As classes start to begin all over the country, it seems as if all the time for fun has dried up. However, festival season is still going strong, and Riot Fest Chicago shines bright as the last dying light of summer fun in the Midwest. Even though there was a short rain spell and gloomy skies throughout the entire first day, this didn’t stop Rioters, an interesting mix of punks, hip-hop heads, and parents, from enjoying all that Riot Fest had to offer.
As the gates opened at noon, slowly the masses began to fill Douglas Park to see the opening acts. It was a sluggish start to the day, but that all changed when pop-punk group Real Friends took the stage. Performing in front of a mixed crowd of diehard fans and casual onlookers, the Tinley Park natives blazed through hit songs from their debut album Maybe This Place Is The Same And We’re Just Changing and their earlier EPs. The band transferred their energy to the crowd, and once the show was over, the crowd went off into the festival psyched for the rest of the day.
Shortly after, a large mass of older attendees gathered around the Rock Stage to watch rock fossils Living Colour.
“We’re going to burn this mother**ker down, starting with the various wheel,” exclaimed front man Corey Glover, and they did just that. Sound problems pushed the start time back a couple minutes, so the only option was to play a nonstop performance full of showmanship and amazing solos. Just as the set was reaching the end, the crowd was given what they wanted, a performance of classic “Cult of Personality.”
Even when there is a lull in interest for the currently performing bands, Riot Fest offers plenty of activities to keep all festival-goers happy. In the middle of Douglas Park is a carnival, fully equipped with Ferris wheel, tilt-a-whirl, and plenty of carnival games. If these don’t interest you, then the more curious will enjoy the Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow, a genuine circus show inside the festival.
The late afternoon was filled with aggressive performances from metalcore and punk rock groups, such as Every Time I Die, Eagles of Death Metal, and Atreyu. However, the show most anticipated by myself was of American-Indian rapper Heems. Known for his role in Das Racist, Heems has evolved into his own entity, fully equipped with songs about his American experience and heartbreak. Having started late, Heems had to cut a couple songs at the end in order to play “Flag Shopping,” a telling story of life for brown people post-9/11, surprisingly the only time 9/11 was mentioned the entire day.
As the afternoon shows wrapped up, crowds of people flocked to go see Celtic punk legends Flogging Molly. The sun came out brief to shine down on all the Rioters losing their mind to the fast paced music. Going through all of their classic tunes, it was hard not to get dragged into the energy emanating from the mosh pits scattered throughout the crowd. In between songs, Dave King assured the crowd that they were beautiful and was loving all the punks in the crowd. He even took a brief break to point out the various mohawks in the crowd. The band just fed off of the excitement of the crowd, and repaid them in what was one of the more electrifying performances of the day.
The night came to a close as Rioters were faced with the tough decision of seeing No Doubt, Ice Cube, and Iggy Pop. In the end, I chose to pay my respects to the OG Ice Cube. Coming out the most grandiose introduction video I have ever seen, featuring shots of Cube holding Earth in the palm of his hand, Ice Cube had arrived at the Roots Stage. Playing through his classics, Ice Cube had the entire crowd moving. The funniest moment of the show was without a doubt Ice Cube shamelessly plugging “Straight Outta Compton,” even playing the trailer on the screen for all to see. The spectacle quick changed from funny to awesome as Cube brought out his son, who portrays his father in the film, MC Ren, and DJ Yella to deliver N.W.A. nostalgia. As “F**k the Police” was played, a video containing clips of recent police brutality incidents were shown, a pertinent reminder of a real issue in our country today. As the night came to an end, Ice Cube closed with crowd favorite “It Was A Good Day,” and he was absolutely right. Today was a good day.