Riot Fest Day One Packs a Pop Punk Punch

Carnival lights lit up Douglas Park welcoming fans of alternative and rock music young and old to day one of Riot Fest. The three-day festival is celebrating its 15th year of providing an end-of-summer bash and day one proved a worthy occasion.

Riot Fest has room for every type of alt-music lover, from those with leather jackets and mohawks to band tees tucked into plaid dress pants. Fashion extremes and everything in between were on display, giving each person a chance to express their personal style.

The fest brought more than music to Douglas Park — a full carnival complete with spinning rides, stuffed animal prizes and greasy food occupied the West end of the venue.

Riot Fest’s version of taking a break between sets is having a go on the Tilt-A-Whirl after having a full plate of nachos from the pastel carnival booth. Getting a pretzel and riding the ferris wheel is also an option, but the chaos of the first option better fits the mood of Riot Fest.

Acts such as ska punk band Rancid and indie rock staples the Violent Femmes were just a few of those onstage making sure that chaotic energy was put to good use.


Riot Stage 2:30-3:15 p.m.

“Who are these clowns and why is their band name so damn long?” frontman Dallon Weekes said from the stage.

Alternative pop duo I DONT KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME, shortened to iDKHOW, may not have given any straightforward answers, but its set gave all the information needed.

The nostalgic sounds of a tape winding up to play welcomed the duo to the stage. Weekes and drummer Ryan Seaman — each in a different floral short-sleeve button-down — began with “Nobody Likes the Opening Band,” inviting new listeners to give them a chance.

There may have only been two people on stage, but every obscure sound from its debut extended play (EP), “1981 Extended Play,” was included. iDKHOW played every song from the EP, ensuring fans got to hear their favorite track no matter which it was. 

The limited number of songs in the band’s discography left plenty of room for covers. The band paid tribute to its late-‘70s and early-‘80s influence by covering the track “Iggy Pop” by Hot IQs. 

The EP’s lead single “Choke” served as the band’s closing track. Fans bopped around to the driving bass line and the unsettlingly cheery tone of the lyrics, “I wouldn’t hesitate / To smile while you suffocate and die.”

Neck Deep

Riot Stage 4:25-5:25 p.m.

Welsh rockers Neck Deep brought endless energy and pop punk romps to the stage. As the members swung around microphones, jumped from risers and spun like a tornado, the crowd countered with moshing and crowd surfing.

The band is currently on tour supporting Blink-182. Lead singer Ben Barlow teased the crowd saying Mark Hoppus, Blink-182’s frontman, often joins Neck Deep for its ballad “December” on tour. Despite the fact Blink-182 was headlining the fest, Hoppus did not make an appearance.

Barlow said it’s Blink-182’s fault he sings in a “shitty American accent” since he grew up listening to the band.

“Blame Mark Hoppus not me,” he joked from the stage. “I’m a product of my environment.”

Barlow addressed new fans in the crowd saying the song that epitomized the band — and the song most likely to be stuck in heads — was “In Bloom” off the 2018 album “The Peace and the Panic.” Based on the over 28 million streams on Spotify, making it the band’s most popular track, the claim is supported.

The band played its cover of 2000s pop hit “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia, which was recorded for the compilation album “Songs That Saved My Life.” The band noted how fitting it was to play the track during Suicide Prevention Month.

Dashboard Confessional

Riot Stage 6:35-7:35 p.m.

Dashboard Confessional frontman Chris Carrabba stepped out onstage almost unrecognizable with a fedora, black button-down and grown-out beard. The look was a stretch from his early-2000s image, but as soon as he shed the button-down, his ink-covered arms brought plenty of Carrabba fangirls back to their glory days.

The band delivered a mostly-acoustic set of its 2001 album, “The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most,” with every heartbreaking ballad wrapping the crowd in a layer of emo-induced nostalgia.

Carrabba teased the band’s performance of its beloved song “Screaming Infidelities” by reminding fans of its MTV Video Music Award.

“Hey, guess what,” Carrabba said proudly. “We won a VMA for this song.”

The band ended the show with its two most popular songs, “Vindicated” — which Carrabba wrote after seeing “Spider-Man 2” — and “Hands Down,” which he said he wrote about the best day of his life.

“Hands Down” had the crowd in near tears as they screamed their hearts out to the lovesick rock song. Many of them might have meant it as they sang “Won’t you kill me? / So I die happy.”

The Flaming Lips

Roots Stage 7:40-8:40 p.m.

The Flaming Lips brought its 2002 album “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” to life in a burst of confetti and silver balloons reading “Fuck yeah Riot Fest.”

The technicolor dream of a show was filled with vibrant hues from the draping lights illuminating the stage from top to bottom. The lights together functioned as one screen displaying images of ethereal landscapes and bursts of color.

Lead singer Wayne Coyne took a less conventional mode of crowd surfing during the synth-filled instrumental track “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 2.” He hopped in a human-sized hamster ball and ran on top of the crowd.

The band took a break from the album to pay tribute to singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston, performing his song “True Love Will Find You in the End.” Coyne said he normally performs the song under happier circumstances, but this performance was to commemorate Johnston’s passing just two days prior.

The Flaming Lips didn’t get to the closing track of the album “Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia).” Instead, it ended the set with “All We Have Is Now” reminding the audience to live in the moment.


Riot Stage 8:45-10:00 p.m.

As the Riot stage lit up for the final show of the night, Blink-182 stepped out and was greeted with raucous applause and cheering from overzealous fans trampling one another just to get a little closer to the band.

The band played the entirety of their 1999 album, “Enema of the State.” In true ‘90s fashion, the show began with frontman Mark Hoppus delivering Ezekiel 25:17 — a Bible quote popularized by the iconic ‘90s film “Pulp Fiction” — in full.

Fans went crazy for their favorite punk band of the ‘90s and early-2000s, and the band matched that energy onstage, giving their all for every song. The screen behind them displayed various logos from over the years, including the classic smiley face with five arrows.

Cameras frequently panned to drummer Travis Barker, whose vigorous drum solos kept the show exhilarating and electrifying.

Hoppus opened up “I Miss You” by quoting the Beastie Boys.

“Hey ladies!” the guitarist said, imitating Kurtis Blow. He then dedicated the melancholy track to the women in the crowd, advising men to look at their phones or call their moms, because this one was for the girls.

The band wrapped up day one of Riot Fest with a healthy dose of radio nostalgia, playing “First Date” and “Dammit,” and proving even 40-somethings can still feel teen angst.

Dashboard Confessional Aftershow

Reggies Chicago 10:00 p.m.

Frontman Chris Carrabba delivered an all-acoustic set of the band’s greatest hits at an intimate aftershow at Reggies Chicago (2105 S. State St.).

On an otherwise empty stage, Carrabba and his guitar serenaded the crowd under blue spotlights. Though not a spacious venue, the audience didn’t seem to mind standing in close quarters if it meant watching a childhood hero belt out the anthems of their teen years.

Carrabba occasionally took breaks from performing to give friends a few minutes on the stage. One guest included guitarist Stephen Egerton of the band Descendents.

Carrabba’s acoustic performance of “Screaming Infidelities” garnered a warm response from the small crowd as they echoed the chorus.

“Your hair, it’s everywhere / Screaming infidelities / And taking its wear,” the audience sang in unison with Carrabba.

The singer once again closed the show with two of his most popular hits: “Vindicated” and “Hands Down,” the venue nearly shaking as fans sang every word.


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