16 Bands (And Other Delights) Not To Miss At Riot Fest This Weekend

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 15, 2016 7:00PM

RF2015.jpg
Riot Fest, 2015 / Photo: Jessica Mlinaric

This year’s Riot Fest is an embarrassment of musical riches. Since the organizers tend to follow a “book what we like, not what will guarantee sales” approach, the bill tends to feel a step apart from the usual festival retreads from which most other summer events suffer. That’s not to say there aren’t repeat performers (hello again Andrew W.K., The Flaming Lips and NOFX) but at least they tend to show up frequently for reasons other than to ensure outsize popularity.

That means even if you aimlessly wander the grounds for all three days this weekend when the Chicago Riot Fest lands in Douglas Park, you could still stumble over great band after great band—even if you’ve never heard of them. But if you're looking for a little guidance, here are a few of our favorites from the festival’s undercard, along with our suggestions for which headliner to see each night.


FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16

2016_09_diarrhea_planet.jpg

Diarrhea Planet on the Rock Stage at 2:15 p.m.
What has four guitars, a bass, drums, numerous singers and songs that stretch the outer boundaries of rock 'n' roll? Why, Nashville’s Diarrhea Planet, of course. The band has hit Chicago a number of times over the past few years, and we’ve made a point to attend every show because when these guys hit the stage, a riotous party always ensues. The music is aggressively poppy, and tends to trigger wild dance parties where similar combos might trigger a mosh pit. If you’re looking for a great way to kick off early Friday afternoon, then get thee to the Rock Stage for their set.

—————————————————


2016_09_laura_stevenson.jpg

Laura Stevenson on the Storyheart Stage at 4:30 p.m.
Laura Stevenson may be one of the most “conventional” straightforward power-pop acts on the bill, but last year’s Cocksure won us over full stop. Her heartfelt lyrics and solid hooks will likely leave you wandering the grounds surprised that you’re humming her songs under your breath—even if this is your first exposure to her songcraft.

—————————————————


Ween on the Roots Stage at 7:30 p.m.
Ween began as something of a stoner joke in the ‘80s, the underground indie/college-rock equivalent of Cheech and Chong, with numerous comedy sketches interspersed between their deeply weird songs. At some point the duo morphed into incredibly accomplished musical chameleons, releasing albums that ranged from deeply funky soul to glam rock to straightforward pop. Their sets soon grew legendary, marked by winding improvisation and reinventions of their deep catalog. So after a few years on hiatus, this performance should surprise and delight.

—————————————————


2016_09_flaming_lips.jpg
Photo by George Salisbury

Headliner to see: The Flaming Lips on the Riot Stage at 8:45 p.m.
This is a tough one, especially since The Flaming Lips are up against NOFX—a band that never fails to deliver a solid, goofy and simultaneously politically blistering set. But in the end we’re always curious to see what new stage props Wayne Coyne and crew have constructed in his Oklahoma City backyard. And each year the band delves more deeply into its back catalog, transforming their sets from Day-Glo affairs into something a little darker and more disturbing. We can’t wait to see what this year holds.


SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 17

2016_09_summer_cannibals.jpg
Photo by John Clark

Summer Cannibals on the Rebel Stage at 3 p.m.
Summer Cannibals specializes in hard charging rock with powerful female vocals, straight out of Portland. Expect lots of stomping on fuzz boxes punctuated by occasional metal-ish guitar flourishes in the group's scrappy indie mix.

—————————————————


2016_09_bob_mould.jpg
Photo by Alicia J. Rose

Bob Mould on the Riot Stage at 4:15 p.m.
At this point Chicago can almost claim Bob Mould as our own. Over the years, Mould has played Chicago so frequently he even added a local musician, Jason Narducy, as a permanent member of his power trio, which also includes Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster. Mould may also be one of the oldest performers of the weekend, but his recent albums show him rocking with the same fury that drove his earlier iconic bands, Husker Du and Sugar. So don’t expect to sit back and leisurely enjoy; lean into it. You’ll need to since his shows’ volume levels can inch towards gloriously punishing.

