Riot Fest Chicago: Misfits, Rob Zombie, GWAR, Dillinger, Deftones + More (Recap + Photos)
Whoa-oh-oohh! Riot Fest Chicago is in the books with over 120 acts who took the stage in Douglas Park over the course of a three day weekend. The punk-focused fest was home to icons such as NOFX, GWAR, Bad Religion and so many more, with the most scintillating coming in the form of a Misfits reunion. After years of public feuds, Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only buried the proverbial hatchet, brought Doyle back into the fold and delivered a 26 song set to a roughly 50,000 person crowd. But that was the end of Sunday night, so let’s take it back to the beginning…
Gates opened at 11AM on Friday morning and many were lined up, sweating it out in denim-laden vests, shorts, jeans and anything else that will allow a needle and thread to brand the garment with a patch. Some were eager just to take in the surroundings before three days of music and others had eyes and hearts set on the limited run of Riot Fest packs of Garbage Pale Kids cards.
Walking into the immense Douglas Park, it took some time to get acclimated to the seven stages and their respective positions (six of them began with 'R') in addition to outlining which band would be hitting what stage and when. As with all major festivals, it was impossible to catch each band with overlapping set times, so bouncing from stage to stage was an absolute necessity.
Fu Manchu were one of the earliest acts to play as rain threatened to once again bless Riot Fest as it historically had in previous years. The threatening skies held off and turned into an unseasonably warm day and by 2PM Dillinger Escape Plan stormed the Rise Stage as the heat began to settle in. The band put on an thrill-seeking set that hit a climax when guitarist Ben Weinman and vocalist Greg Puciato crowd walked (not crowd surfed!) mid-song as fans kept their heroes upright. Next, it was off to GWAR, who held a tournament for the Presidency, mutilating both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the process as GWAR retained their championship belts.
Refused’s punked-up brand of hardcore was one of the best sets of the day and NOFX frontman Fat Mike acknowledged that Refused’s Dennis Lyxzén was the best frontman of the day. 3Teeth thankfully had a post-sunset performance as their light show was an integral part of their performance and they also noted the irony of performing industrial music outside in nature.
NOFX battled sound issues throughout their set (a common issue for several bands over the weekend), but their performance is just too much fun to get down on technical issues for too long. Fat Mike’s stage banter provided a lighthearted mood on the closing night of the first day as they delivered all the hits under a criminally small banner that aligned itself with the group’s cheeky humor.
Day Two was a bit lighter on the bands that fall under our umbrella, but it was made up for as two punk legends had sets later in the day. With the new album Hypercaffium Spazzinate out, the Descendents tore off an hour long set lined with the classics as well as new hits like “Victim of Me.” Shortly after, So-Cal punks Social Distortion played right as the sun sank below the horizon, performing all of ‘White Light, White Heat, White Trash’ to a rabid crowd.
The final day of Riot Fest was a bit of a mix for everyone. Old school rockers were treated to Dee Snider’s new solo material as well as two Twisted Sister classics to which the still ripped frontman asked the crowd to raise their hand if they hate vaginal dryness among entertaining bits of banter. Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins performed with his classic rock / metal cover band Chevy Metal and even brought Snider out to sing Mountain's "Mississippi Queen" and Queen's "Tie Your Mother Down."
For the fans of the heavier side of the fest, Andrew W.K. was in tip-top partying form, Underoath brought one of the more pummeling sets of the weekend and Deftones dazzled with the best light show any of the 120 plus bands had.
As the night came down, it marked the onset of two of the most anticipated sets of the weekend. Rob Zombie’s band hit the stage after Deftones, and Rob commented on how they opened for White Zombie 20 years ago. Commemorating two decades since the release of Astro-Creep, the group launched into the album from front to back, closing it out with one Zombie cut in "Dragula."
On the adjacent stage, Misfits (who didn't allow photography) dropped the curtain after a slight delay, opening with “Death Comes Ripping.” Depending on where you stood, the sound was either stellar or a sonic blur as Danzig and most of the backing vocals were drowned in the mix. Battling feedback, microphone issues and audio swells, the Misfits played to a frenzied crowd capable of filling in on backing vocals that rang loud enough for fans at the back of the park to mistake for the ones emanating from the stage.
Two hulking pumpkins bookended the stage and Danzig noted that they wouldn’t have fit into the places the band played in their early days. The illuminated backdrop was in a constant state of flux, adapting imagery to anthems like “20 Eyes.” Despite starting late, the Misfits spilled over their scheduled time, ensuring the festival crowd got the same dose as Denver, fittingly closing out the night and Riot Fest with “Attitude.”
As the crowd exited the gates for the final time, fans were heard exclaiming, “I can’t believe it happened.” Undoubtedly, some had been waiting since late October 1983 for a reunion to take shape and had willingly given Glenn, Jerry and Doyle (as well as session members Dave Lombardo and Acey Slade) their skulls.
Click through the gallery at the top of the page to check out photos from Riot Fest Chicago!
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