Riot Fest 2015

Chicago, IL

Sept 11th- 13th

Riot Fest 2015, this summer, stood as an homage to that sacred fight against the “Establishment” over the past 50 years. There were key faces, reunions, and debuts much like they have had in years prior, but something this time was different. Now, it very well could be the change in overall scenery since the venue moved, although, the 12th and 24th ward held its own. Somehow it just felt like something was missing. Even with a more accessible and simple lay out of Douglas Park, celebrated by the crowd over all, the tragically scenic bottle neck passages between stages in Humbolt were missed. There was something else though; something almost a bit more elusive. It felt like passion wasn’t fully there. Not from the festival itself, per say, or the organizers really, they dealt with quite a bit to keep it in the city, but more so from the city itself. As a whole the masses felt somewhat benign, due to what I wonder, in a way that contradicted the theme of the whole event to “Riot!”



Now ironically this is the type of crowd that would bring their kids to a carnival while System of a Down was raging in the background on a Saturday night. (I mean I know I would. Start ‘em young). But, children sometimes don’t always know how to play nice with others, as was the case with Steve Sneider during that set. “At least he’s still breathing.” I mean it’s a rock show, but really they were only ones that I could see getting anyone pumped. System carried what looked like to me as one of if not the largest crowds of the entire festival. To get across field took over 20 min when earlier in the day it took 3. That’s cool. That’s how it’s supposed to be. But, what with the rest of the fest? I mean the line up was sick. The acts are all world class, having left their mark on music history for decades beyond their inception. How is it that the city just seemed so distant?


Let’s look at the positives No Doubt was a treat giving us the sound and style we all anticipated. Tenacious D was for sure entertaining. Rancid killed it though you could just barely tell from the crowd (This one kind of threw me off)…


Flogging Molly

Flogging had a fun little mosh pit circulating but rocking just like I remember in high school.


Alkaline was definitely making moves.


Coheed and Cambria

Coheed and Cambria destroyed the stage, looking like a real life version of “Blanka” from Street Fighter. (His sounds revitalized the reasons why I am a fan.) Rodrigo y Gabriella took a minute to get off the ground, but as soon as they hit their Megadeath cover it felt right on track.



Billy Idol

Alexisonfire, Ice Cube, Damian Marley, Billy “fucking” Idol, I could rattle them all off, but you get it. This is why we go. We dance, we thrash, we cheer, drink beer and all the while we bond with the people around us, kind of. See this is not a festival like all of its other psychedelic peers. Oh there were party favors; let’s be real, it’s a festival. But, not the type you see more and more of now a day. No, this is the Whiskey slamm’n, joint flick’n, beer mongers that we all know and love. Just this time it felt like they were ready to call it a night by the time the cops shut down Snoops set. And, when I say shut down I mean on the DOT.


Snoop Dog

Your choice of food was either fried, fried, or triple fried anything. Not complaining when you’re drunk, but the badass food trucks were left tucked away by the Riot Speaks stage. Now, RIOT SPEAKS, this was cool. Getting some insight to the inner working of what’s going on around you is not something you get anywhere else. So, hell yeah to that! After getting some knowledge laid down, you could find a donation run Arcade just around the corner. That’s right they had Rampage! Winning! Then to top it off you got a sideshow circus. Legit freaky deaks! Um, Awesome! So, what’s the deal then? Why wasn’t the crowd beside themselves with child like glee from the sick and twisted carnival that they all came to see?


Well, if you paid for any of the levels of VIP then you may have had a reason since it was pretty lack luster for the price. You still had to by drinks and wait in long lines for food. But, you got a nice limited seating Lounge area to mellow or watch the bands from a live stream. (If that’s your thing) The top level Super VIP felt like something that I experienced at a North side Bar mitzvah. Easily expensive, so don’t get me wrong, but cookie cutter. It almost felt like a statement was being made about the price I could have paid. Sorry, Sean and Mike, gotta be real here. If you are gonna put massage chairs, lounges and short cut access out there for what you are clearing after over head, you gotta give some more love to the creative lay out of it. Press was ultimately not allowed in the VIP, so, technically I wasn’t supposed to me there but just goes to show you where you can find yourself when making new friends. Thanks Frank. Upon entering the forbidden zone with our newfound friends I realized very quickly, how luck we got, and that in order to maneuver the grounds freely you needed a combination of bracelets. Sixteen if remember correctly. Credentials for days! Every area was ruled by another bracelet. But, only “One to Rule them all!” Our locally hired crew from S3 controlled the flow of the population and made a valiant attempt to hold the lines but people were still jumping fences. Can’t shut a poor rocker down! They plugged that hole quick though, so, hats off.




One of these things is not like the other



If you were lucky to get back stage or even on the stage during the sets you had to have super special bracelets to make the cut, other wise you weren’t going up there and that’s that. Even the photographers were not allowed to have their allotted 15 min under the artist in the pit during the Headliner sets. No, those spots were then reserved for the uber special bracelets. I couldn’t understand this move, really; I chuckled to see iPhones instead of Pro-cams taking shots of the headliners so I thought it was slightly ridiculous, but who am I to judge? I didn’t have to pay $180,000 to prep and repair a city park, after getting kicked out of my home, and negotiating with a hospital board to let me move in next-door with ten’s of thousands of my friends. I have no clue what it takes to run a multi-million dollar machine. But, it was fun and I had a good time. One better be enjoying themselves at a fest, other wise go home!


All in all it was well done even though it was a quiet Riot compared to years past, but it held it’s own in its new home and I got to interviewed Gwar! Heck yeah!


Check out the entire photo album from Riot Fest 2015 here!

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