Guitar solos and classic tracks commanded the airwaves on the third and final day of Riot Fest. Fest-goers who had attended the past two days had settled in with a solid lay of the land ready to watch a few more favorites perform.
The muddied grounds from the morning’s rain left many shoes and calves dirtier than when they entered the park. That’s just the price of moshing, though.
Powering through the mud and shifting weather, the crowd witnessed timeless songs from The B-52’s and Village People, classic rock from The Raconteurs and Patti Smith and emo staples Frank Iero and Taking Back Sunday.
Rise Stage 12:00-12:30
Alt-newcomers Ultra Q started off day three with a bang proving to the crowd arriving early was worth it. The members thanked the crowd for attending, saying they thought only a handful of people would show up.
Many in attendance may have been unfamiliar with the band — the indie rockers only released their debut single in April and extended play (EP) “We’re Starting to Get Along” in September. But, one group of dedicated fans at the front of the crowd went wild throughout the set.
The band didn’t ignore its previous project, Mt. Eddy, playing the track “I Luv Robert Smith” off the EP “Mt. Eddy.”
Ultra Q closed with its debut single “redwoood,” making sure anyone who arrived late to the set saw what the band is all about — passionate, energetic tracks .
Frank Iero and the Future Violents
Rise Stage 1:45-2:30
After the crew took a few extra minutes to perfect soundcheck, Frank Iero joined his band, the Future Violents, on stage. The group — wearing matching navy blue work jumpsuits with a barbed-wire heart on the back — immediately jumped into the punk-rock tracks.
“This song’s about me and it might be about you,” Iero said, introducing the track “I’m A Mess.”
Iero and his bandmates hair flipped and jammed out to the song off the 2016 album “Parachutes” by Frank Iero and the Patience. Iero has taken on a new project name for each album, but he doesn’t discriminate during his live shows.
“Young and Doomed” — the lead single off the group’s most recent album “Barriers” — held a reference near and dear to the hearts of My Chemical Romance fans. Iero, who was the guitarist in the emo outfit, sang out, “And I promise that I’m not okay,” recalling My Chemical Romance’s emotionally-charged anthem “I’m Not Okay (I Promise).”
Iero closed out the set with “Joyride,” off his debut solo effort “Stomachaches” by frnkiero andthe cellabration, resulting in a crowd-pleasing mosh.
“Keep your hearts full, your mind empty, your hand outstretched to help someone,” Iero said as he walked off the stage.
Radicals Stage 2:35-3:10
Disco icons of the ‘70s and ‘80s Village People showed they still have what it takes to be macho, macho men at Riot Fest Sunday afternoon.
Nearly as notable as the band’s hits were the costumes. The roles of cop, “Native American,” GI, leather man, construction worker and cowboy rotated throughout the years as members have come and gone, but the elaborate attire and synchronized dance moves maintain the band’s entertainment value.
After deep cuts “San Francisco (You’ve Got Me)” and “In Hollywood (Everybody Is a Star)” came the moment the fest-goers were waiting for — it was time to stay at the “Y.M.C.A.” Fans cheered as the opening notes rang out and had cell phones ready to record the infamous anthem. By the time the chorus hit, hands flew up in the air ready to spell out “Y.M.C.A.”
It’s a good thing hands were up, fans began to crowd-surf to the song they’ve likely heard countless times. This was the closest the crowd got to the wall of death planned via Facebook event, but it didn’t seem too disappointed.
Riot Stage 3:55-5:10
After jumping straight into guitar-driven punk tracks, frontwoman Laura Jane Grace welcomed the audience to her “favorite festival.” Fans didn’t articulate it back in specifics but by passionately screaming the lyrics, it seemed Riot Fest could be their favorite, too.
One fan waved around a homemade sign reading, “3 weeks on hormones,” for Grace, who came out as a transgender woman in May of 2012, to see.
Grace often uses her platform to advocate for the LGBTQ community. She took part in the 2014 documentary “True Trans” and has supported Miley Cryrus’ Happy Hippie Foundation — a nonprofit that works with LGBTQ and homeless youth.
During the set, Grace encouraged the audience to think about who’s making the festival happen. She dedicated the song “Those Anarcho Punks Are Mysterious” to all the other bands playing the fest but especially to the crew behind the scenes.
