14 Riot Fest Bands We Can't Wait To See This Weekend

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 10, 2015 7:38PM

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Photo credit: Jessica Mlinaric/Chicagoist

Despite every obstacle thrown at them over the last few months, the folks at Riot Fest have proven unstoppable as they prepare to open the gates on the festival in Douglas Park tomorrow afternoon. The bill is stocked with acts to appeal to all ages across a stunning collection of genres, so it’s safe to say that if you’re attending, you’ll have a good time no matter where you end up on the festival grounds over the next three days. However, if you’re looking for suggestions, here are some of our surefire best bets to take in over the weekend.

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Death, photo via their Facebook page

Death on the Rock Stage 1:15 p.m. on Friday
Death stunned us when they performed at Empty Bottle last summer and there is nothing to suggest they won't impress again at Riot Fest. Bobbie Duncan very well could be one of the best guitar players at the festival, as his range of abilities is astounding. Not only does he find great tones, his phrasing is tasteful during solos and makes that guitar wail. He is equally impressive laying down a syncopated beat that bites as hard as it grooves. The rhythm section of Dennis and Bobbie Hackney is also pretty damn good, and when it all comes together they whip up a mad frenzy of punk power that will make the kids cower. Formed in Detroit in 1971, Death didn't perform from 1977 to 2009, but they play like they're making up for lost time. —Casey Moffitt

Fishbone on the Riot Stage at 2 p.m. on Friday
Fishbone are legends, and while I’ve seen live shows of theirs that were hit or miss, they’ve never been boring. The big thing about Fishbone is that you literally don’t know which version of the band you’re going to get. Are they going to command that you swim into the mosh? Or will they slap you upside the head like Sly Stone and deliver an ”Everyday Sunshine” set? Or will they ask you to “Party At Ground Zero” with a heavy ska set? Most likely it’s going to be all of the above. I’m certainly curious to see how it all comes together this time around. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

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Faith No More, photo by Dustin Rabin

Faith No More on the Rock Stage at 7:45 p.m. on Friday
Faith No More played one of our most anticipated shows—possibly in years—in May and the incredible anticipation leading up to that event was countered with a set by the band that exceeded expectations. Mike Patton and his darkly merry crew of musical mixologists have been delivering sets that span the length of their three-decade career, and the amazing thing is that the oldest songs sound right at home next to the new material. Their latest album proves they’re not exactly waxing nostalgic or stuck in neutral, so that’s more a sign of just how ahead of their time the band has always been. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Prayers on the Radicals Stage at 7:30 p.m. on Friday
How long do you think Morrissey would last in a San Diego gang? Lucky for him, Prayers has taken the lead on fusing the synth-fueled sounds of our favorite mournful new-wave minstrels with the gritty lyrical realities of life in the Sherman Heights Grant Park 27 gang. Frontman Leafar Seyer spits powerful tales of street life over Dave Parley’s industrial beatsmith-ing in a genre they call “cholo goth.” Their recent EP, featuring Travis Barker on drums, updates influences like the Pet Shop Boys with stylistic SoCal hardcore. —Jessica Mlinaric

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Ice Cube

Ice Cube with Special Guests on the Roots Stage at 9 p.m. on Friday
Ice Cube’s special guests are MC Ren and DJ Yella and collectively they make up three quarters of what remains of NWA. Eazy-E was a casualty of the ‘90s AIDS epidemic. And let’s be honest, Dr. Dre probably isn’t showing up. If Dr. Dre was in this iteration of NWA, they’d be headlining Coachella with an Eazy-E hologram. Released in the midst of the LA race riots, Cube’s solo work throughout the early ‘90s was incendiary. And like the L.A. Ice Cube narrated and rebelled against, modern Chicago is a city besieged with violence, mass surveillance, racial segregation and a disproportionate placement of wealth into the hands of the city’s elite. Ice Cube covering NWA material in Lawndale seems appropriate and we’re curious to see how it’ll go. —Justin Freeman

Swervedriver on the Rock Stage at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday
Swervedriver released I Wasn’t Born To Lose You earlier this year, and while it had been 17 years since their last album the band still managed to deliver something lovely and full sounding. I thought of it as shoe-gaze comfort food; something familiar and expected that left you more full than you expected. It looks like it might be a little rainy and chilly Saturday afternoon, so their wash of sound might be just the thing to warm you up at the time. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Meat Wave on the Revolt Stage 3 p.m. on Saturday
Chicago has seen plenty of homegrown off-kilter punk bands, and you can add Meat Wave to that ever-growing list. On their new album Delusion Moon, out next week, they play agitated riffs that build into strong melodies. But the show belongs to drummer Ryan Wizniak, who can punish the skins as well as anyone, and shift the songs into a furious gear of pure speed. As wild as Wizniak can be, he always holds it down and propels the songs with relentless beats, but never escapes the realm of good taste. Plus, hurray for local rock! —Casey Moffitt

