Riot Fest - Day 3 (Cover Artwork)

Riot Fest

Day 3 (2023)

live show

Every outdoor festival is at the mercy of one thing; the weather! Riot Fest was no exception this year. It had rained overnight through most of the morning of Sunday September 17. Riot Fest through social media sent notification that due to the weather, the regularly scheduled 11AM gate opening would get pushed back to 2PM. This left most of us standing in line for many hours wondering what the ultimate impact would be on the day’s activities. As the crew took the measures to make the grounds safe, Riot Fest came out with a revised schedule which unfortunately cut all bands with a start time prior to 2PM. Definitely a major bummer, but otherwise would have been a nightmare having to revise the entire day’s schedule. The good folks at Riot Fest were able to quickly secure Bottom Lounge for a free late show with Free Throw and Microwave.

Right as the gates opened at two, I headed straight to the Radical Stage where Thursday had already begun their abbreviated set. Their original set time was 1:40 to 2:30. The band mentioned from the stage that their friends in Gorilla Biscuits were going to allow them part of their set time to perform a few songs if their set got completely cut. It is always great to see that even the bands at these festivals befriend each other and help out in any way possible. I was able to catch three of their songs including “Cross Out The Eyes,” “Understanding In a Car Crash,” and “At This Velocity.” The band played a sparse but energetic crowd who were trying to make the best of the awkward start to the day.

Afterwards, I head over to the Riot Stage to catch the indie pop duo from New York, the Cults. I was previously unaware of this band but had heard good things and really liked what I had the chance to check out in advance online. The duo was rounded out live with a rhythm section that kept the energy level up throughout the set. Lead vocalist Madeline Follin would switch between performing just lead as well as guitar. She seemed very humbled to be performing at the fest and thanked the crowd often. Her writing partner Brian Oblivion handled keys and synth. The band played material over their number of albums including “Spit You Out,” “Bad Things,” “Gilded Lily,” and “Always Forever.” They also projected colorful images throughout their set on the screens. Fans of indie pop and shoegaze should take note of this band.

I was next able to catch about 10 minutes of the 90s Manchester powerhouse RIDE. I was honestly not aware that this band were still performing. I have not kept up with that scene in many years. In my high school and college days, MTV’s 120 Minutes program featured many bands of this ilk on the regular. Their performance was tight and extremely professional. The crowd response overall was rather somber for Riot Fest, but I suppose that is to be expected for this genre.

Next for me were AFI who were one of my most anticipated sets of the weekend. I have not seen AFI perform live since the late 90s when they were still on Nitro Records. They obviously have changed drastically both in style and music since then. To be perfectly honest, I prefer their Sing The Sorrow and beyond material to their earlier work. The classic “Girl’s Not Grey” from the aforementioned album kicked off the hour long energetic set. The entire band was fully energized from the get go, specifically frontman Davey Havok. As I had expected, the set focused almost exclusively on their post Nitro Records era. The only exception was “The Days Of The Phoenix” from The Art Of Drowning. The hundreds if not thousands in attendance watching did not seem to mind at all as they screamed along to classics such as “Silver And Cold” and “Miss Murder.” Both “Begging For Trouble” and “Escape From Los Angeles” off their most recent effort Bodies went over well. Davey professed his love for Chicago multiple times in mentioning both Fireside Bowl and Rise Against. AFI brought much needed energy to what started out as a rather dismal Sunday.

Direct from the AFI set I made the trek over to the smaller Rebel Stage to catch Gorilla Biscuits. This is one band who I have been listening to for decades but never had the chance to see perform live. This was to be an album play of their one sole studio effort Start Today. The set started with a collection of horn players who perfectly nailed the intro to “New Direction” which is the album’s lead off track. This set the pace for the rest of this action packed set. As vocalist Civ stated many times throughout the set, “we can make this festival be a hardcore show.” The band continued to perform classics from the album such as “Degradation” and “Things We Say” which sent the crowd into a frenzy. Gorilla Biscuits also sprinkled select songs from their debut Revelation EP as well. Tracks like “High Hopes” and “Hold Your Ground” fit in perfectly. There really isn’t much else to be said from this veteran band’s performance. The band came to make a statement about the hardcore scene and way of life and they succeeded. Lead vocalist Civ also gave a shout out to the women and younger generation who are out there making new music and keeping things alive. If you get the chance to see Gorilla Biscuits, do not miss it.

Before I finish this review, I should mention that I already had tickets to the Danzig late night show across town before the Riot Fest lineup was even announced. Therefore, if you have read this far and have been waiting, I did not see the Cure set. I have checked the setlist and it looked amazing. I heard it was spectacular from those who witnessed it. The final band I was able to watch for the day was New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem. Those paying attention have noticed they have become rather active again in the past year or so. They have a new album dropping soon. I had previously only seen this band once so was eagerly awaiting this performance. The band started strong with “45” off of the Handwritten album from 2012. The rest of the set was the usual sing-a-long experience you expect from a GLA performance. One of my all time favorites “Old White Lincoln” followed. Other well known tracks such as “Mae,” “Handwritten,” and “American Slang” were also performed. The band treated the Riot Fest crowd to two new tracks in the form of title track “History Books” and “Positive Charge” which has already been released as a single. As an added bonus for Chicago, the band brought out Sincere Engineer leader Deanna Belos to join in on vocals for “The ’59 Sound.” I have a feeling that their new album will make many top 10 lists for 2023.

What started as a wet and cold day turned into a rather enjoyable event. All bands seemed to keep the energy and spirits up through the delays that plagued the start of Day 3. I think the band’s attitudes helped raise the positive vibes that helped make the final day of Riot Fest a success. I have not heard of any rumors or inside information regarding next year’s lineup. As usual, it will be interesting to start to hear people’s guesses. I am definitely looking forward to attending Riot Fest 2024.