Preparing to ‘Drop it Like it’s Hot’ at Riot Fest 2015

Photos courtesy of Riot Fest // Facebook

“Drop it like it’s hot;” “It’s my life, don’t you forget;” and “We’ll all float on OK.”

If you recognize any of the lyrics above — which you should — chances are you’re a fan of Snoop Dogg, No Doubt or Modest Mouse, which you should be. In the unfortunate case that you do not recognize the lyrics above, please stop reading this article and go do some music research.

These are just a few of the headliners attending this year’s Riot Fest on Sept. 11-13 in Douglas Park.

It’s no surprise the festival pulled off yet another impressive lineup containing multiple noteworthy musicians. Since Riot Fest came to Chicago in 2005, it has done a pretty spectacular job at making sure the roster holds an eclectic mix of music for attendees.

Photos courtesy of Riot Fest // Facebook

Although funky bands have snuck into the lineup in recent years, Riot Fest specializes in punk, rock, alternative, metal and hip-hop music, according to its website. Last year, a range of artists including rock band Weezer, hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan and South-African rap-rave group Die Antwoord performed at the fest. Talk about all over the board.

This year is no exception. Being the wonderful music festival that it is, Riot Fest also spaced out the headliners quite well. Even if you just get a one-day pass, you are set up to see some artists that will make the price worth it. Single-day passes are $74.98, and three-day passes are $189.98.

If I could profile every Riot Fest performer, I would, because they are almost all awesome. But for the sake of your time, my must-see selections are quite obvious (and briefly stated because you should definitely already know of them), with a few hidden gems in the mix.


Although the night closes up with some mainstream goodness from the classics of ska-punk singer Gwen Stefani and old-school rapper Ice Cube, a majority of my suggestions for Friday incorporate low-key, reggae sounds.

Playing earlier in the afternoon, hip-hop and ska-punk band Dirty Heads is one of the more light-hearted acts in the lineup this year. The group hails from Huntington Beach, California, and its sound evokes an image of its hometown — beachy, laid-back reggae music with echoing snare beats and smooth vocals singing about summer, the sea and the sun.

Dirty Heads’ most recent album, Sound of Change (2014), took the band in a bit of a new direction. The record was done with the help of lead singer and guitarist Rome Ramirez (from reggae/dub musical collaboration Sublime with Rome) and a few producers that have worked with artists such as Bruno Mars, Major Lazer and The Cataracs. Whether old or new, the group’s addictive summer sound has shined through since the band was founded in 1996.

For more brilliant reggae sounds with more aggressive drum solos and guitar riffs (and a more likely appearance of mosh pits), make sure to also check out reggae rock band The Expendables from Santa Cruz, California.

I may have a bit of a bias since the musicians are from my hometown, but their shows are definitely a sight to see. The diverse crowd of rockers and hippies switches from swaying to the reggae segments of the tracks to shoving in mosh pits when the songs break out their punk segments.

Overall, I consider The Expendables an absolute must-see, despite being scheduled earlier in the day at 3:45 p.m. If you want to explore the band’s music before making the commitment of showing up early, listen to “Let Her Go” or “Sacrifice.”

Bottom line for Friday: Make this a reggae and ska-based day. Also, don’t miss out on ska rock band Slightly Stoopid. Although Gwen is great, these other guys are sure to impress you.


Saturday is the ideal day for all extreme rock fans — at all different levels of hardcore.

To begin, there’s metalcore band Devil Wears Prada, a group that was present during many of our rather emo junior high years — filled with spiked hair, crammed-venue punk shows and a lot of band T-shirts. On a scale from one to 10 of hardcore for this day, I would rate Devil Wears Prada an eight.

The band is certainly a throwback, but a throwback to appreciate. Its latest album, Space EP, was just released earlier this year, but many of its most popular jams come from long before. If you want to check out the music, listen to “Born to Lose” from Dead Throne (2011). The metal can be a lot to handle, but give lead singer Mike Hranica some props — he’s got some serious lungs for how long he holds those screams.

Talking about throwbacks, see Billy Idol. Just do it. He is a classic, and I can only hope that anyone paying money for a ticket to a music festival would at least know who he is and take up the chance to see him. In the unfortunate case that you have no idea who I am talking about, just listen to “Dancing With Myself” released in 1982. You will (hopefully) recognize it.

I could write a whole opinion piece about why you should see System of a Down, but for now, I will simply tell you that lead vocalist Serj Tankian is one of the most talented musicians of our time. Not only is he a singer, but he’s also a composer, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and poet. Many of his songs discuss political issues and corruption in a manor that shows he is just as passionate about his beliefs as he is his music.

Tankian has also sung with symphonies throughout his time in the limelight, which makes him just that much more of a multi-faceted musician. To see one of his impressive performances, look up the videos of him performing with the Metropole Orchestra back in 2011. For some more modern day, hardcore work he has done with System of a Down, listen to headbangers “Chop Suey!” or “Toxicity.”

Bottom line for Saturday: If you are going to see anyone, see System of a Down. I know Taking Back Sunday may cause a bit of a conflict, given that both bands start at the same time, but try to at least split the shows in half. Tankian alone will make your day worth every penny.


This is the day that is all over the board in terms of genre and musician choices.

In the afternoon, make sure to see Cypress Hill. The California hip-hop group is known for “Insane in the Membrane” and “Dr. Greenthumb.” Although most of their lyrics are centered around marijuana use, the artists are considered extremely influential ‘90s rappers who formed the first Latino hip-hop group to achieve platinum and multi-platinum albums. In other words, these guys are legends.

Next, make sure to attend the Damian Marley show. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 20 years, Damian is the youngest son of Bob Marley, a legendary reggae artist who died in 1981. Today, his son upholds the family name and is known for having a more modern approach to reggae art than his father once had, incorporating hip-hop and other influences into his timeless sounds.

Last but not least, I will simply say you are insane if you do not attend indie rock band Modest Mouse’s show.

On top of closing out the festival, the band is iconic in the indie rock genre for old songs such as “Float On,” “Dashboard” and “World at Large.” The music’s contagious energy is impossible to avoid and the tracks switch from upbeat to mellow, so there is something for everyone at this part of the night.

Modest Mouse will be the happy medium in all of the chaos that surrounds the three days of Riot Fest, so pull through your festival exhaustion to see these musical geniuses perform. I know you won’t regret it.

Bottom line for Sunday: See Modest Mouse close the festival. It will make headlines, and I’m sure you will have infinite FOMO (fear of missing out) if you don’t see at least a few songs of the band’s set. Please do not waste your time on Tenacious D when Snoop Dogg will be playing at the same time. As with every festival, choose wisely.

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