Set List Bonus: Riot Fest In Chicago
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By Ramon Alvarez-Smikle
Riot Fest, Chicago's premier punk rock festival, opened its gates on Sept. 13 for the first of three days of fantastic music and great energy. This year marked the festival's second installment since moving from the Congress Theater to Humboldt Park, and many believed that this would be the largest and most successful Riot Fest yet.
As I entered the park on a late and unusually chilly summer evening in Chicago, I immediately went to the Riot Stage to check out Florida-formed alternative rock group Yellowcard. The band provided fans with an exceptionally high-energy set, which reached its peak during the performance of their Top 40 hit song "Ocean Avenue," which delighted the thousands of fans in attendance.
Minneapolis hip-hop group Atmosphere thrilled fans by performing hard-thumping and emotional tracks throughout their hour-long set. Rapper Slug instructed the crowd to put their hands up and bounce with him during "Sunshine." Slug's crowd interaction was fantastic as he lightened the mood by joking with his DJs and even joining them on the turntables at one point during his set.
Finally at 9:45 p.m., with the temperature well below 60 degrees, GRAMMY-nominated pop/punk band Fall Out Boy took the stage for their headlining set to a crowd of more than 20,000 fans, their largest Chicago show since returning from hiatus earlier this year. They emerged onto the dark stage in all-black outfits with black ski masks that had their initials stitched on them while playing "The Phoenix," a song from their latest No. 1 album Save Rock And Roll.
I had a chance to speak with Fall Out Boy principal songwriter/bassist Pete Wentz prior to their set.
"This never gets old," said Wentz on performing live. "We always want the audience to have the best experience possible. …Whether it's the person in the front row, or the person 10,000 people back, we want everyone to have the time of their lives. We're a much more cohesive unit now than when we first started out as a band."
The band's cohesiveness was displayed during their electric hourlong performance that made me wish they would play their whole set again.
As day two began, I arrived in time to catch a set by legendary GRAMMY-nominated hip-hop collective Public Enemy. The crowd went wild as members Chuck D and Professor Griff took the stage. Less than a minute later Flavor Flav sprinted onstage to perform classics such as "Show 'Em Watcha Got" and "Fight The Power."
My night concluded with a set from Blink-182, who likely drew the largest crowd of the entire weekend. There was hardly room to breathe as mosh pits broke out all over the crowd during "Feeling This," but the chaos died down a bit during their performance of their hit song "I Miss You."
On day three, rain and a mud-filled park didn't deter the thousands of fans who braved the weather for the final day of Riot Fest Chicago. I arrived just in time to see a fantastic set by New York alternative rockers Brand New. The energy reached a peak during their final song, "You Won't Know," with lead singer Jesse Lacey smashing his guitar into the drum set onstage.
It's impressive to see how far Riot Fest has evolved from taking place in a 3,000-person venue to becoming one of the largest music festivals in Chicago with reportedly more than 80,000 in attendance over the course of the weekend.
And it's not over. Riot Fest will continue in Denver from Sept. 21–22.
(Ramon Alvarez-Smikle works as the GRAMMY U Representative for The Recording Academy Chicago Chapter. He has interviewed artists such as M83, Toro Y Moi and Porter Robinson, among others. He has been published on many online blogs and websites over the past year, including GRAMMY.com. Follow him on Twitter @ramonst3r.)