Slayer Bids Farewell to Chicago at Day Two of Riot Fest

Masses of punks, rockers and skaters gathered for day two of Riot Fest ready for another day of musically-induced chaos — in the best way possible. 

The near-clear skies made for a hotter day than previous, but that couldn’t keep fans down. Security guards tried to keep the fest-goers cool by splashing them with water. When it became too much, they pulled overheated fans out of the crowd.

From industry staples Wu-Tang Clan and Anthrax to newcomers grandson and Cherry Glazerr, there was an act for everyone, each holding down it’s own brand of Riot Fest.

Many walked around donning shirts representing their act of choice — Slayer being a popular option. This small act of recognition by fans was likely to commemorate the band’s final show in the Chicago area as they finish the last few months of their farewell tour.


The Damned Things

Rebel Stage 3:55-4:35 p.m.

Alt-supergroup The Damned Things released its first album in nine years and with that has been playing its first shows back as a group. It found its way to Chicago in May, but the crowd at the Rebel Stage was as excited as if they’d waited nine years.

The metal outfit consists of Fall Out  Boy’s Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley, Every Time I Die’s Keith Buckley, Alkaline Trio’s Dan Andriano and Anthrax’s Scott Ian. With Trohman and Hurley hailing from Chicago, the members acknowledged this as hometown show.

Buckley pointed out Trohman’s dad was in the audience — who thought he was the oldest person at the fest. Buckley and Trohman joked about setting up his dad with any of the other 60-somethings in the audience on a “dad date.”

The audience and band members alike jammed out to empowering rock track “Invincible” off their most recent album “High Crimes.” The song “Something Good” was made for sing-alongs with cheerleader-style chant “Y-E-L-L all of my friends are going to hell” starting off the song.

Fans didn’t seem to mind the baking afternoon sun. With the help of security splashing water on them to cool them off and The Damned Things showcasing its members’ combined skill, the heat didn’t matter.


Radicals Stage 4:45-5:10 p.m.

grandson pulled the Riot Fest crowd out of the midday lull with a politically charged set that got people jumping for justice. Despite still being on the lesser-known side of the alternative scene, the 25-year-old and his band had little trouble amping up the audience with angry but catchy anthems.

The singer is notorious for creating music that acknowledges highly controversial issues, including gun violence, which he speaks out against in “Thoughts & Prayers.”

“Another politician bought / I swear I heard another shot,” he sang to the crowd.

“Do you get the point we’re trying to make?” asked the singer. “If you don’t or you disagree you’re entitled to your opinion.”

grandson then began “Die Young” as the screen behind him read “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. – Martin Luther King Jr.”

grandson’s invigorating energy brought a noticeable crowd to his set, and by the end the band had everyone singing along to the easy-to-learn chorus of “Blood // Water.”

The Struts

Rise Stage 6:00-6:45 p.m.

Lead singer Luke Spiller stepped onstage wearing a metallic red blouse with flowing sleeves. The look matched the band’s image — a contemporary version of a classic rock band akin to Mötley Crüe or Guns N’ Roses, some of The Struts’ main inspirations.

While the band may have a fitting image for their music style, the performance left something to be desired. Spiller did his best to keep the crowd’s energy alive in the 45-minute set, but apart from the diehard fans, most of the audience was there to pass the time and catch up with friends.

The band closed with the uplifting “Could Have Been Me,” and the recognizable radio hit successfully won the crowd’s attention after 40 minutes of an otherwise lackluster act, sending them off with positive vibes.


Radicals Stage 6:00-7:00 p.m.

Pulling together catchy electronic hooks, rock guitar riffs and eerie synths, PVRIS has found its niche in alternative music. The crowd at Riot Fest Saturday evening was on board.

Frontwoman Lynn Gunn’s powerful vocals propelled the performance forward. Her smooth and intentional delivery commanded attention seemingly effortlessly. As she belted out the repeated lyrics to the 2017 track “Anyone Else,” “I don’t belong to anyone else,” it was hard not to believe her.

Gunn took a break from her guitar to help out drummer Justin Nace during energetic track “Half” off the band’s most recent album “All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell.” Both slammed on the cymbals building up the song.

