The lingering smell of mud, sweat and cigarettes means one thing: The contemporary-punk festival, Riot Fest, took over Douglas Park for its 12th consecutive year, and there couldn’t have been a better weekend for it. Nothing but sunny skies from September 15-17.
Unlike Lollapalooza and North Coast, festival-goers stayed dry at Riot Fest. The festival’s 2017 lineup consisted of three headliners, including: Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age and Jawbreaker, alongside dozens of other artists and bands such as Vic Mensa, Mayday Parade, Danzig and the Wu-Tang Clan. With numerous genres to choose from, ranging from rock ‘n’ roll to hip-hop to alternative, there was definitely no shortage of music.
One of the performers at this year’s fest, Vic Mensa, loves his hometown of Chicago. His passion for the city was on display on Friday while he performed excerpts from his latest album, “The Autobiography.” All 15 tracks carry a powerful anti-hate message addressing discrimination and police brutality against the backdrop of Mensa’s upbringing on the South Side. Mensa rose to fame with his 2016 album “There’s Alot Going On,” which included the intense and edgy song, “16 shots,” about the 2014 killing of Laquan McDonald. Mensa displayed a strong anti-cop sentiment reminiscent of the classic hip-hop group, N.W.A. The rapper recalls his encounters with police and the killing of his friend Laquan McDonald in his, “Why I Vote,” interview with VEVO. His emotional performance was full of flashing lights and blaring sound and an angry undertone directed at the Chicago Police Department. Mensa featured rapper Joey Purp in his song, “Down For Some Ignorance,” who acted as his personal hype-man. Mensa left the audience cheering for an encore, which he graciously delivered.
Nine Inch Nails (N.I.N) followed up Mensa’s set on the main stage. They had the largest audience of all the performances at Riot Fest, drawing thousands with its techno-rock feel and stunning light show. Mist surrounded the band as it played its 90-minute set. Fans fist pumped and put up the horns as they danced along to the music.
Despite N.I.N.’s stellar performance, nothing matched the chest-rattling bass of Danzig, the heavy metal icon. Taking the stage shortly after FIDLAR’s set Saturday, Danzig immediately called for the destruction of all criticizers of his music, virtual or otherwise. With demonic decorations set to an animal skull background, his stage resembled what can only be described as Hell, and his guttural screaming only added to the effect. From the first bang of the drums, fans all over knew that Danzig and his maniacal crew had arrived. Within seconds, hundreds of fans were head banging as the venue erupted in sound. The raw power and energy emitted from the stage kept hundreds of fans rocking along. No other artist could have introduced the metal genre to Riot Fest quite like Danzig.
Meanwhile, on a stage tucked away behind the Riot Fest Carnival, female-dominated, L.A.-based band, The Regrettes, performed. Lead singer Lydia Night — who could best be described as Joan Jett reincarnated — took the stage accompanied by Genessa Gariano, Sage Chavis and Maxx Morando. The group shared a message of feminism and acceptance through its remarkable sound and stage presence.
The ladies stole the show on the final night as female-fronted Paramore blew Riot Fest out of the water with its performance of the 2007 hit “That’s What You Get.” Thousands sang along to the anthem of their younger years, acknowledging Paramore’s message of positivity and perseverance.The 1986 band Jawbreaker ended the three-day festival with its first performance in 21 years. Fans flocked to see them perform on the Riot Stage, and weren’t disappointed. Kicking off its set with the 1994 hit, “Boxcar,” Jawbreaker proved it’s still the energetic alternative-metal band that it was 21 years ago.
As festival-goers shuffled out of venue for the last time with muffled hearing and sore legs, one can surely imagine they looked back and saw a mutual love for music from thousands of people.