Unsolicited advice for Riot Fest’s bookers | Music Feature | Chicago Reader

Unsolicited advice for Riot Fest’s bookers 

The festival has its traditions, and it’s hard to hate Andrew W.K. or Gwar—but here are some bands we’d like to see.

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Surely it's possible for Taking Back Sunday to have played too many Riot Fests. - NATALIE ESCOBEDO
  • Surely it's possible for Taking Back Sunday to have played too many Riot Fests.
  • Natalie Escobedo

The Reader crew

Salem Collo-Julin Listings coordinator

Leor Galil Staff writer

S. Nicole Lane Editorial associate

Jamie Ludwig Associate editor

Philip Montoro Music editor


Philip Montoro What are the misfires on the Riot Fest bill? Have any of the repeaters worn out their welcome? Are there acts you would've expected to see, given their touring and album cycles, that aren't here? Does anybody on the bill totally suck, either as a person or as a musician, and need to go away?

This seems like a good opportunity to explain the Reader music department's stance on negative coverage. We generally follow a "punch up" rule, where we don't use our limited resources to dump on small, obscure artists. Riot Fest books small, obscure artists, but in and of itself it's not obscure. So we're in a gray area.

Jamie Ludwig Well, one of the artists I was going to mention, Die Antwoord, is off the bill.

S. Nicole Lane That's a relief. A video surfaced of them yelling homophobic slurs. Plus they just suck.

Jamie The reason given was an alleged hate crime against Andy from Hercules and Love Affair, who is openly gay.

Philip Who's still on the bill who shouldn't be?

Nicole The Story So Far lead singer drop-kicked a girl off the stage a few years ago and then called her a "stupid whore" in his apology. I love defending pop punk, but sometimes (a lot of the time) they make it so hard.

Leor Galil At least Riot Fest didn't book pop-punk troll Ronnie Radke!

Salem Collo-Julin The Flaming Lips? This reads to me like when people who are ten years younger than me get excited about Full House.

Nicole Also, why the hell is Andrew W.K. on the bill every single year?

Leor It's Riot Fest tradition!

Nicole They could have picked a better tradition.


Gwar
Sat 9/14, 2:45-3:30 PM, Riot Stage

Andrew W.K.
Sat 9/14, 7:30-8:30 PM

The Village People
Sun 9/15, 2:35-3:20 PM, Radicals Stage

Taking Back Sunday
Sun 9/15, 8:15-9:45 PM, Rise Stage


Philip Aw, what do you have against Andrew W.K., Nicole? He's so . . . earnest!

Nicole I tried to listen to him yesterday, actually! I was like, "OK, I will try." And then I stopped trying after two songs.

Salem I love Andrew W.K. in person at, like, a shopping mall or at someone's party, but I don't think I love him while sweating it out in the park.

Philip It's hard to do a balloon drop during "Party Hard" when there's no ceiling.

Does anybody know who's in the Village People now? Is that set gonna make everybody sad?

Leor I think seeing the Village People today is a lot like seeing Gwar—the people may change, but the costumes stay the same.

Jamie Maybe the Village People and Gwar will trade costumes. I think Gwar could pull off a pretty good "YMCA."

Philip I always thought of Gwar as more of an "In the Navy" band.

Salem I have no idea why the Village People are booked. It almost seems like, "We need a gay nostalgia act!"

Leor I'd rather see the Village People with one original member than Taking Back Sunday again. As much as I stick up for emo, I'm a bit perplexed why TBS keeps getting booked.

Nicole Riot Fest's holy trinity: Gwar, Andrew W.K., and TBS. I grew up with Adam. His accent is odd and made-up and I don't know why he talks like that.

Philip Is there anybody active in emo big enough to fill the usual TBS slot?

Leor Jimmy Eat World can rival TBS.

UK punk trio Big Joanie would make a welcome addition to a Riot Fest lineup. - ELLIE SMITH
  • UK punk trio Big Joanie would make a welcome addition to a Riot Fest lineup.
  • Ellie Smith

Jamie I think the Village People are actually an interesting pick. There are other genres where Riot Fest has drawn a thread to early music that shaped punk (country, reggae), but they haven't done as much with dance music, and definitely not disco.

Salem I just kinda feel sad thinking about the cop, the cowboy, and the construction worker wandering alone through Douglas Park trying to get a hot dog in peace.

Philip Some folks are definitely still mad at Bikini Kill for playing the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, I think in the early 2000s, because MichFest was trans exclusionary. Does anybody want to go there?

Salem I was at that show! The situation was pretty complicated. I feel like I've mostly heard backlash against Kathleen Hanna specifically about that (and from younger people than I). I'd be interested to read takes from others who were actively going to the festivals during that era.

Nicole I know there are larger conversations about riot grrrl in general being transphobic.

Philip Honestly I think riot grrrl only catches that heat because it set itself up as something revolutionary and progressive. In the early 90s, you'd be hard-pressed to find a mainstream scene that didn't have transphobic people in it, but I've rarely heard any others retroactively criticized on those grounds. (And yes, I'm enough of a snob to call riot grrrl "mainstream.")

Salem At the time, knowledge of what constituted transphobia was not widespread. Not that this is good—I'm super happy that these things are discussed by more people now. But I remember seeing their first Chicago show in 1991, and they were being verbally pelted with "Show us your boobs!"-style ridiculousness by several of the men in the room. This was a normal thing then.

