LIVE, IN PHOTOS: Riot Fest 2019 Feat. The Flaming Lips, The B-52’s, Slayer, & More
In its fifteenth year, the Chicago festival keeps it edgy with additional sets from Blink-182, Descendents, Wu-Tang Clan, Bloc Party, and more.
In the same way that every unique channel of social media has evolved only to more closely resemble other popular channels of social media, music festivals tend to age into a homogenous experience differentiated only by locale. In fact, there seems to be a direct negative correlation between age and personality in the festival sphere—you only get so many years of uniquely curated lineups before your event develops into the local Coachella.
While Chicago’s Riot Fest has inevitably changed since its early days of venue hopping on the city’s North and West sides with lineups purely punk and/or nostalgic of early ’90s workarounds to conventional rock sounds, that same DIY energy still feels very much alive in the fest’s fifteenth year. While the carnival theme has lost some of its appeal over the years (the “bearded lady” banner bookending one of the stages hasn’t aged too well, while I spotted an actual near-seven-foot dude shoot a performer on stilts a dirty look one afternoon), the original spirit of the fest shines through in the booking of punk and alt legends not just as minor draws, but as headliners.
Competing with a constant chorus of cicadas—and overcoming unseasonably hot temps, sound-carrying winds, and a lot of bees—fundamentally Riot-Fest acts like Jawbreaker, Bikini Kill, Wu-Tang Clan, and Ween felt like givens in the event’s headlining slots this year, while The Flaming Lips, Bloc Party, and Blink-182 revisiting late-nineties/early-aughts favorites provided the annual reminder of just how much time has passed since high school. While the festival flirted with indie-rock trendiness in 2014 with a headlining set from The National, 2019 felt more focused on appeasing the (apparently incredibly vast) punk masses, mostly tapping the indie scene for fierce openers, like Cherry Glazerr, White Reaper, and Skating Polly.
With massive crowds making views of the stage nearly impossible for most evening sets, and strong gusts of wind only divine-interventioning certain songs into earshot, we were fortunate to have photographer Cindy Barrymore on the scene to document the affair in photos. See them below.