Riot Fest Returns For A Fun, Warm And Safe Weekend

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 5:02 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn


Riot Fest made it’s return to Douglass Park this pack weekend to the delight of thousands of attendees. This year’s iteration featured one of the festival’s most eclectic lineups in years, and that’s saying something when considering Riot Fest routinely delivers diverse lineups.

The headliners consisted of one of the bigger hip hop acts on the planet in Run The Jewels, one of the most successful bands to ever come out of Chicago in the Smashing Pumpkins and one heck of a replacement for Nine Inch Nails in Iowa natives Slipknot. Rounding out the lineup were the likes of Machine Gun Kelly, Devo, Dropkick Murphys, Living Colour, The Flaming Lips and Rise Against. Needless to say, there was a lot to enjoy this past weekend. Here were the acts or observations that stood out above everything else this year:

1) The Midwest, not just Chicago, was well represented all weekend long. Alkaline Trio, The Smashing Pumpkins, Lupe Fiasco, Vic Mensa, Rise Against, The Bollweevils and more are all Chicago natives and as stated before, Slipknot comes from neighboring Iowa. It was nice to see that much representation from home town acts after having to take the previous year off. Another Chicago native, CM Punk, also made a cameo during Living Colour’s Friday set. AEW wrestling fans know that Punk uses Living Colour’s “Cult Of Personality” as his entrance music and has since going back to his days in the WWE.

“I can think of a couple ways to describe (Living Colour), and one is Best In The World,” Punk said, using one of his catch phrases to describe the band he loves.

2) Veteran acts were littered all over the lineup this year while also drawing some of the largest crowds of the weekend. It was nice to see so many younger people packing the crowds to see many of the veteran acts all weekend. Devo, Anthrax, Living Colour, The Flaming Lips and Rancid all sported crowds that made it rather tough to walk around their crowd to get to any other stage.

Devo, in particular, drew an enormous crowd. It was nice to see the level of appreciation for a band who is well overdue to be inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame. Very few acts from the 80′s can boast the high level of influence (maybe outside of fellow Riot Fest veteran Gary Numan) that Devo can claim. They were an act that were significantly ahead of their time, which can absolutely explain how they’ve grown in popularity over the years versus fading like so many other acts do.

3) The weekend was hot....REALLY hot. Riot Fest seems to have a knack of either drawing rain or extreme heat. This year was a little of the former (from about 7:30pm-8:45pm) and a lot of the later, with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees on Sunday.

Water was in high demand as a result. The lines for the filling station routinely were 100s deep the entire weekend. Trees were also in high demand as festival attendees looked for any break from the heat. Thousands graced the beer tents by the Radicals stage located by the food vendors. The reason? That was one of the few areas on the park grounds that is almost completely covered by trees. It was also the perfect spot to catch a break and listen to great music, like Sublime With Rome on Friday afternoon.

4) Riot Fest again will be known for featuring acts that will soon be selling out arenas, if not football stadiums. This year, the artist that stood out the most in this department was Machine Gun Kelly, whose popularity seems to grow ten fold every single year.

The crowd for his set on Sunday looks to be 40,000 people minimum. People began camping out for good spots as early as 3:30 that afternoon. The good news for those who camped out was that they were graced with a great show. Early in the show, Kelly opted to get a better view of the crowd by scaling the lighting scaffolding. Even more impressive was his ability to do so while also singing.

If he were to ever return to Riot Fest, he’ll definitely be a main stage headliner. The fact that Kelly was performing at the same time as Slipknot was simply incredible. Major festivals would love to sport those two acts as headliners each day, let alone having both perform on the same day at the same time.

5) Safety was the absolute top priority for Riot Fest. All festivals have made this claim in 2021 but Riot Fest truly backed it up. You had to show proof of vaccination prior to entering or proof of a negative test from a maximum of 48 hours prior. Some thought maybe that was just talk but quickly found out they were not kidding.

They also had on site testing available for anyone who needed it. Those in the press who didn’t have a vaccine card had to stay in a line to get tested on site. This was done to protect the artists and crew who interact with us behind the scenes. Riot Fest sincerely needs to be applauded for being likely the safest festival in 2021 so far. Fall festivals were hopefully taking notes because everyone and everything really felt safe.

All and all, Riot Fest was the perfect return to the outdoor music festival so many of us have missed. It will be interesting to see how they top this year in 2022. We already know The Misfits will be returning and for the first time in close to 10 years, My Chemical Romance will be performing live in Chicago. Hopefully the acts that had to cancel this year will be able to perform next year in Nine Inch Nails, Pixies, Faith No More, Dinosaur Jr. and Mr. Bungle. If not, Riot Fest will certainly secure other amazing acts that will entertain us all. How do we know this? Because they do it every year.

Copyright 2021 WIFR. All rights reserved.