Not even 2018 can stop Riot Fest | Music Feature | Chicago Reader

Not even 2018 can stop Riot Fest 

It’s been a bad year for punks—and for everyone else who hates authoritarianism. But Riot Fest has persevered to bring us Run the Jewels, Blondie, Gary Numan, and 85 more acts.

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The crowd for the Lawrence Arms on day two of last year’s Riot Fest - ASHLEE REZIN/CHICAGO SUN-TIMES
  • The crowd for the Lawrence Arms on day two of last year’s Riot Fest
  • Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times

This year you could buy bulk Halloween candy and pumpkin spice lattes before Riot Fest announced its entire lineup. Just seven days before fans would start queuing up outside Douglas Park, organizers finally announced the event's daily rosters, began selling single-day tickets, and indicated who'd be headlining each night. Over the years Chicago's many music festivals have established pretty regular schedules for their lineup announcements, such that you can usually tell when this year's will drop by looking up the date on last year's. Riot Fest's delay was unusual, of course, but not necessarily a symptom of a crisis. It's never been the type to follow in the footsteps of other festivals.

Of course, there was a crisis, but it happened months ago. The same day in May that Riot Fest announced its first wave of 2018 acts and began selling three-day passes, Ticketfly (the festival's ticketing partner for eight years) was hacked and went offline. This not only handicapped many small venues' websites and exposed personal information for about 27 million user accounts, but also paralyzed Riot Fest's ticket sales at a critical moment. The festival moved those operations to Eventbrite as quickly as possible, but much of the damage had been done. Riot Fest received a settlement from Ticketfly in July, and rather than pocket the money, it offered deals to fans—it sold a limited number of three-day passes for $99.98, and anyone who already had tickets at the time of the settlement could buy a three-day pass to next year's Riot Fest for $99.98.


Riot Fest
Fri 9/14 through Sun 9/16, 11 AM-10 PM, Douglas Park, 1401 S. Sacramento, $129.98 three-day pass ($249.98 VIP), $49.98 single-day tickets ($99.98 VIP), free for children under five, all-ages


Fortunately, before that snafu happened, Riot Fest had already assembled a lineup worthy of its recent streak of top-shelf bookings. This is its seventh year outdoors, long enough for some noticeable patterns to emerge among the big acts at the top of the bill—which isn't a complaint, not when the repeaters include Elvis Costello (returning to the stage after canceling a string of July dates to recuperate from cancer surgery) and Blondie (whose pre-breakup catalog will be reissued next year by the Numero Group). Several notable names are Riot Fest first-timers, including Gary Numan, Liz Phair, the Jesus Lizard, Cat Power, the Avengers, and Incubus. The last big additions, Weezer and Run the Jewels, aren't earth-shattering reunions like Jawbreaker in 2017, the original Misfits in 2016, or the Replacements in 2013, but RTJ are one of rap's biggest, most unexpected crossover acts in years—and interestingly enough, Riot Fest is showcasing them during their prime.

Festival rules, transit routes, and other details are posted at riotfest.org. That's also a good place to look out for late lineup changes—it'll have them before we do.  v


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