As Riot Fest wraps up for another year, the Chicago based festival once again provided one of the strongest and most diverse festivals around. With headliners like Nine Inch Nails, Queens of The Stone Age, Jawbreaker, Prophets of Rage, Gogol Bordello, A Day To Remember, At The Drive In, and Bad Brains, Riot Fest had another stellar year at Douglas Park. Several bands played classic albums in their entirety, including Danzig’z third album How The Gods Kill, Wu-TangClan’s 36 Chambers, and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ Lets Face It. Plus there was no rain or mud, like pretty much every other year. So that is a Riot Fest bonus!
The first night had the perfect line up for industrial and new wave fans. Nine Inch Nails, New Order, and Ministry headlined the main stages. Al Jourgensen of Ministry thanked his hometown crowd for all their years of support and joked about probably having shared a cab ride with many of them. Even though back in 2008 Ministry played four sold out nights as part of the band’s farewell, they have played their home town countless times. Still, the fans don’t care. Ministry is still as heavy as ever, but they need to start digging deeper into their vast catalog to change up their set list a bit.
New Order had a few awkward starts early in their set and was forced to re-start some songs. But once the band got a few kinks sorted out and found their collective groove, they went on to have a great performance. In recent years, Nine Inch Nails has been more selective with live shows, thus making them more special occasions. The day before the show, NIN stopped by Reckless Records for a fan and live stream Q&A session. Trent Reznor was joined by Atticus Ross, as they opened the set hard and heavy and played classic tracks from all of their albums, plus tracks from their new EP, Add Violence. Trent gave a very heartfelt speech and spoke of his friend and former musical partner, David Bowie, covering the Blackstar track, “I Can’t Give Everything Away.” A year and half after Bowie’s passing, a lot of fans are still grieving, but moments like that is what helps us get closure on our loss. NIN closed the night with “Hurt,” giving everyone a somber walk out of the park. Nine Inch Nails played a set that brought out all of our strongest emotions. It was a breath taking and moving performance and one of the best shows in Riot Fest history
The second day was packed with many amazing bands and once in a lifetime moments, yet it was impossible to catch them all. Peaches warmed up the main stage with giant dancing vaginas, and walked along the guard rail dancing among the fans.
Dead Cross played an early set Saturday. Mike Patton joked on stage that they invited Danzig to join them for a song but he couldn’t make it. He also asked the crowd where and when Bad Brains would be playing and asked if they would body pass him over to their stage when they were done.
Bad Brains managed to bring one of the largest crowds of the festival. But H.R. bareley had energy on stage. For the most part, he just stood and softly sang. He left the stage early and abruptly, leaving Randy Blythe from Lamb of God with the rest of the band to fill in for a few songs. However, many fans, including myself, headed to the main stage to see Danzig perform Danzig III: How The Gods Kill in it’s entirety. Danzig gave an above average performance of his classic album, with the exception of “Sistinas.” Danzig joked that Riot Fest wouldn’t pay for the needed orchestra. Halfway thru his set, Danzig gave a shout out to Mike Patton, Dave Lombardo and apologized that he wasn’t able to perform with them earlier, but he wasn’t up yet.
Mike D of Beastie Boys performed a DJ set, mostly just playing some tracks and singing small sections of verses, hyping up the crowd. It is great to see Mike back on stage, but with as much talent as he holds, he could improve his show, perhaps by incorporating more live musical instruments or adding some new rhymes.
After canceling their Chicago show earlier this summer, At The Drive In played to an eager crowd filled with tracks off of their first new album in 16 years, Inter Alia. And closed with their brea out hit, “One Armed Scissor.”
Queens of The Stone Age closed Saturday night giving Chicago their first performance in support of their new album, Villians. Even though Josh Homme has been nursing a recent knee injury, that didn’t stop him from dancing the night away. QOTSA played a great mix of tracks throughout the career
Sunday was packed with great sets from Riot Fest regulars GWAR, Andrew W.K., Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and Pennywise, who suggested that next year Riot Fest get Circle Jerks to reunite. And they also dedicated a song to Chester Bennington and closed their set with “Bro Hymn.” However, the strongest performance came from political super group, Prophets of Rage.
Having just released their debut album two days prior, Prophets of Rage held the crowd in the palm of their hands as they powered thru a set packed with their new original tracks plus classics from Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy, Cypress Hill and House of Pain’s “Jump Around.” One of their most powerful and shining moments was their instrumental version of”Like a Stone,” dedicated to their “fallen comrade” Chris Cornell.
Jawbreaker closed out the final night of Riot Fest with a stage packed with their closest friends and family members, as well as countless musicians from the weekend who were anxious to see their reunion. Front man Blake Schwarzenbach used every moment that wasn’t filled with guitar feedback to rant about the state of the nations and society, but also thanked the festival for bringing them out of retirement.
Riot Fest is truly a unique festival. Every year the festival has a great balance of new and classic bands, from every genre possible. As well as managing to book of those bands you “never thought you would see again.” In recent years, Riot Fest has managed to reunite bands such as The Replacements, The Misfits, and now this year they pulled Jawbreaker out of retirement. Every year Riot Fest raises the bar for next year. As Pennywise said, its time to re-unite Circle Jerks for next year…