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The 5 best things we saw on Friday at Riot Fest

Attendees walk through the midway at day one of Riot Fest.
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas Attendees walk through the midway at day one of Riot Fest.

1. A greatly improved festival layout

The layout at last year's festival in Humboldt Park was riddled with bottlenecks, which only got worse when mud pits started to form. There are more wide open spaces in Douglas Park this year, where the main stages occupy a giant field separated by a line of carnival rides. We would rather deal with a little bit of sound bleed than wade through tightly packed crowds. —Zach Long


2. Lee "Scratch" Perry's fashionably late appearance

When you're a 79-year-old dub producer, you're allowed to operate on "Jamaican time." Lee "Scratch" Perry didn't take the stage until halfway through his 45-minute set, but his band (and a giant, inflatable Super Ape) entertained the crowd in his absence. Perry's mumbled lyrics were nearly indecipherable, but at a festival filled with feedback and yells, his mellow grooves were a welcome diversion. —ZL


3. The better beer options

Most music festivals are notorious for boasting a pretty poor beer selection, but Riot Fest has a tent featuring options from All Rise Brewing Co., based out of Cobra Lounge in the West Loop. They're pouring cups of their Wonder Beer Pale Ale and Three Orange Wit (which boasts a hefty 7.2 percent ABV). The other beer tents in the park offered Dos Equis, but the All Rise brews were the same price: $8. If you're willing to wait an extra five minutes in line, your taste buds will thank you. —Clayton Guse


4. Riot Fest commits to hip-hop

Riot Fest has been slow to embrace hip-hop—the festival usually sticks to a mix of punk and metal—but this year it's featuring Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg in headlining slots. Currently on tour promoting his self-indulgent new film, Straight Outta Compton (they played a 90-second trailer for the flick before performing the titular track), Cube played his greatest hits, drawing a huge, enthusiastic crowd in the process. The set often came off as a promotional ploy, but the audience was reminded that N.W.A. was as hard as any punk band could hope to be. —CG


5. Lemmy’s triumphant return

Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister has been suffering from a lung infection that forced the band to cancel several recent shows, but he came to Riot Fest sounding like he's made a recovery. "We are Motörhead and we play rock and roll,” Lemmy growled as he took the stage in front of a crowd chanting his name in unison. He's a living reminder that even the most stalwart rock stars are only human—but he's also in one of the only bands that could drown out both No Doubt and Ice Cube. —ZL

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