Riot Fest 2023 Day Two: Big Feelings and Faygo

A little afternoon rain didn’t deter fans from flocking to Douglass Park on Saturday for the second day of Riot Fest. Half arrived for the nostalgic indie rock album plays of Death Cab for Cutie and the Postal Service while the Juggalos turned up in force with painted faces ready to be blasted with Faygo during Insane Clown Posse’s set. Add in performances from Corey Feldman and the Viagra Boys, and you’ve got a lineup that only Riot Fest can deliver. 

PLOSIVS’ catchy, driving punk was the perfect antidote to a grey and drizzly afternoon. Formed in 2021, the supergroup boasts Rob Crow of Pinback and John Reis of Hot Snakes and Drive Like Jehu. Sporting tropical shirts and black jeans, PLOSIVS took the crowd to So-Cal.

West Side hip hop artist 1300cadoe was one of three local acts from Riot Fest’s talent contest selected to perform at the festival. Over 70 artists from the Little Village and North Lawndale neighborhoods applied, and their work can be heard in this playlist

1300Cadoe’s energy and playful verses were a welcome addition to the lineup that’s sorely lacking hip hop acts this year. Even if they couldn’t keep up with his flow, the crowd bopped to his beats. He admitted to being anxious before taking the stage, “If you smoke weed like I smoke weed make some noise!”

Buffalo hardcore act Snapcase aren’t strangers to Chicago, having released their records on the local label Victory Records. “This ain’t the Metro or Fireside Bowl,” mused frontman Daryl Taberski. “Festivals like this can be intimidating, thanks for coming out and showing your support.” Launching into their wall of sound, the crowd was happy to welcome Snapcase back to the city.

Corey Feldman
Who could pack in the crowds for an early afternoon set at the Rebel Stage? None other than ‘80s child star Corey Feldman. Feldman pinballed across the stage singing about his divorces and kid fame. Ever the showman, he sported a hat for a Michael Jackson moonwalking impression and changed into a sparkly jacket halfway through his set. 

White Reaper
With their infectious garage punk and preppy attire, White Reaper made the Riot Stage feel like one big house party. The Louisville quintet launched back and forth across the stage as they kicked off with “I Don’t Think She Cares” and didn’t let up for the rest of the set. 

Viagra Boys
“We’re Sweden's third worst band,” announced Viagra Boys frontman Sebastian Murphy before starting their post-punk set with “Ain’t No Thief.” He lost his shirt shortly after and careened with the mic stand to “Slow Learner,” a cigarette dangling from one hand. Just watching all six musicians is entertaining, from Elias Jungqvist manning the keyboard in skimpy cutoff jean shorts to Oscar Carls vamping on guitar and sax, also while smoking. Behind Murhpy’s spitting Bud Light during “Punk Rock Loser” is dark humor, witty lyrics, and satire of toxic masculinity. “I’ve never seen a crowd this big for us in America,” Murphy said before inciting a dance party to “Sports”—complete with pushups onstage. 

Death Grips
The crowd surfing turned up a notch for Death Grips’ aggressive, experimental hip-hop. Frontman Stefan Burnett (aka Ride) didn’t need stage banter, his grip on the crowd was as tight as the closely clutched microphone from “System Blower” all the way through “The Fever (Aye Aye).”

“There’s a lot of freaks here today,” Stefan Babcock announced as the Toronto quartet Pup took the stage in front of a banner displaying a drawing of the band and their pets. Starting with “Totally Fine,” their raucous punk performance was a shot in the arm to anyone whose energy was waning by evening. 

Death Cab for Cutie 
Speaking of waning energy, Ben Gibbard appeared to be conserving his for his second show of the evening as he ended Death Cab for Cutie’s set 15 minutes early. The deal was a full album play of 2003’s Transatlanticism and the band delivered that beautifully. Yet some extra songs to round out the time would have been a treat for many of the fans who attended Saturday just to hear Gibbard’s bands. While “A Lack of Color” was a mellow note to close on, it was gorgeously rendered on the Riot Stage. 

100 Gecs
If you don’t get 100 Gecs it’s ok because their fans do. St. Louis “hyperpop” duo Dylan Brady and Laura Les entered the stage in wizard robes, announcing This is our Eras Tour, their voices Auto-Tuned. Launching into “Dumbest Girl Alive,” the Dumbest Girl Alive, the Auto-Tune continues over crashing drums and glitchy blips. “We’re in our 1,000 Gecs era,” said Les before singing “Stupid Horse” from their 2019 album featuring the song to the glee of the headbanging teenage crowd. “It’s crazy, Chicago is the only place that you can find frogs,” Les mused ahead of “Frog on the Floor.” What's not to get?

Insane Clown Posse
For a band that formed in 1989, the Juggalos that flooded Douglass Park and crammed into the Rebel Stage on Saturday were curiously young. Chanting “I-C-P,” they didn’t mind the duo’s late start or the prospect of baptism by Faygo. Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope appropriately stormed the stage with “The Show Must Go On” with the bravado of those commanding a legion of face-painted disciples. The Faygo sprayed early and often, displayed on multiple tables on the stage. While the security crew sported ponchos, the Juggalos soaked it up. “Hokus Pokus” was up next. Absent Riot Fest regulars like GWAR and Andrew W.K this year, ICP’s horrorcore spectacle was the kind of dramatic display the festival needed.

The Postal Service
Earlier gripes about Death Cab’s sleepy and abbreviated set were laid to rest by the Postal Service’s spectacular headlining turn. Dressed in all white, the band played Give Up in its entirety, celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year. Wait, does that mean that Ben Gibbard released Transatlanticism and Give Up in the same year? He had a lot of feelings in 2003, and so did the crowd, reminiscing and bopping along to indie-pop hits like “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” and “Such Great Heights.” Gibbard swapped duty between guitar and drums, and Jenny Lewis stole the show with every vocal and swish of her vintage-looking dress. After the album play they fulfilled our encore wishes with an upbeat cover of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence.” Saturday at Riot Fest was all we ever wanted, all we ever needed. 

-All Photos by Jessica Mlinaric

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Jessica Mlinaric

Jessica Mlinaric is a writer, photographer and cat mom. Her first book on the strange and secret corners of Chicago is forthcoming from Reedy Press. Jessica founded in 2010 to share stories about cities and their cultures. Right now, she is probably at a concert or volunteering at 826CHI. She tweets at @urbnexplorer.