After weeks of speculation, rumors and lineup uncertainty, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary at this year's edition of Riot Fest, which brought droves of fans to Douglas Park. The fact that the festival only finalized its headlining acts a week prior and put single-day tickets on sale a few days before gates opened didn't seem to deter anyone from showing up and packing the fields—in terms of attendance alone, Riot Fest still seems to be thriving.
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As usual, nostalgia reigned supreme at Riot Fest, where it was hard to find a band that didn't have a few beloved albums from a previous decade under it's belt. Headlining sets from Weezer and Beck stuck to the most familiar tracks from their respective catalogs, though both acts segued into some unexpected covers (of course, Rivers Cuomo sang Toto's “Africa”). Elder rockers Elvis Costello, Blondie and Jerry Lee Lewis showed that they can still (mostly) hang with the kids, and esteemed-yet-lesser-known bands such as the Jesus Lizard, Fear and Digable Planets delighted devoted fans—and probably gained a few new ones.
While plenty of the usual suspects (Andrew WK, GWAR, Bad Religion, Alkaline Trip) showed up for Riot Fest, it was nice to see some new faces taking the stage. Acts like young garage rockers Calpurnia (fronted by Stranger Things actor Finn Wolfhard) and local indie pop outfit Beach Bunny proved that the unfamiliar can be a refreshing change of pace at Riot Fest. Likewise, return appearances by Chicago's own Twin Peaks and alt-rockers Bully proved that there's a new generation forming, though it's still a long way from dominating the festival's lineup.
Some of the most comforting aspects of this year's Riot Fest were the ways in which the event's organizers and the bands on the lineup attempted to make the culture that surrounds the festival more inclusive and safe for all attendees. Upon walking in through the festival's gates, guests immediately encountered a booth run by the organization OurMusicMyBody, which raises awareness about sexual harassment at concerts. On Sunday, I overheard members of Underoath singing the praises of mental health and headliners Run the Jewels halting their set to speak out against sexual harassment.
It's a bit premature to start thinking about next year's edition of Riot Fest, but the festival's organizers seemed intent on letting fans know that the event isn't going anywhere—screens by the main stages displayed the dates of next year's fest (September 13–15, 2019), which will mark Riot Fest's 15th anniversary.
Relive the punk rock carnival with our favorite photos from Riot Fest 2018.
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