The end of Riot Fest signals the close of the summer music festival season, but it also marks a turning point for the decade-old event. The punk rock festival has gone through its share of growing pains over the past several years, transitioning to an outdoor location and reconfiguring its location within Humboldt Park with each successive event. This year’s edition got off to a messy start thanks to some ill-timed rain, but even the muddy conditions weren’t as troubling as the sprawling layout that forced attendees to trek across a single thoroughfare to severely bottlenecked viewing areas. Riot Fest is only getting larger and it might be time to find a venue that can comfortably grow with it.
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While the logistics of a festival can be irritating, it's the music that ultimately keeps the crowds coming back. In this respect, Riot Fest has managed to outclass comparable events like Lollapalooza and Pitchfork with lineups that are at once attentive to the festival’s core audience while remaining inviting to music fans of all stripes. Where else can you go and see the recently reunited Hot Snakes and Patti Smith in the span of an hour? Sunday’s lineup offered up that very scenario and much more, including sets from reunited emo-rockers Mineral, the always raucous Dropkick Murphys and an annual appearance by veritable Riot Fest mascot Andrew W.K.
The night ended as the Cure and Weezer faced off with headlining performances on opposite ends of the park. While the Cure’s performance was similar to the band’s career-spanning set at last year’s Lollapalooza, Weezer took on the task of recreating its seminal “Blue Album” in full. The results were a bit forced at times, but Rivers Cuomo and company really only had to show up to provide the backing track for the crowd-encompassing sing-a-long that ensued. Could there have been a more communal send-off to a weekend of musical celebration? Only in dreams.