A few short years ago, Riot Fest was nobody’s idea of a big deal. It was a few punk bands coming to a few venues around Chicago for a few days, and that was it. It is something very, very different now. The festival has expanded into big multi-day single-location festivals in three different cities (Chicago, Toronto, Denver), and its lineup has moved away from punk into a more general-interest thing that still keeps its roots in punk. But it has the crucial distinction of being a lineup put together by people who like music, rather than one that seems to be assembled by some corporate committee, as so many fests seem to be now. And this year’s lineup, in all three cities, is just impressive.
The Toronto show comes to Downsview Park 9/6-7, and it has the Cure and the massive Canadian act City And Colour on board as headliners. The rest of the bill is all over the alt-rock map. It has big-indie types like the National, Metric, the Flaming Lips, Death Cab For Cutie, Death From Above 1979, Stars, the New Pornographers, and Tokyo Police Club. But it also has more than a handful of legends: Social Distortion, Paul Weller, the Afghan Whigs, Bob Mould, Thurston Moore, the Buzzcocks, Clutch. And then there are the big punk bands: Billy Talent, Rise Against, the Dropkick Murphys, Taking Back Sunday, Alkaline Trio, Glassjaw, Title Fight, Lemuria, Pup, the Hotelier, Laura Stevenson.
The much bigger three-day Chicago show, which comes to Humboldt Park 9/12-14, has many of the same big acts: The Cure, the National, the Flaming Lips, Social Distortion, Taking Back Sunday, City And Colour, Paul Weller, the Dropkick Murphys, the Afghan Whigs, Thurston Moore, Clutch, Title Fight. But it also has Jane’s Addiction headlining, and the rest of the bill has so many riches that I don’t even know where to begin. Weezer! Slayer! Wu-Tang Clan! The Descendents! Tegan And Sara! The Offspring? Cheap Trick! Glenn Danzig’s reunited Samhain! Patti Smith! Gogol Bordello! Mastodon! Naked Raygun! Superchunk! The reunited Hot Snakes! The Get Up Kids! Mudhoney! Gwar, somehow! Bouncing Souls! Kurt Vile! La Dispute! An appearance from Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina! A bunch of question marks, signifying lineup additions yet to be announced! I wish I was going to this festival. (Is it weird that Jane’s Addiction are headlining a festival in Chicago that isn’t Lollapalooza? Is Perry Farrell actively helping out his competition? This seems weird.)
And then there’s the Denver show, which comes to May Farms 9/19-21 and boasts, once again, a bunch of the bands from the other two shows: The Cure, the National, Rise Against, Weezer, Social Distortion, the Flaming Lips, Wu-Tang, NOFX, the Dropkick Murphys, etc. It also has some notable additions, both of the awesome! and huh? varieties: Primus, Sublime With Rome, TV On The Radio, Violent Femmes, Dum Dum Girls, local heroes 3OH!3. Is Denver the only place where 3OH!3 still get festival bookings? Similarly, are Primus just going to be gods in Colorado forever because of the South Park theme song? Let us know in the comments.
For info on all three Riot Fests, head over here.