Using the song “You and I,” Gunn introduced the members of the band and made sure the crowd felt included. She extended the outro singing, “Alex and I, Justin and I, Brian and I, Riot Fest and I.”

Rise Against 

Roots Stage 7:25-8:25 p.m.

Chicago natives Rise Against gathered a crowd of fans ready to celebrate the band’s hometown show. Fans raised their fists — per the band’s request — mimicking the band’s logo.

As Rise Against began playing its track “Satellite,” a man in the crowd got down on one knee to propose. The couple embraced as lead singer Tim McIlrath Sang out “We’ve got the rest of our lives.”

Rise Against has been at it for 20 years and said they have immense respect for Slayer’s 38-year run as a band. It dedicated the track “Heaven Knows” to the iconic metal group.

“They do it for the same reasons we do it. It’s all for you,” McIlrath said from the stage.

Riot Fest wasn’t the only one celebrating an anniversary, McIlrath pointed out. Rise Against released its debut album “Siren Song of the Counter-Culture” 15 years ago. McIlrath stood on stage alone with his acoustic guitar to perform the emotional “Swing Life Away” and recalled the Chicago front porch where the song was written.

If his love for his hometown wasn’t already evident, McIlrath’s acoustic guitar had the Chicago flag carved on the front.

McIlrath had one more request for the crowd going into the second to last song “Give It All.”

“I want to hear it from the top of your lungs to the bottom of your heart.” 

Wu-Tang Clan

Radicals Stage 7:30-8:30 p.m.

Wu-Tang Clan began their show by playing the trailer for “Wu-Tang: An American Saga,” the new Hulu original that dramatizes the origins of the hip-hop group.

The group may have stepped on the Radicals stage 10 minutes late, but that didn’t stop the audience from rocking out to opening track “Bring Da Ruckus.” While most acts at Riot Fest belong to genres of alternative and metal music, Wu-Tang Clan brought a much needed hip-hop/rap aspect to the night.

There were a noticeable number of older fans mixed in with the mostly teen crowd, and the group noticed this. Rapper RZA asked the crowd if they had been born in the ‘70s, ‘80s or ‘90s. When it came time for the ‘90s babies to respond, RZA reminded them to exercise their fundamental rights.

“Y’all need to go out there and register to vote,” he said.

The group performed every track off “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” — their 1993 album that gained them notoriety in the early days of hip-hop. Upon completing the album, the band paid tribute to some iconic rockers by performing covers of The Beatles’ “Come Together” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Wu-Tang Clan also paid tribute to member Ol’ Dirty Bastard — who passed away in 2004 — with “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” and “Got Your Money.”

The band wrapped up the set with a cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” thanking their longtime fans for standing by them over the years.

“We’d like to thank y’all for celebrating our 25th anniversary with us,” RZA said.


Riot Stage 8:30-10:00 p.m.

Monumental metal band Slayer bid farewell to its Chicago fans. Those fans — whether diehards or just watching to take in the historic moment — soaked in every second of the band’s last set in the area.

The band didn’t dwell on this fact and simply did what they do best — playing loud and fast.

This made the perfect conditions for absolute insanity in the crowd. Those dedicated fans in the front were moshing and crowd surfing — keeping security busy making sure all were safe. Fans in the back took advantage of the space forming a massive circle pit to recklessly run around and shove.

Lead singer Tom Araya let the crowd get a sense of his job introducing “War Ensemble” off its 1990 album “Seasons in the Abyss.”

“On the count of three I want you all to scream ‘Gwah!'”

Slayer showed off its pyrotechnics during the track with a wall of fire lighting up the stage. Bursts of flames throughout added to the set’s undeniable intensity.

As the clock neared 10 p.m., mosh pits grew more physical — the crowd sensed the end was near.

After playing “Angel of Death” from the 1986 album “Reign in Blood,” Slayer left the stage. The crowd chanted the band’s name anticipating an encore.

Moments later Araya returned.

“I want to thank you very much for sharing your time with us,” Araya said from the stage. “They’re making us cut this short here.”

The crowd chanted “Thank you Slayer,” doing what it could to show its appreciation.

Araya stood on stage taking in the final moments with the masses. Choking up, he said his closing words to the grateful audience. 

“I’m gonna miss you guys. Goodnight. Goodbye.”

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