Chicago’s festival season is culminating in, ironically, one of the most raucous and high-energy events. Riot Fest 2016 offers a slew of talented acts, including a Misfits reunion, the last show ever by Motion City Soundtrack, and a headlining set by Morrissey. We’ve rounded up some of the more up-and-coming acts you shouldn’t miss this weekend amid your quest to hear your “The Future Freaks Me Out” one last time live or in between your time spent marveling at Butter John Stamos. We’ve got you covered day by day.
Bad Cop / Bad Cop (Story Heart Stage, 1:30 – 2:00)
The first time I ever came across Bad Cop / Bad Cop, I was a senior in college. At the time, I was staying up late to finish off a paper but got distracted – because the internet exists. I came across their EP, Boss Lady, on Punknews.org, and the four-track piece, especially the song “Rodeo”, was just what I needed to get it done – fast, fun, loud, and unapologetic. And it was a clear reminder, that I, too, am a boss. Boss Lady provides the perfect precursor to their debut album Not Sorry. The all-female punk band from Los Angeles, now signed to Fat Wreck Chords, will get you charged and going.
Dan Deacon (Roots Stage, 1:50 – 2:20)
“Change Your Life (You Can Do It)” exemplifies why Dan Deacon is a great way to blast off your Riot Fest weekend. Deacon creates spine-chilling sounds that at first sound like Ross’s synthesizer performances on “Friends,” that then evolve into tracks that promote self-reflection. Though it’s not quite fall yet, tracks like “Wooody Wooodpecker” off 2008’s Spiderman of the Rings will heighten the sensation of the breeze on your neck at Riot Fest.
Worriers (Rebel Stage, 2:00 – 2:30)
Brooklyn four-piece Worriers are a great reason to get to Riot Fest early on Friday. The band was founded by Lauren Denitzio, who’s written extensively about feminist and queer issues. The band’s short, catchy jams place the politics front and center with songs like “Life During Peacetime” and “They / Them / Theirs.” Worriers’ newest album, Imaginary Life, was released last year on Don Giovanni Records and was produced by Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, who was also a major inspiration in Denitzio’s songwriting.
Eskimeaux (Rebel Stage, 4:00 – 4:30)
Riot Fest has always leaned more toward fast, heavy, and hard music, but the past couple years have opened the doors to Pitchfork-approved bands, too. Brooklyn songwriter Gabrielle Smith writes very open, yet nuanced songs about relationships and social anxieties, with a deceitfully calming, even reassured voice. The band’s latest album, Year of the Rabbit, is a six-song EP of intimate and catchy indie tracks that contrasts with Smith’s earlier more experimental tracks. Even if this is clearly in the realm of bedroom-pop, the breezy new songs will be the perfect soundtrack to a fall afternoon in Douglas Park.
People Under the Stairs (Rise Stage, 4:00 – 4:45)
Known as the “Steely Dan of Rap Music,” People Under the Stairs is Double K (Michael Turner) and Thes One (Christopher Portugal). The duo has come a long way since its stomp onto the scene in 1998, boasting an eclectic mix of funk and true ’90s rap. “The P” has presented a slew of projects to the music world, including nine full-length LPs, six song EPs, and a series of singles, landing them on their most recent album, The Gettin’ Off Stage. This duo will have you milking a Riot Fest midpoint with such tracks as “Too Much Birthday,” “Trippin’ At The Disco,” and my personal favorite, “Acid Raindrops.”
Violent Soho (Rebel Stage, 7:00 – 7:30)
Brisbane, Australia-based band Violent Soho is made up of four dudes who like to party, drink beer, and rock out – and like, what more do you need? Prep for their show, and check out their latest album WACO.
Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas (Riot Stage, 1:30 – 2:00)
Start your second day at Riot Fest with an empowering and dreamy vibe at the Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas set. A combination of blues and pop, Jessica Hernandez leads her band, The Deltas, bouncing between roles of vocalist, keyboardist, guitarist, and percussionist. The Deltas features guitarist Michael Krygier, bassist Steve Lehane, keyboardist and accordionist Taylor Pierson – all contributing vocals – along with trombonist John Raleeh and drummer Stephen Stetson. The band brought you its debut album Demons in 2013, introducing power and confidence with its title track opening the album.
Nots (Rebel Stage, 2:00 – 2:30)
Memphis four-piece Nots’ newest album Cosmetic (released last week on Goner Records) picks right up where their 2014 debut left off full of abrasive guitars and confrontational lyrics. If you hadn’t told me anything about this band, I would have thought they were an undiscovered 1980 post-punk gem. That’s not to say they’re lost to time: Considering the political and social climates in 2016, this aggression is necessary more now than ever. Recommended for people who think Sleater-Kinney is “too chill.”
Kitten Forever (Rebel Stage, 7:00 – 7:30)
Minneapolis minimalist-punk trio Kitten Forever write fast anthemic tracks, with fuzzed out bass and shit-kicked-in drums. They’ve been making noise for about ten years now and the 15 songs on this year’s 7 Hearts are full of fresh yet familiar vibes. You’ve probably seen this band in a sweaty basement somewhere already. If not, now’s your chance to play pretend.
White Lung (Storyheart Stage, 7:30 – 8:00)
Vancouver four-piece White Lung write the type of melodic hardcore I don’t really listen to (even typing that phrase “melodic hardcore” gives me a bit of a shiver). Their fourth album Paradise is more polished and structured than their earlier releases, but don’t mistake maturity for losing their edge. There’ll be plenty of headbanging and fist-pumping to get out of your system before Morrissey’s set.
Bleached (Rock Stage, 12:15 – 12:45)
While there are plenty of female-fronted and female-only bands at Riot Fest this year, Bleached is a standout among them. The Los Angeles trio channels hometown legends The Go-Go’s, especially in tracks like “Keep On Keepin’ On,” the leadoff track from this year’s Welcome the Worms. I know it’s Sunday, but this one’s worth waking up early for.
All Dogs (Rebel Stage, 2:00 – 2:30)
I saw All Dogs a couple years ago when they opened up for The Sidekicks at Township. The foursome from Columbus, Ohio, and their neat, nostalgic indie/rock sound might just be what you need to carry on and enjoy the final bits of Riot Fest.
Jake Bugg (Rock Stage, 6:15 – 7:00)
Cool down after a long, exciting weekend of Riot Fest madness with solo folk act Jake Bugg. Bugg dropped out of school at age 16, pursuing his first self-titled album at 18 in 2012. Developing his sound to arrive at his most recent, “On My One,” Bugg might be drawing influence from the Arctic Monkeys, layering his instrumentation. Let him build your energy back up for Sleater-Kinney, who hits the stage at 7:40.
Syd Arthur (Storyheart Stage, 8:30 – 9:00)
I don’t really care about the Misfits. There, I said it. I know I’m gonna be in the minority at the fest. I saw Danzig a few years ago and it was super depressing. I’m bummed there’s no opposing headliner to see instead, but I’ll take a bit of Syd Arthur to end the weekend. The English psych band is sure to appropriately wind the weekend down with some hazy noise.