben Gibbard? That can never be topped.
Each day had a wide variety of bands and artists, ranging from hardcore to emo to indie, and each band had some of their biggest die-hard fans in the front row. Code Orange had a huge circle pit on Friday, starting the afternoon off right. Friday also had some of the best female-fronted acts, including Kim Gordon, Screaming Females, and The Breeders playing their iconic album Last Splash. Indie favorites Tegan and Sara closed out Friday night before the Foo Fighters headlined on the main stage, and the transition between the two bands was perfect.
Saturday brought out some of the best bands of the weekend, including 100 Gecs, Mr. Bungle, and, of course, Insane Clown Posse. In lieu of GWAR’s blood spray, ICP’s Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope doused the crowds with Faygo…liters and liters and liters of Faygo. Also, Riot Fest producers put ICP on the smallest stage at the latest time-there is no way they didn’t do that on purpose to ramp up the chaos!
The final day of Riot Fest was delayed due to rain (it wouldn’t be Riot Fest without torrential downpours and acres of mud), but the festival grounds opened at 2pm to emo band Thursday and indie group Cults. During The Bronx, one lucky couple got engaged! Riot Fest Weddings were also in full swing at the little chapel by the carnival rides, so a proposal next to a mosh pit felt perfect. Vaudeville punks Dresden Dolls played their first Chicago show on Sunday in over 14 years(!), and they played some of their biggest hits and covered The Beastie Boys and Black Sabbath. Supergroup LS Dunes, composed partly of Saosin’s Anthony Green and My Chemical Romance’s Frank Iero, are a Chicago favorite, as they made their debut at Riot Fest in 2022. Their set on Sunday was just as iconic as their show from the year before.
All of this led up to one of one of the greatest bands in the world, and one of the greatest Riot Fest sets of all time: The Cure. Robert Smith and company played for nearly two and a half hours with no break, and they sounded just as beautiful and enigmatic as they did in the 1980s. They played their most iconic songs, such as “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Friday I’m in Love”, but they also pulled out some rarities. Listening to Robert Smith sing “At Night” from their 1980 album Seventeen Seconds to a completely captivated crowd, many of whom didn’t know the song, but that didn’t matter. If you went to see The Cure on Sunday night not knowing a single song, you would have been just as enthralled as the band’s biggest fans.
Riot Fest is a highlight of my year and the official end of summer in Chicago-we can’t wait for next year’s festival! Until next time.
Riot Fest 2023