There’s something to be said for predicability, especially when it comes to Riot Fest. Like, how you know they’re going to bring back Andrew W.K., GWAR, and all those freaks from Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow Revue. And how, yes, there’s going to be some overlap with pretty much every Warped Tour lineup from 1998-2006. But, there’s also going to be a vastly different set of headliners than any other summer music festival out there, and a middle card that’s unorthodox to say the least.
For Chicagoans, though, Riot Fest is like that mysterious carnival that used to come around town every October. The one Ray Bradbury wrote about in There’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, where the ferris wheel creaked, the carnies stared at your mother a little too long, and the cotton candy clung to your fingers in really far out ways. But, everyone was there, your friends, your classmates, your neighbors, your family. Nobody was immune to its tacky mystery and that was the fun of it.
Well, that feeling has always been the case for Riot Fest, starting way, way back in 2012, when the fringe festival first touched down in Humboldt Park, long before the aldermans and suits decided thousands upon thousands of festivalgoers weren’t good for the surrounding businesses. [Insert Rodney Dangerfield GIF] Now that they’re seemingly fine and dandy over at Douglas Park — admittedly, a gem of a find, despite being a shlep for everyone who doesn’t live near Douglas Park — they’re good.
This year, they’re very good. Once again, Riot Fest has pieced together another enviable weekend for those who prefer six strings at their festivals, and there isn’t a single line on its poster that comes close to derailing their original spirit. Maybe it’s not as varied as last year’s offerings, per se, but having Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, and a reunited Jawbreaker at the top speaks volumes during an era when major festivals have turned deaf ears on the rock genre.
To quote Bradbury himself, “Beware the autumn people.”