—————————————————


2016_09_white_lung.jpg
Photo by Rick Rodney

White Lung on the Storyheart Stage at 7:30 p.m.
Canada’s White Lung mixes punk with a dash of prog and a smidge of new wave on this year’s Paradise. We’ve never seen the band live so we’re really looking forward to seeing how the crowd takes in their sound. Will their be dancing? Slam dancing? Arms-crossed swaying? All of the above? The only thing we know for sure is we’ll be out there singing along.

—————————————————


2016_09_MorrisseyShow.jpg
Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Firefly

Headliner to see: Morrissey on the Riot Stage at 8:15 p.m.
Despite a scare earlier this year that Morrissey was going to back out, we’re really looking forward to seeing the king of clammy mope rock take the stage Saturday night. Recent set lists have spanned his career, from his days in The Smiths through recent solo releases. So comb out your hair into a suitable pompadour and settle in for the legend’s only North American date this year.


SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 18

2016_09_bleached.jpg
Photo by Nicole Anne Robbins

Bleached on the Rock Stage at 12:15 p.m.
The first time we heard “Dead In Your Head” off Bleach’s 2013 release Ride Your Heart we fell in love with it’s Breeders-esque shuffling beat and sing-song vocals. This year’s Welcome The Worms amps up both the band’s energy and penchant for writing timelessly catchy choruses that seem genetically engineered to play in the background as you frolic in the waves of some eternally sun-drenched beach.


—————————————————


2016_09_all_dogs.jpg
Photo by Nick Fancher

All Dogs on the Rebel Stage at 2 p.m.
We wrote about All Dogs a few months ago, and what we said then still holds true—perhaps even more so now that we’ve seen them live. “All Dogs won us over with their self-titled 7" in 2013; their guitars were loud but their mood was mellow, and singer Maryn Jones has these plaintive vocals shoot straight to one's heart. The band's latest album, Kicking Every Day, polishes this approach—the instruments are a little more separate and distinct in the mix—but the result is still a blanket of sound you want to fall back into.”


—————————————————

Juliette Lewis & The Licks on the Rock Stage at 2:30 p.m.
Yes, that Juliette Lewis. Most people know her as an actor, but she’s one of those rare thespians whose true heart seems to lay on a stage being shredded by pure, unbridled rawk. We’ve seen her in both festival settings and small, sweaty clubs, and each time Lewis and her band tore the place apart. The weekend is filled with can’t-miss sets, but this one is pretty high up on our personal list.

—————————————————


2016_09_andrew_wk_party.jpg
A political cause we can get behind

Andrew W.K. on the Rise Stage at 2:50 p.m.
PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY!!!

—————————————————

Death Grips on the Rise Stage at 7:45 p.m.
Death Grips is on this list filed under “we’ll believe it when we see it.” Every single show we’ve hoped to see the duo play has been derailed by last-minute cancellations. The group's incinerating mix of hip-hop, metal, punk and avant-noise is creepy and deeply disturbing (in a really good way), so we truly hope we get to see what it transforms into in a live setting.


—————————————————

2016_09_the_misfits.jpg
The Original Misfits in Denver with Riot Fest founder Michael Petryshyn, photo courtesy Riot Fest


Headliner to see: The Original Misfits on the Riot Stage at 8:45 p.m.

C’mon, do you really need us to tell you not to miss this historic event? When the Replacements reunited for Riot Fest a few years ago, it sorta made sense. But The Misfits? This was one reunion we were certain would never happen. Boy, are we glad we were wrong.


ALL WEEKEND LONG

On the off chance you have some free time between bands, there’s plenty to keep you busy, including carnival rides—the view from the ferris wheel is always astounding, especially as you’re serenaded by whoever's playing the nearest stage—and the Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow Revue. If you find yourself bored at any point this weekend, it’s your own damn fault.

Riot Fest is Sept. 16-18 in Douglas Park and limited tickets are still available.