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  WINDY CITY TIMES

BENT NIGHTS Riot Fest
by Vern Hester
2018-09-24

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The number 13 turned out to be lucky for the 2018 edition of Riot Fest.

The future for this festival started looking dim after the death of founder Sean McKeough in 2016—just before the glut of Chicago-area summer festivals started choking itself. ( The Open Air Festival, Common's AAHH! Fest, and The Warped Tour have since ended in that time. ) The 2018 Riot Fest got hit with a wave of expected ( Fest headliner Elvis Costello's cancer treatments and surgeries ) and unexpected hurdles and misfortunes ( Headliner Blink 182's abrupt cancelation, a snafu in ticket availability and the alleged poisoning of festival signee Pussy Riot's drummer Peter Verzilov ) and rumors swirled that the show would not go on at all.

The show did certainly go on, and this 13th version of the punk-rock/metal/hard-rock festival and traditional close of summer went on without a hitch. For three days, under a forgiving sun and not one drop of rain ( or the ocean of mud and swarms of bees that have followed in their wake ), an eclectic mix of 88 bands and performers entertained a generally happy and joyful overflow audience on five stages, with nary an incident or arrest.

On the musical front there was plenty of hard rock ( Weezer, Taking Back Sunday, Alkaline Trio, Killing Joke, GWAR, The Jesus Lizard, Bad Religion and Dropkick Murphys ), rap/hip-hop ( Cypress Hill, Digable Planets, Run the Jewels ), straight up pop ( Matt and Kim, Incubus, Speedy Ortiz ), alternative rock ( Costello, Beck, Young the Giant, Health ) and straight-up punk/metal ( Sum 41, Suicidal Tendencies, Dillinger Four, Clutch, Direct Hit, The Wonder Years and Interpol ) to satisfy the most finicky of tastes.

Although there were no out performers on the bill, there were plenty of queer favorites ( Blondie, Johnny Marr, Gary Numan, Cat Power ) and friends of the community ( Andrew W.K., Jack Antonoff of the band fun. fronting his side band Bleachers ) to make things frolicsome. The Chicago scene was represented by Liz Phair, DIY upstarts Twin Peaks and good-natured goofball Archie Powell who snagged honors from the Chicago Tribune as one of the 'best dressed' at the festival ( for his fetching pink jacket and shorts ensemble with floral embroidery ).

And then there were the must-see sets, which included Pussy Riot ( who mixed activism with funk in a dance-performance piece in front of a banner swearing vengeance for that poisoning ), Father John Misty ( whose subversive funk was enlivened by his vaudevillian dance moves ) and '50s legend and sole survivor of the Million Dollar Quartet Jerry Lee Lewis ( who, along with Little Richard, started the outrage and scandal which became punk rock ).

With overall attendance estimated to hit the festival average of 40,000 a day despite no big-name reunions ( The Misfits in 2016 and Jawbreaker in 2017 ) and an absence of zombies and circus performers ( the later were contained in a circus tent and performed every three hours ), the 2018 Riot Fest looks like one for the books and a fitting close to one of the most memorable musical summers in Chicago.


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