Philip How many hip-hop acts are there on the bill this year, Leor?

Leor Riot Fest used to be pretty great at booking rising rappers, but Lando Chill is one of the few on this year's bill.

I'm curious who y'all think should have played Riot Fest this year!

Jamie I'm honestly surprised they still haven't booked Idles.

Leor I wonder how much better Riot Fest could've done by Lando Chill and attendees by booking more up-and-coming rappers. Chicago has plenty who'd appeal to Riot Fest's base. I mean, why didn't Riot Fest book Mykele Deville? And I realize Why? Records is still new, but all four rappers in the collective would go over well.

Salem I would like to see the Effigies, Germs, Misfits, Dickies . . .

Philip Girl Band, definitely! Drug Apts two times over!

Jamie What's been funny about Riot Fest is that despite all the styles they've incorporated, there's so much territory they haven't really explored, such as garage and psych (and probably a lot of you know I've had dreams of a D-beat/crust stage for years).

I'd also like to see the Seratones, Tropa Magica, or Big Joanie—more POC punk/crossover artists in general!

Philip I bet Deafkids would go over like gangbusters at Riot Fest.

Leor I'm a little surprised Riot Fest didn't book Duster, who recently reunited behind an expansive Numero reissue. Instead they headline Sleeping Village the second night of the fest.

Salem Why has Riot Fest not really jumped into garage? There's been a bunch of suitably wonderful choices for that in the past 15 years.

Philip I am permanently offended that the Dirtbombs have never played Riot Fest. But I think Mick maybe just doesn't like circuses like this.

  • The Dirtbombs perform "Ever Lovin' Man" at Amoeba Records in San Francisco in 2008.

Leor I think Riot Fest has had some interest in garage. Alex White credits Riot Fest with helping get White Mystery moving pretty early in the band's career.

Foxing, who recently played a free fest outside Wrigley and have played Riot Fest before, would have been perfect.

Philip My old White Outs bandmate Dave is in Surfbort. They'd be a good fit, if they care.

Jamie Amyl & the Sniffers, who play more Aussie-style punk.

Nicole I would love to see some stoner/sludge bands.

Leor I'm surprised Riot Fest hasn't booked Joyce Manor since 2015—they packed the smallest stage back then.

Jamie I think a lot of people would be into reunions of groups like the Oblivians and the Gories, or sets from any of those guys. Jack Oblivian put out a great record this year!

Philip The Oblivians are an all-time favorite, but I can't imagine them on a ten-foot-high festival stage. What good is an Oblivians show if you can't smell it?

Hey Nicole, what stoner/sludge bands would you like to see?

Jamie They've never had the Melvins, to my knowledge.

Nicole I'm a big Earth fan. Om would be cool. Eyehategod.

Philip Om outdoors would be so strange! In that case I feel like they should play on top of Devils Tower, not in Douglas Park.

Salem I personally would pay VIP prices to see Killdozer again.

Philip Do we have anybody here who cares enough about roots or country music to give Riot Fest some tips on that front?

Jamie Another group that I'm surprised hasn't been booked yet is Power Trip.

Nicole Caroline Rose is playing, and she's a little bit country.

Philip I'm pretty sure rock nerds like Orville Peck . . . but I'm more of a Robbie Fulks guy.

Jamie Orville Peck already has a cult following. I've never seen so many cowboy hats and rhinestones at the Empty Bottle!

Leor Honestly I'm kind of surprised the Mekons have never played.

Salem I'm way into roots music, reggae, and country, but I already enjoy the other festivals that do that well. I feel like it would be OK if Riot Fest didn't try.

Nicole I love country. A lot. But don't want to see it at Riot Fest.

Jamie The Merle Haggard set at Riot Fest was legendary.

Salem Right, but if the Village People are their answer for bringing out the 70s disco connection, I'm totally unclear about what an entire stage of country at Riot Fest would look like.

Nicole They have Lucero booked, which is also alt-country.

The psychedelic cumbia punk of Los Angeles group Tropa Magica is playfully subversive enough for any Riot Fest fan. - RAFAEL CARDENAS
  • The psychedelic cumbia punk of Los Angeles group Tropa Magica is playfully subversive enough for any Riot Fest fan.
  • Rafael Cardenas

Jamie From the start, Riot Fest drew these threads that show the progression of punk. I think they've done a decent job of that with country music, and there are a lot of newer groups still exploring the intersections of country and punk.

Philip I think Riot Fest does better with genres that have some genealogical overlap with punk. Disco really didn't—"disco punk," insofar as it ever existed, didn't happen till like 2000 or so.

Leor In which case, bring on the Electric Six!

Philip They've got something to put in you! (I played with them in Detroit in the early 2000s. They did not put anything in me.)

Leor Philip.

Salem They're back at Reggies' in October if you want to try again, Philip.

In conclusion I don't think this festival is much of a riot, but I really like Patti Smith and am glad Riot Fest is paying her. Ditto to Bikini Kill and the Wu-Tang Clan. Best of luck, your friend, Salem.

Philip I'm glad to see Hot Snakes again. And I will always think the B-52s were badasses.

Leor I will do my best to avoid Frank Iero, who I imagine Riot Fest keeps booking in hopes of landing a My Chemical Romance reunion. And I'll show up early for Pkew Pkew Pkew.

Nicole This will be my third time seeing the B-52s! Pumped for that.

Leor Riot Fest, please book Smash Mouth.  v

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Agenda Teaser

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