Once again, Riot Fest provided punk-loving music fans with a smorgasbord of amazing sights and sounds when its 2017 edition took over Chicago’s Douglas Park on Sept. 15-17. The event featured once in a lifetime musical moments, previously unimaginable reunions and a whole lot of fun over the course of the 3-day festival. From Jawbreaker’s triumphant return to the fantastic fans to a unique art show that had attendees saying, “Have mercy,” here’s a look at the 11 best things we saw at Riot Fest 2017.
Skanking It Up with The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
A mosh pit is a common occurrence at Riot Fest, but a skank pit is a rare and unparalleled joy. As The Mighty Mighty Bosstones took the Roots Stage on Sunday afternoon – to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Let’s Face It by performing the iconic album in its entirety – fans donned their dancing shoes to bounce along with the group’s ska-filled set. Long-time Bosstones’ hype man, Ben Carr, danced across the stage as Dicky Barrett sang in front of a wall of horns propelling fans to match the group’s energy despite the hot afternoon sun.
The Humor & Horror of Ministry
Performing a hometown show, Ministry brought their A-Game and a slew of new hits off their 2017 album, AmeriKKKant, to the Riot Stage on Friday night. Face-melting guitar-solos from Sin Quirin and Cesar Soto, Al Jourgensen’s murderous gaze and the politically-charged messages of “Punch In The Face” and “Antifa” were highlighted by many moments of cutting, dry humor.
TV on the Radio’s Epic Opener
No one sets a tone like TV on the Radio. Rather than diving straight into their setlist, Tunde Adebimpe and company took time out to slowly build a wall of sound – over the course of several minutes – prior to performing their opening number, “Young Liars.” Their patience and artistry created a unique and introspective vibe which solidified their set as a festival highlight.
Crowd Surfers, Crowd Surfers & More Crowd Surfers
Riot Fest has the best fans. Whereas other events are plagued by entitled bros and hipsters who are too cool to have a good time, Riot Festies are die-hard music fans who are ready to lose themselves into each and every set. This year found more crowd surfers than ever floating above the grounds, especially at the Radicals Stage which hosted the likes of Real Friends, State Champs and Chicago’s own Sleep On It.
Gypsy Punk Compliments of Gogol Bordello
With hits like “Start Wearing Purple,” “Wonderlust King” and “Alcohol” in their arsenal, fans knew that Gogol Bordello would bring their patented gypsy punk party to Riot Fest, but some of the best moments of their set came compliments of the group’s new material. Several Seekers and Finders tunes including “Walking on the Burning Coal,” “Saboteur Blues” and “Love Gangsters” proved that Eugene Hutz and company are more inspired than ever.
Love, Temptation & New Order
Moody, cathartic and incredibly danceable, New Order’s Roots Stage performance on Saturday night provided new wave fans with a little slice of heaven. The hypnotic jam of “Temptation,” which preceded a heartbreaking rendition of the Joy Division classic, “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” was nothing short of perfection.
Best Coast’s Sunset Songs
Best Coast’s indie pop sounds – which feature a perfect pinch of punk – are best experienced at sunset. At the tail end of a hot and humid Chicago weekend, it seemed that Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno brought a touch of California magic with them during their Sunday Night performance on the Radicals Stage.
The John Stamos Art Show
Have mercy! Riot Fest loves John Stamos. The Full House actor inspired an entire onsite art gallery of paintings, photos and mixed media pieces that will inspire awe “Forever.” Who knows, maybe next year festival organizers can finally get Stamos himself to stop by Douglas Park to revel in the love of all in attendance.
Prophets of Rage’s F*ck You Anthem
Is there anything more satisfying than standing in a sea of concert-goers as everyone raises their middle fingers in the air in defiant protest? When Prophets of Rage closed out the Roots Stage on the third and final day of Riot Fest 2017, they led a powerful chorus of voices in screaming, “F*ck you, I won’t do what you tell me.” “Killing in the Name” never felt so good.
The Reunion of Jawbreaker
A generation of fans have been waiting for 20 years to see the seminal punk group Jawbreaker perform live. When Blake Schwarzenbach and company took the stage to headline Riot Fest, anticipation was at a fever-pitch and, yet, somehow the group still managed to exceed expectations. “Want” and “Boxcar” were early highlights of their 75-minute set while Schwarzenbach’s damn the man philosophy resonated across the audience. “Nobody’s going to work tomorrow,” he said. “General strike. F*ck this country.”
The Frail / The Wretched / The Reznor
With countless soul-rattling, industrial hits under their belt, the brooding deep cuts of Nine Inch Nails’ 1999 release, The Fragile, often don’t get the credit they deserve. On the opening night of Riot Fest 2017, Trent Reznor set a somber tone with a poignant rendition of the instrumental track, “The Frail,” before amping things back up with a mutinous take on “The Wretched.” Among a set that included heavy-hitters like “Closer,” “Head Like A Hole,” “The Hand That Feeds” and so many more fury-filled tracks, this one-two punch from The Fragile proved to be the ultimate Riot Fest highlight.