The band packed its set performing both its debut album “Reinventing Axl Rose” and the 2014 album “Transgender Dysphoria Blues.”
“I don’t mean to exaggerate when I say this is a once in a lifetime thing playing these two records together,” Grace said from the stage.
Radicals Stage 5:15-6:15
New wave band The B-52’s brought its classics to life Sunday evening. Vocalists Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson made the stage shine in their sequined and metallic attire.
Pierson and Wilson showed off their chops harmonizing flawlessly to track after track, proving after 43 years as a band, the initial talent hasn’t gone anywhere. Fellow vocalist Fred Schneider utilitized Sprechgesang, a mix between speaking and singing, during many of the tracks, often adding humorous ad-libbed notes.
The B-52’s set wouldn’t be complete without the 1989 hit “Love Shack,” but the song wasn’t the closing track. That honor went to the band’s first single “Rock Lobster.” A handful of blow-up lobsters bounced around atop the crowd — a fitting end to an overall fun set.
Riot Stage 6:20-7:20
The audience at Patti Smith’s set was comprised of many middle-aged or older fest-goers, but that didn’t stop them from rocking out. Smith frequently waved at the crowd, creating an ambiance of peace and love in an otherwise rowdy venue.
Smith and her band mostly performed covers of classic rock songs, including The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Are You Experienced?,” Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” and Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush.”
The singer made sure to take a moment to acknowledge her Chicago roots, much to the uproarious delight of the crowd.
“Most of you probably know I was born in Chicago,” Smith said. “I was baptized in Logan Square. Chicago is where I took my first breath as a human being.”
Smith closed with her hit 1978 radio hit “Because the Night,” followed by a cover of Them’s “Gloria,” bringing out the ‘60s nostalgia in the older audience.
Roots Stage 7:25-8:25
Jack White radiated rock ‘n’ roll with the revival of his band The Raconteurs. The group released its first album in 11 years this past summer and has been reminding the world of its rock prowess on tour ever since.
The album’s opening song “Bored and Raised” started off the show giving the audience a sense of what it was in for.
White showcased his raw talent and skill shredding away guitar solos. The intricate, rapid string plucking mesmerized the audience. White also made his away around the stage, taking a turn at the piano and three separate microphones, each with a different fuzzed-out tone.
Guitarist and vocalist Brendan Branson shared one of mics with White for the track “Only Child” from the most recent album “Help Us Stranger.”
“Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying)” drew on those times where giving up seems like the best option. The track took a triumphant turn repeating the defiant, “I’m here right now I’m not dead yet.”
The Raconteurs channeled bluesy Americana with the slow-building track “Blue Veins” off “Broken Boy Soldiers.” The patient crowd watched as the song transformed from a simple pulsing bass to a full-on jam session from the band.
“Steady, As She Goes” closed out The Raconteurs’ set. White pulled out nearly every bit of energy from the crowd in the call-and-response “Steady as she goes / Are you steady now?”
Riot Stage 8:30-9:45
It was perfectly fitting for Bikini Kill to give the final performance at the 15th anniversary of Riot Fest considering the band was at the forefront of riot grrrl culture — a 1990s underground movement that combined feminist ideas with punk music — back in the early-‘90s.
Riot grrrls showed up in droves to rock out to their favorite feminist band, and vocalist Kathleen Hanna took notice.
“I just want to say right now, we’re a feminist band and we’re headlining a festival,” Hanna said. “This is for all the fucking feminists who won’t shut up. This is for the fucking feminists in the house, you’re the reason we’re out here right now. Thank you so fucking much.”
The vocal intensity of the songs made Hanna have to take frequent water breaks from her hot pink bottle, which she said she wrapped in duct tape to match her silver dress and pink leggings.
The band’s members would often switch instruments between songs. Nearly every member got a turn on the drums and electric guitar, and Hanna and Tobi Vail took turns on vocals.
The band played plenty of its ‘90s hits, including “Reject All American” and “Suck My Left One,” which got the audience riled up and hungry for political justice. Women all over the crowd could be spotted headbanging, passing joints, kissing other girls and having the time of their lives.
Bikini Kill ended Riot Fest with their riot grrrl anthem, “Rebel Girl,” sending concert-goers home with enough rage and rebel energy to get them through till next year.