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Babes In Toyland, photo via their Facebook page

Babes In Toyland on the Rebel Stage at 3:25 p.m. on Saturday
Kat Bjelland’s howl is a force of nature established during her tenure fronting Babes In Toyland in the early ‘90s. The band was never very comfortable with labels, and never quite fit in the mainstream into which they were flung with the rest of the grunge / punk / alternative nation scenester frenzy they got sucked into. The band largely ceased in 1997 and only last year announced they were even considering a reunion. Having never seen them “back in the day,” and with Riot Fest being one of their first appearances since reuniting, I’m looking forward to seeing (hoping) this trio can still channel and focus the full primal howl they were once capable of delivering. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Joyce Manor on the Revolt Stage at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday
Last year’s Never Hungover Again from Joyce Manor showed a band that sounded like they were capable of throwing a hell of a house concert while still being capable of translating those melodies into more structured settings. It was also their first LP for Epitaph records, another sign this quartet might be ready for the big time. Though they hail from Torrance, California their sound feels more driven by Midwestern power pop with its pedal pushed so far onto the floor the gears occasionally grind with glee. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Merle Haggard on the Riot Stage 7 p.m. on Saturday
Merle Haggard is an American icon and country music hero who still puts on a hell of a show. The 78-year-old performer is making Riot Fest just on of 30 stops on this tour, which give you an idea just how tough this old bird is. The "Okie From Muskogee" may have written some pretty square tunes in his early years, but he seems to have mellowed out as he's aged. Merle told us that if we "don't love it, leave it" in "The FIghtin' Side of Me" back in 1969, then turned to writing protest songs in the mid-aughts when no one else wanted to go there, even in the midst of a misguided war. His longtime backing band, The Strangers, plays as tight as a banker's smile, and you won't regret checking out this set. Merle can be a little finicky, sometimes playing his hits and sometimes playing whatever he wants, but either way it will be worth the while to go out of the way to see this music legend. —Casey Moffitt

Hum on the Riot Stage at 2:25 p.m. on Sunday
Hum cut their teeth in downstate Illinois in the early ‘90s, trafficking in the mixture of heavily distorted guitars driving off-kilter melodies that was popular in the Champaign-Urbana scene of the time. Over the years they refined that approach until they reached a point where each song felt like a sledgehammer, slowly grinding you down under its weight, leaving you with a sense of exhausted euphoria. The band was largely inactive beginning in 2000, playing only the very occasional show here and there since then. But this year has seen a renewed flurry of activity in the group, leading to a short tour with the similar sounding band Failure and this Riot Fest stop. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Andrew WK on the Rebel Stage at 5:05 p.m. on Sunday
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L7 on the Rebel Stage at 6:40 p.m. on Sunday
Both L7’s Smell the Magic and Bricks Are Heavy were in heavy (pun intended) rotation at every college party, dorm room and student apartment (including mine) when they were released. Mixing catchy hooks with Sabbath-like slabs of heavy guitar, the band absolutely slayed. Any time you needed a rush of adrenaline, all you needed to do was fire up "Shove" and you were suddenly punching through walls with the resulting swagger. And the slow chug of “Pretend We’re Dead” vaulted them into fame and spurred a million fist-pumping sing-alongs. Expect both swagger and fist-pumping when they return to Chicago on Sunday after being away for far too long. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Knuckle Puck on the Revolt Stage at 8:45 p.m. on Sunday
Knuckle Puck may or may not ever be as big as Fall Out Boy, but they just might be Chicago’s next big pop-punk band. Their debut album Copacetic was released a few months ago on Rise Records and debuted at 61 on the Billboard’s Top 200 chart. Singles like “Disdain” and “True Contrite” are large and full of urgency with captivating hooks and muscular breakdowns. We recently saw them open for Modern Baseball and live they’re full of magnetic confidence and energy. Immediately after Riot Fest, they’re going to the UK for a few dates and then they’re heading out on their first nationwide headlining tour. Things are starting to happen for Knuckle Puck and we’re excited.—Justin Freeman

Riot Fest is Sept. 11-13 in Douglas Park and tickets are still available.