Riot Fest - live in Chicago (part three) (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Riot Fest

live in Chicago (part three) (2014)

live show

Riot Fest is over, and it's somewhat of a relief. For those that were there, congratulations on having any energy left to read this, for those that weren't, cherish your ache—less body.

Before we dive deep into the weekend, let's get some highlights and bum outs in first for all you "Tl;dr"—ers.


A. NOFX played Punk in Drublic in full (though not in order, which made the set even better), but then they playedd 8/9th of The Decline!!

B. Dashboard Confessional mostly played old songs

C. Me First and The Gimmie Gimmies

D. The weird meat platter/jambalaya thing I spent too much money on

E. Surviving


A. Weezer's Blue Album set was incredibly boring and a massive disappointment

B. Riot Fest's lay out

C. Friday was cold and rainy, mudding up Humboldt Park and getting me sick.

D. The oversized crowd

E. Every nostalgia band

First off, can we stop complaining about the mud? While it may had walking an exercise in mindfulness, it was actually a bit charming (minus the smell). The slipping and sliding was fun, and tinged Day 1 of Riot Fest with a grime—y atmosphere. With Riot Fest being rooted in punk rock, we should all appalled the rain god for giving us a truly authentic punk experience. The rain and mud was also the cause of my epic body slide across the entire mosh pit for NOFX (because I slipped while running around in the pit). That may sound not appealing, but boy was it fun, and the embarrassment quickly subsided once I realized no one was paying attention. Or maybe they were, but I'm not self conscious enough to care. The mobility implications of the mud created a collective camaraderie between total strangers. We were all cold, we were all wet, and we were all upset, but we were polite to each other and worked together to make sure the pushing and shoving through each other was minimal. Once nice weather came, we all reverted to the selfish, "I wish these assholes would walk faster, I'm already two songs late to (insert band here).

There was something a little punk rock about being disgustingly dirty. Sure, I was cold, but that's why I brought a hoodie and raincoat. It's not like the rain just suddenly appeared. It had been raining all day. You knew what you were getting into, and if you came unprepared, then come on... some of your frustration were self inflicted. I'm 100% compassionate to the complaints, because no matter how prepared I was, I still got sick. But, a little mud and cold rain shouldn't be the focus of your problems with Riot Fest. There are many, many more grievances to be had.

Organizationally, Riot Fest was awful. It was terribly laid out, with awkwardly placed stages. This made it impossible to get any a reasonable view of the stage, or even see the stage at all if you got to a set even 5 minutes late. The festival did not seem to fully consider the size of Humboldt Park, which is 207 acres. The middle section was fenced off, so you couldn't cut through the park if you were trying to get to another stage, you had to walk around it. Some stages were coupled together, with individual sound booths for both. This made the shape of the standing area awkward to say the least. Add in barriers that had crowd dividers, and you a disastrously constructed crowd area.

It seems like they made too many tickets for sale, with every set ending up being a lesson on how feeling of being a sardine packed in a can. It was almost a waste to try and enjoy a main stage set unless you showed up early, and even then, unless you enjoy the pressure of 4,000 people on your body, you were most likely having a bad time.

An estimated 160,000 people attended Riot Fest over the weekend, which equaled out to about 60,000 people each day. Standing area at most stages couldn't have been more than 1/2 sq mile, some smaller (like Weezer's, where I imagine it was 1/3—1/4 sq mile). This was a serious overlook on the festivals part.

Some of the stages were placed so far away from each other that it took over 25 minutes to get from one to the other (not including human traffic and carefully walking through mud). I only saw 2 water filling stations, and bottled water was $3 most places. They did have an abundance of port—a—potty's though, which was good, I guess.

Besides the ferris wheel, the plethora of carnival rides were mostly empty, and nobody seemed to play any of the carnival games. Considering this, I can't help but be frustrated at how many there were, and how in the way they got at times. How many carnival rides to get in the way of a festival? I'm not sure the exact number, but it is less than the amount there were at Riot Fest.

I had a good time at it though, but not because of the festival itself. I did see a few genuinely good sets, had a great excuse to be outside all day, and I was at a music festival (regardless of how frustrating it was to navigate). But, the best part was being surrounded by great friends. Pat, you were my saving grace. I'm lucky that I was able to have company, and it's something I wish I could've shared with everyone who didn't. I can't imagine how I would've felt if I had spent a bunch of money to travel to it, and/or was flying solo.

It seems Riot Fest got a little too big for its britches. A good lineup can't save a logistical fuck up.

I have faith in Riot Fest though. I have faith that they will learn from their mistakes. I have faith that they will listen to the various grievances being circled around the internet. I have faith that they will continue to attract great bands and logistically find their footing. I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt that this was the first year in the bigger section of Humboldt Park, only the third year that it was outside, and has exploded at such a rapid rate. Honestly, it would be impossible for any organizer to nail down a perfect system so quickly. I'll go next year, and probably the year after that. I won't stop going until I feel weird around so many "young people," but unless changes are made, I wont enjoy it.