I admit I always flinch a little when I read articles describing Riot Fest as a punk and metal festival. Sure, the booking ethos behind the band choices is driven by the punk sensibility of “we like all music that’s good music” while avoiding the constraints of adhering to one genre or another. Is there a heavy punk and metal presence? Sure! But there’s also The Village People. And The Raconteurs. And Wu Tang Clan. And Manchester Orchestra. And The B-52s. And so on and so on.
The precise thing that makes Riot Fest my favorite large musical gathering in a city currently clogged with large musical gatherings is the fact that they are more than happy to buck “style” over just choosing what they want to hear, with the confidence that honesty of that level will translate to a broad base of attendees from all different backgrounds. It also means that if you’re going to see one thing, the chances of you discovering a few new faves are pretty high. I know I’ve walked away every year with some surprising new discoveries, despite the fact that I listen to so much new music I need a spreadsheet to keep it straight.
Initially I was going to share my top picks with you, dear reader, but there are so many pieces doing just that out there, it seems redundant to do so. Especially when the Riot Fest staff has already tackled that task. (I had never heard of The Hu, but you can bet I’m going to see them now.) Honestly, anyone who’s read my stuff long enough knows where I’m probably going to skew as far as recommendations go—and then I’ll promptly ignore those and wander in search of stuff to surprise me.
Wait, what? A preview is supposed to also include acts I suggest seeing? People reading this really expect that?
OK, OK, here are a few acts you should probably not miss, that aren’t in the headlining spots (though if you miss Bikini Kill, I can’t be held accountable for your tears of regret come Monday morning).
A sampling would include: Pkew Pkew Pkew, The Get Up Kids, Masked Intruder, Cherry Glazerr, Cursive, The Beaches, Teenage Bottlerocket, White Reaper, Ride, Bob Mould, and Against Me!. And of course you now I will be party party party party party party party party party party party party party party party party party party party party party partying with Andrew W.K.
But like I said, those are just a few of the “undercard” bands I’m looking forward to. It’s all the bands I’m unfamiliar with that will actually fill the earlier portions of my day, and I think you should follow the same battle plan, no matter your age or which band(s) convinced you to lay out hard-earned cash for a ticket.
To that end, if I were you I’d download the Riot Fest app, and give it a spin tonight, and on the train to Douglas Park tomorrow before the gates open. (I say the train because biking and public transit are the best way to get to the grounds. If you MUST drive, here’s where you can park. But why invite that hassle?)
The weather report is still up in the air, but as always prepare for heat or rain, and I wouldn’t wear your finest footwear, no matter what the forecast says.
And Riot Fest is more than just music. There’s carnival rides. And puppies. Lots of independent art and merch vendors. And so, so much food. So wander the grounds between musical acts and take it all in.
And, of course, do NOT forget to visit the majestic return of BUTTER STAMOS!
Let’s all have fun this weekend, huh? Who are you most excited to see, and who should I put on my list of can’t miss acts I haven’t mentioned?
Riot Fest is September 13-15 in Douglas Park and tickets are still available.