RECAP: Riot Fest 2019, Day Three
After two thrilling days of music, the final day of Riot Fest marked both the end of the festival’s 2019 run, as well as indirectly the end of the 2019 major summer festival season. Thankfully, a host of great bands, as well as some legendary moments made it a day to remember.
Things started off early with Save Ferris, who kicked off a ska-heavy lineup on the Rise stage Sunday. The band is a veteran of the Warped Tour/festival scene, and while they’ve grown into a later stage of their career, the band used their expertise to get people moving. With frontwoman Monique Powell calling out individual fans, amongst other stage antics that have become part of their show, things were off to a solid start.
The lineup of the day had several different themes, including many woman-fronted bands, like currently buzzing band Skating Polly. The trio definitely showed an influence from bands like Riot Stage headliner Bikini Kill, but presented in a way that resonated with younger fans. The band is already a decade in, but continue to break through to new audiences with performances like their powerful set on Sunday afternoon.
Riot Fest is always going to be Riot Fest, though, and there’s an appreciation for making their booking choices just a little bit absurd. In the middle of the day, the Radicals Stage got a short set from The Village People. Yes, the YMCA-dancing, costume clad, disco act came out to a very large crowd who had to take in the spectacle of their performance. Phones were out in droves, they called it “Riot Festival”, and people crowdsurfed to hits like “Macho Man” and “In The Navy”. Fun was had by all. Props to The Village People for being good sports.
Back to the Rise Stage, ska veterans Less Than Jake put on their usual brand of fun, energetic live shows with a healthy amount of friendly banter. Their was one particularly interesting moment, though, as frontman Chris DeMakes thanked Chicago for supporting the band through their appearances at a litany of local venues throughout the decades of their career. It’s a true testament to the band’s staying power in over 25 years of staying on the road.
A huge crowd made their way over to the Riot Stage later in the afternoon, as Against Me! gave a special performance of both “Reinventing Axl Rose” and “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”. Laura Jane Grace called the show “once in a lifetime” that the band would perform both albums, and it does show the evolution of not only Against Me! as a band, but of Grace as well, from the band’s first album to their first after her announcement of being transgender. The Chicago crowd mobbed the stage, with equal enthusiasm for both records.
Back at the Radicals Stage, another special moment came to Chicago, as The B-52’s played what very well could be their last Chicago show as part of one of their last tours. While the band isn’t done, according to Fred Schneider, there are plans to slow down live shows. With that said, a huge crowd came to the stage, many in B-52s shirts bought earlier in the day, and danced along to up-tempo hits from throughout the new wave band’s 40-plus year career. Aruguably the slowest song of the whole set was major-hit “Roam”, which was greeted by a massive singalong. Things culminated with “Rock Lobster” complete with crowdsurfers once again and inflatable lobsters bouncing around like beach balls in the crowd.
Another big moment for the day came over at the Rise Stage, as The Starting Line performed, celebrating 20 years as a band, after several years had been on hiatus. It wasn’t their first show back, but their first in the area, and the crowd was overwhelming to frontman Kenny Vasoli. He played nervous yet humble on-stage, until the music kicked in, saying that there were “way too many people here” and saying that some songs were “the best Starting Line song” or “the best album before we pulled the plug”. It felt like there was sincere appreciation from the band, and that was given back in big fan reactions, including screams along to anthem “The Best Of Me” to close the set.
Sunday definitely felt like the most crowded day of Riot Fest, and most of that crowd made their way over to the Roots Stage for The Raconteurs set after the sun had gone down. In fairness, they probably had one of the loudest sets of the festival, with Jack White and co. doing what they do best. Had Bikini Kill not been playing one of only a small number of shows in over 20 years to close out the night, The Raconteurs would’ve been a great candidate to close the show.
While Bikini Kill brought the riot grrrl energy to the Riot Stage to close out the night, there was one last big moment to close our Riot Fest 2019, as Taking Back Sunday celebrated two albums on the Rise Stage. Debut album “Tell All Your Friends” and the band’s third release “Louder Now” were played back to back in full, giving everyone an emo singalong to call it a day on. In case you’re wondering, the band’s second album, “Where You Want To Be” was played in full throughout the band’s touring schedule this year, so having their other early releases showcased made for a change of pace for the band and a great way to send off Riot Fest 2019.
The summer festival season is in the books for 2019 (at least for the most part in the Midwest), and Riot Fest found a way to send things out in style. While the festival’s slogan is “Riot Fest Sucks”, it certainly didn’t this year.