Riot Fest 2023 Day Three: Sunday, I’m in Love

It was a mad dash across Douglass Park on Sunday afternoon as the Riot Fest gates opened at 2 p.m. after a rain delay. Thursday fans sprinted to catch a scrap of the New Jersey post-hardcore band’s abbreviated set on the Radical Stage while others listened from the neverending entrance line that snaked down California Avenue to the CTA stop. 

Some artists billed for the early afternoon were cut in the shuffle including, Nothing, Smoking Popes, and Hotline TNT. By mid-afternoon, crews covered most muddy areas with mulch and attendees settled into the revised schedule culminating in the Cure’s closing set.

Cults
The Riot Stage was a dreamy spot for attendees to land as they entered the grounds featuring the indie-pop sounds of Cults. Frontwoman Madeline Follin was one of many performers who shouted out the Cure during her set. “There were only like ten people in my high school, but I was the ‘Cure girl,” she said before playing “Bad Things.” As the first sparkling notes of “Go Outside” floated through the park, the sun perfectly timed its entrance. 

The Black Angels 
The Black Angels’s psych-rock sounded tailor made for a music festival afternoon. Kicking off with “El Jardin,” the Austin quintet packed as many songs as possible into their thirty-minute set on the Roots Stage with minimal remarks. Featuring groovy guitar, tambourine, and Stephanie Bailey’s backbeat, the band cast a psychedelic spell that ended too soon. 

Ride 
“How are you all feeling? You’re looking very beautiful from here,” Ride’s Mark Gardener charmed the Riot Stage audience. The shoegaze pioneers’ influence was felt from the adoring crowd who gathered in the grass to the fellow musicians watching their show from the side stage. To whom did we owe the pleasure of the Oxford quartet’s outing? “Thanks to the Cure for asking us to do this,” Gardener shared before closing with “Seagull.” Thanks indeed.

AFI 
AFI wasted no time getting the Roots Stage crowd amped up, launching into “Girl’s Not Grey” to start their high-energy set. The hard-rocking California quintet is always a thrill to watch live. Frontman Davey Havok and guitarist Jade Puget vamped across the stage, jumping off platforms as fans crowd surfed in their direction. 

Flogging Molly 
The crowd surfing didn’t stop over on the Rise Stage, where Flogging Molly might have been having the most fun at the festival. “I’m Irish Catholic and it’s Sunday, so we’re going to have a good time,” said frontman Dave King after opening with “Drunken Lullabies.” Guitarist Dennis Casey cracked open a Guinness before high-kicking during “The Likes of You Again.” The crowd reveled in the Celtic punk party complete with accordion, banjo, violin, and tin whistle. Before starting “Swagger,” King tossed a can of Guinness into the crowd saying, “I’m 62-years-old and I don’t give a fuck.”

Gorilla Biscuits 
The Rebel Stage transformed into a hardcore club as Gorilla Biscuits admirers packed the perimeter of the stage to watch the NYC band play their 1989 album Start Today in its entirety. Frontman Anthony Civarelli denounced violence, racism, and homophobia, “This is about love… more love less hate.” He showed fans a lot of love, jumping into the photo pit and scaling the barrier to sing among the crowd several times as crowd surfing bodies passed by his head. Walter Schreifels beamed while playing guitar, his second day in a row onstage after playing with Quicksand on Saturday afternoon. Civarelli turned things over to the fans, tossing the microphone into the crowd more than once and asking them to sing before catching it back onstage. Ahead of “Hold Your Ground,” he implored fans, “Fight for every inch that this music and this festival has given you. Don’t do it once a year. Do it every day and hold your ground.”

The Cure 
“I’d rather sing to you than talk,” Robert Smith admitted halfway through the Cure’s headlining set on Sunday night. The band’s music did the talking for over two hours, leaving many fans wondering how it was possible for Smith and his five bandmates to sound consistently perfect for so long. The set was flawless, from hits like “Close to Me” and “Friday I’m in Love'' that had the crowd jumping up and down to sweeping soundscapes like “Endsong” (featuring a blood red moon background) and “A Forest.” The band wasn’t all serious. Rocking an Amy Winehouse T-shirt Smith joked, “I can’t believe it’s been 44 years—ouch,” while introducing “Boys Don’t Cry.” He dedicated the song to “all of the bands who have played all weekend. Many of those bands remarked on the Cure’s impact on their music, and many of the fans felt the Cure’s impact on their lives.

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 urbnexplorer.com 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.