Riot Fest 2018 was one of the best festivals of the year. The lineup was finalized just a couple of weeks before and it was a shame to find out that Blink 182 was unable to play the festival due to Travis Barker’s complications that he has been having. In the final announcement, Riot Mike was able to bring in some major replacements in the form of Weezer, Run the Jewels, and Taking Back Sunday. Add the gift of giving fans the opportunity to purchase 3 day passes for under $100 and you got one of the most affordable festivals of the year with one of the most unique lineups in the country. In a festival landscape that has been marred by mediocrity with most lineups being extremely similar, Riot Fest is a clear winner this year.
Douglas Park has become a great home for Riot Fest. A beautiful location that showcases a part of the city that many in attendance would not normally come to visit. The area is tucked to the southwest of downtown and the park is a perfect spot for holding a music festival of this size.
This year had a ton of highlights throughout the weekend. From up and coming artists like Hobo Johnson performing on the Radicals Stage and barely even being able to handle the emotions for playing to a crowd as large as they had to seeing legends like Blondie and Elvis Costello performing memorable sets by pumping out a ton of classics. This year the lineup was spread out so well with a genre blend all weekend. You had an equal amount of Punk, Rock, Hip Hop, Alternative, Metal, Rockabilly, etc. throughout to satisfy every festival goer in attendance.
Some of the largest draws of the weekend, and for good reason, were Incubus, Underoath, Taking Back Sunday, Interpol, Alkaline Trio, Bullet for My Valentine, and of course the headliners. One thing the festival should really consider changing in the future is putting 2 of the staples of the festival over on the Roots and/or Riot stage. Andrew W.K. and GWAR have been an integral part of this festival over the years and get put on the tucked away stage behind the carnival rides. The Rebel Stage has a solid lineup every year on it, but it’s not easy to get to in relation to the rest of the festival. This year both acts were performing later in the day on Saturday and during some of the acts who bring a massive draw. Both of these acts need to be seen by the masses, because most fans are missing out on what both bands bring. Putting them on one of the 4 other stages and during the day would give them a much larger audience and an amazing spectacle that the masses will be able to see and quickly make their way over to the stage that they are performing on. With that being the only topic that people brought up that they would have changed throughout the weekend, you could easily say this festival knows how to do things right. And that says a lot!
Some of the artists to watch for that were huge hits during each of the days over the weekend were Pussy Riot, K. Flay, The Aquabats, Mannequin Pussy, Health, Reignwolf, Calpurnia, JD McPherson, and SWMRS. There were also the veterans that gave fans the opportunity to see some legendary sets during the days. Friday had artists like Liz Phair, Sum 41, Digable Planets, Atmosphere, Flogging Molly, Taking Back Sunday, Cypress Hill, and Dropkick Murphys. Saturday had Gary Numan, Interpol, and The Jesus Lizard. Sunday had Bullet for My Vallentine, Johnny Marr, The Bouncing Souls, Suicidal Tendencies, Underoath, Alkaline Trio, Incubus, and Bad Religion. There were so many amazing acts to choose from this year and you just ended up zig zagging around the festival all weekend to be able to not miss out on as much of the amazing talent.
Weezer on the first night closed out the day with a stellar set including a handful of covers. Of course they played “Africa” by Toto, but also covered Blink 182’s “All the Small Things”, “Take On Me” by a-ha,”Happy Together” by The Turtles, and “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath. Rivers was very vocal with the fans throughout and made sure everyone was having a blast. Even at one point in the show he surprised fans that had decided to watch their set from over by the Root Stage and popped over there with a lonely mic stand and performed a solo acoustic version of “Island in the Sun”.
Beck was an absolute blast on the 2nd night to close out the day. He pumped out hit after hit with fans mesmerized by the intricate and very colorful stage set up. Odelay and Colors were the most played albums of the night with a massive mashup of covers during the encore where he even covered “Cars” and Gary Numan joined him on stage to sing with him. For many seeing Beck live was a bucket list must as he doesn’t tour very often and make it to Chicago very often. A stand alone show of his would be a huge treat for fans if he comes back to Chicago in the near future and he gets the opportunity to play a much larger setlist.
To close out the weekend, fans were treated to an epic Run the Jewels set. For anyone focused on seeing Bad Religion or Incubus, once their sets were over they still had more than half of a phenomenal set remaining of RtJ! Fans packed in to see Killer Mike and El-P and it was worth it. These guys are at the top of their game and a sight to be seen. Packed with songs from RtJ 3, the set was heavy hitting and filled with moments of humble and positive advice for everyone in attendance. They are as genuine and down to earth as stars can get, but if you are a fool in their audience they will make sure you know it and they made a point to let each and everyone know that during their closing set.
The weekend was a massive hit for the festivals and fans. The lineup was stellar and proved this festival has more than enough room to succeed in the over saturated festival scene. If you have not been to Riot Fest before, you honestly need to make it a point to keep that weekend lined up to check it out in 2019. You won’t regret it!
Enjoy the photos of all 3 days below.