RIOT FEST CHICAGO: The Good, The Bad, And The Totally Weird

Riot Fest 2014

Alternative music fans far and wide congregated in The Windy City Sept. 12-14 for the greatest punk rock show on Earth, Riot Fest Chicago. The weekend was imaginably filled with amazing sets, carnival rides, beer, and deep fried everything.

This year’s Riot Fest Chicago was comprised of hundreds of bands, 7 stages (8 on Friday night), and way too many attractions to even consider checking out. It’s madness beyond anyone’s wildest imagination — and that’s the bittersweet part of the event. It’s beautiful to see so many awesome things happening in one venue, but so difficult to attempt to make it to everything in the lowly three days the festival happened during. The year was yet again unforgettable in all of the most Riot Fest-esque ways possible.

Follow the jump to check out what we think were the good, the bad, and the totally weird happenings at this year’s Riot Fest Chicago.


The Good

The Front Bottoms

The New Jersey-based emotional acoustic outfit delivered one of the most emotional sets of the entire weekend. Frontman Brian Sella engaged the crowd like no other band was able to do the entire weekend (except arguably PUP). The Front Bottoms showed Chicago there’s a lot more to this band than a collection of cleverly written acoustic songs — it’s a band that creates a full-throttle ride of emotions on stage unlike any other band in the scene.

Festival Food

There’s just something about spending $8 on a deep-fried Oreo that is difficult to put into words. The food at this year’s Riot Fest Chicago was yet again the best in the festival business. Despite prices being a little steep, you could get anything your greasiest thoughts could dream up. I came for the bucket of cheese fries and stayed for the footlong corn dogs. Not even rural state fairs can compare to these noms.

Something To Write Home About

Emo rock’s finest act, The Get Up Kids, played its cornerstone record, Something To Write Home About, from front to back. One would think that a band 15 years removed from a record would be a bit rusty, but not The Get Up Kids. These songs sounded as good as though the set was being played in the early ’00s. Going up against stiff competion due to playing the same time as Dashboard Confessional and Wu-Tang Clan, Matt Pryor & co. brought a special kind of nostalgia this year — the biggest treat of the entire weekend.

The Carnival

Although not being able to make it to many of the sideshows, I did mange to dedicate a little bit of time to the carnival attraction at this year’s show. Sure, you’re paying 5 bucks to whack a little mechanical mole popping out of a hole, but you’re paying 5 bucks to whack a little mechanical mole out of a hole while your favorite band is playing. That’s always fun.

The Bad


Rain devoured Friday night. For those who survived long enough to catch bands like Jane’s Addiction, Slayer, and Rise Against, there was no actual hope for survival of clothes from the knees down. Mud turned into near-quicksand as festival-goers went from set to set during the evening. As the weekend progressed, the mud slowly turned into a Play-Doh-type substance that wanted to suck your shoes out from under you — making the near-20-minute commute from one side of the park to the other unbearable. An unfortunate setback for Riot Fest curators, but not the worst weather situation that could have been served up.

Saosin with Anthony Green

One of the most highly-anticipated sets from folks who thrive on nostalgia, the Saoson set featuring Anthony Green wasn’t as stimulating as most would expect. The band came off as sloppy and the songs clearly didn’t age as well live as they have on the record. Green (who I have the utmost respect for as a songwriter) did his job to engage the audience as well as the rest of the weekend’s frontmen and women but the band just didn’t seem to hold up against some of the other talent with sets taking place simultaneously (e.g. City and Colour, Die Antwoord).


Metal kingpins Slayer had the odds stacked against them during Friday night’s set. Rain was pouring, mud was mounding up, and the last thing the crowd wanted to get into was a speed metal show. The band seemed uninterested and disengaged from the thousands who risked pneumonia to watch the set. Maybe if conditions were better it would have been a more memorable hour or so of historic metal, but it came off as just boring. Rain in Mud.

The Totally Weird

The Offspring

Adolescent jokes are cool when the band is your age, right? Well what happens when the band’s members are old enough to be your father? It’s just strange to hear men who are old enough to have kids in college make awkward sexual advances on barely-legal fans. Banter aside, it was fantastic to see Smash played in full.

Good, bad, and weird aside — this year’s Riot Fest Chicago stands as one of the best festivals of 2014. Curators worked to battle weather conditions and still delivered one of the most memorable weekends I’ve experienced…ever. This year’s edition of Riot Fest Chicago is one of those festivals you truly never want to end; re-adjusting to the real world sure has been tough. We can’t wait to see what the festival has in store for 2015.

Written by Matthew Leimkuehler (@callinghomematt)

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