Get us in your inbox

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

The five best things we saw on Saturday at Riot Fest

Written by
Time Out Chicago editors

You might think that the punishing temperatures that crowds endured on day one of Riot Fest would have deterred attendees from showing up too early on day two. You'd be wrong—Douglas Park began filling up just a couple hours after the gates opened on Saturday, as folks turned up to take in sets from festival alumni and a stacked lineup of newcomers. After another day spent wading through crowds and stomping on discarded beer cups, here are the five things that stood out on Saturday at Riot Fest.

RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to Riot Fest

1. Mike D's hip-hop sing-along

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Though it was billed as a DJ set, Mike D's late evening performance turned out to be an extended quasi-karaoke show that found the Beastie Boys emcee rapping along (and sometimes acting as hypeman) with a playlist of his favorite hip-hop tracks. He shouted along to cuts by Chicago artists like Chance the Rapper and Kanye, paid tribute to formative heroes like Run DMC and Grandmaster Flash, and acknowledged his punk rock roots by mashing up the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" with a Ramones song. To cap it all off, Mike D closed with a rendition of the Beastie Boys' "Intergalactic," which simultaneously put a smile on my face and acted as a sad reminder of the untimely loss of Adam Yauch (a.k.a. MCA). If Riot Fest wants make this an annual fixture of the fest, I'm all for it.—Zach Long

2. A thoroughly NSFW set from Peaches

Riot Fest 2017, Peaches

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

The average Peaches performance contains more frank discussion of sexual anatomy than my high school sex ed class—not to mention a far better soundtrack. Backed by dancers who wore vagina masks, bikinis and bondage gear throughout her set, the Canadian singer belted out pop anthems with titles like "Vaginoplasty" and "Dick in the Air." Between walking across the crowd, acting as her own DJ and performing topless (yes, she freed the nipple), Peaches' set was probably the most punk rock thing I saw on Saturday, courageously embracing self-expression and baring it all (quite literally) in front of a crowd.—ZL

3. A middle school mixtape three-fer

Riot Fest subsists on nostalgia acts. Unlike other Chicago music fests (Pitchfork and Lollapalooza), that aim to bring in the most up-and-coming groups or the hottest things out there each year, the Douglas Park festival largely picks from the same pool of rockers every year. That was especially true with Saturday’s back-to-back, early-2000s pop-punk performances by New Found Glory, At The Drive In and Taking Back Sunday. As someone whose first concert was NFG opening up for Blink-182 (who I saw at Lolla and loved), I embrace middle school pop-punk wholeheartedly. Seeing these three acts in succession felt like listening to a mixtape I made for my crush in 2003 (and definitely never actually gave him). New Found Glory celebrates their 20th anniversary this year, and rolled out all their MTV-worthy hits from 2002’s Sticks and Stones and 2004’s Catalyst. At The Drive In, El Paso’s finest export, brought a screamo energy that gave me extreme high school carpool PTSD. Taking Back Sunday had a modest crowd, thanks to being scheduled up against Queens of the Stone Age, but a deep appreciation of just having a spot on the Riot Fest lineup. I recalled a borderline terrifying number of lyrics from the depths of my brain over the course of those three sets—and I feel great about it.—Grace Perry

4. A golden hour gypsy punk set from Gogol Bordello

There isn’t another band quite like Gogol Bordello; certainly not at Riot Fest, in any case. The eight-person gypsy punk ensemble blends traditional Romani music (characterized by that entrancing accordion lull) with contemporary punk. Frontman Eugene Hütz—rail-thin and perpetually drenched in sweat—totally brings it as a frontman. Not a moment of a Gogol performance goes by without Hütz dancing, belting from his diaphragm and generally doing his best Ukrainian Freddie Mercury impression. It looks really exhausting, but his energy bleeds effortlessly into the crowd. And it’s not all hinged on Hütz—despite (or perhaps because of) its diverse instrumentation, the backing band has some impressive musical chemistry. Its 6:35pm performance was the final sunlit show of day two, transitioning the Riot Fest crowd into the evening with a show that was weird, playful and a raucous good time.GP

5. The return of the Zipper (and more rides)

Riot Fest 2017

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Last year, Riot Fest drastically pared down its carnival ride offerings, with just a single Ferris wheel placed in the middle of the park. Thankfully, thrill seekers have been blessed with a few more options this year, including the Zipper—a rotating ride with spinning seats that seems as if it was designed to make you lose your lunch by constantly sending you head over heels. I won’t be forking over $5 to ride it this weekend, but I’m happy that everyone who enjoys resisting nausea for a minute or two will have the chance to partake.—ZL

Want more? Sign up to stay in the know.

Latest news


    The best things in life are free.

    Get our free newsletter – it’s great.

    Loading animation
    Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?

    🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

    Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!