Picture it: Chicago, 2023.
There were punk rockers, some in their golden years, attending Riot Fest in Douglass Park on Sept. 15, 16 and 17. Split between South Albany and South California Avenues, along West Ogden Avenue, the organizers navigated music, mayhem and madness over the course of three busy days.
There was plenty to explore for ticket buyers while killing time between their favorite performances across the five main stages. They could cruise by the Riot Mall to shop, watch a Lucha Libre wrestling match or enjoy a new view on a carnival ride.
That was just the start. A wedding chapel hosted live ceremonies throughout each day for eager goths who chose to tie the knot, and Logan Arcade joined in the festivities this year for the first time to offer free vintage arcade games.
For those that were thirsty, new flavor variations of Riot Pop!! debuted in 2023, ranging from zero alcohol to CBP options, all with electrolytes to recharge a spectator's energy.
For those seeking nourishment, food trucks and tents were wisely expanded to more than one section of the park. Several businesses didn't have to pay a fee thanks to a Beyond the Fest initiative, where 29 locals applied to sell their products on the premises. Taqueria Mi Lindo Mexico, Los Camales and Ida's Ice Cream were a few of the 10 vendors that made the cut.
Musicians provided sustenance for listeners beginning Friday at noon with Young Culture playing their EP Godspeed running through Sunday evening where Canadians Godspeed You! Black Emperor overlapped with The Cure to end it all. Representation booked from the LGBTQ+ community included queer Righteous Babe Ani DiFranco and lesbian twin sisters Tegan and Sara, amongst them.
Other sisters also took to the stage as Kim and Kelley Deal showcased The Breeders' Last Splash album from start to finish. Foo Fighters played for two hours that Friday night beginning with "All My Life" and ending with "Everlong" after an extremely long day.
Saturday had Deathcab for Cutie playing their first live show in over 10 years and pop culture enthusiasts arrived earlier in the day to witness performer Corey Feldman play at the Rebel Stage at 2:15 p.m. The "Comeback King" hit rewind to restart this track because of a struggling backup band and complained about his visual display malfunctioning. His longtime supporters couldn't look away from each awkward segment that was nevertheless full of surprises.
English singer Frank Turner brought his live band the Sleeping Souls to the Rise Stage at 5 p.m. It was his heartfelt rendition of "Miranda," with lyrics about his father transitioning to female, that resonated with several in the crowd. The tears poured down for many as he belted, "Oh, Miranda, it's lovely to meet you."
Sunday supplied more waterworks as an afternoon rain delay shut out several scheduled artists until 2 p.m., while the remaining lineup continued in the previously planned time slots for the correct rotation of acts in nearby sound stages.
Those who braved the mud were treated to a theatrical, outdoor cabaret act from The Dresden Dolls on the Riot Stage. Always entertaining, bisexual frontwoman Amanda Palmer showcased her own work with "Astronaut (A Short History of Nearly Nothing)" before a unique cover of Beastie Boys' "Fight for Your Right" with her fellow Doll drummer Brian Viglione.
The magic was in the makeup as they were essentially an opener for The Cure, who made a triumphant return to Riot Fest after playing back in 2014. Lead singer Robert Smith's unforgettable childish voice has held up well over the years for the 64-year-old singer and it carried across the park for the legion of fans dressed in black to enjoy.
At a time when many musicians of their generation are cashing in on nostalgia, The Cure provided a remedy on that special night by delivering songs people craved to hear. An eight-song encore encapsulated such classics as "Friday I'm in Love" and "Boys Don't Cry."
This iconic band, along with a stellar lineup of artists, attracted and packed a diverse group of people into Douglass Park for one unforgettable weekend.
Stay tuned to RiotFest.org for upcoming information that might melt your face off in 2024!