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18 Riot Fest Acts We're Most Excited To See This Weekend

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 14, 2017 7:32PM

You never know who you'll run into at Riot Fest, photo by Tyler LaRiviere

Yeah, we know: Riot Fest sucks. Why are your favorite bands playing at the same time? Why won't the Riot Fest Twitter guy retweet your hilarious musings? Why can't they stop the rain?

Get over it. Riot Fest is still the little big festival that could, that manages to still put together interesting music bills in an era when most other festivals are too busy cannibalizing each other's acts, and still does it all from the heart of Chicago.

This is our personal favorite fest of the year, and it always feels like a fittingly true send off to the summer (and entry into Rocktober), and this year the bill did not disappoint. There is a non-stop deluge of bands both huge and tiny this weekend in Douglas Park, so you'll have a good time no matter how you fill your schedule. However, here are a few of the acts we are most personally looking forward to and think are worth checking out. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

TOBACCO, photo by Seven Fields of Aphelion

Most likely to perform under a cloud of smoke:
TOBACCO on the Riot Stage at 12:30 p.m. on Friday

TOBACCO is the side project of Thomas Fec, the frontman of Black Moth Super Rainbow, and is built on weed-soaked beats that flit in and out of phase at times to create a dizzying effect. This year’s Ripe & Majestic is some of his more accessible work, which is pretty funny when you consider it’s actually a collection of instrumentals and abandoned beats. Of course his castaways would still be addictively catchy in an offbeat way. The only thing I’m having trouble wrapping my head around is how his work will go over under the noonday sun. I guess you’ll just have to get extra high before getting to the park. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

The Cribs

Brits who’ve spent so much time in Chicago they might as well live here:
The Cribs on The Heather Owen Stage at 6:20 p.m. on Friday

The Cribs often get lumped under the Britpop moniker, but in recent years their sound has turned far more ragged and scrappy. They’ve also found a friend in producer Steve Albini, who manned the board for their last two albums, most recently 24-7 Rockstar Shit, which was secretly recorded in Chicago before it’s surprise release last month. The band’s live sets have always been blasts of visual and sonic endorphins. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

New Order

Plenty of hooks to be had, despite the absence of one Hook:
New Order on the Roots Stage at 7:10 p.m. on Friday

Original bass player Peter Hook is no longer in the fold to personally lay down those signature sixteenth note runs, busy as he is with his bizarre self-tribute-band and dirt-dishing memoirs. But the rest of the original cast of the post-punk, electronic-rock pioneers is present and accounted for. You of course don’t need us to sell you on their unimpeachable back catalog—with watersheds like Power, Corruption & Lies and history-making totems like “Blue Monday”—but unlike some other legacy acts you’ll encounter on the Riot Fest bill, Bernard Sumner and the gang continues to produce quality new material, like last year’s Music Complete. — Stephen Gossett

Vic Mensa, photo by Annie Lesser/Chicagoist

The act most likely to leave you wanting more:
Vic Mensa on the Rise Stage at 7:25 p.m. on Friday

Hometown rapper Vic Mensa has had several memorable moments this year: his takedown of “War in Chiraq”creator DJ Akademiks, being one of the too few prominent artists to call out R. Kelly, his onstage hatchet burial with Chance the Rapper at Lollapalooza. He also at last released his long-awaited full length, the appropriately named The Autobiography; and despite occasional pedanticism and some regrettable rock-y flourishes, he sounds heated and heartfelt as usual—which should surely carry over live. That fact that he overlaps with New Order is one of the festival’s cruelest conflicts. — Stephen Gossett

Fisbone, photo by Photo by Dennis Manuel from the band's Facebook page

There’s a party at ground zero:
Fishbone on the Radicals Stage at 1:45 p.m. on Saturday

Over the year’s Fishbone has been one of those acts where you never know which incarnation is going to hit the stage. Will it be more soul? More punk? More ska? More funk? This weekend the answer is all of the above since they’ll be playing their seminal album Truth & Soul. Fishbone may be unpredictable, but they are never a boring live act. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Peaches, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Brace yourself for some crowd walking:
Peaches on the Riot Stage at 2:35 p.m. on Saturday

If you don’t think you’re familiar with Peaches, you probably are. This year’s first Taylor Swift single borrows heavily from her work, but I guess if you’re going to rip anyone off as you “reinvent” yourself I’d rather it’s Peaches. Some say Peaches is electroclash, but every time I’ve seen her, she’s been a pure rock and roll goddess. If you have to find a sound to hook you in order to get you to the field for her set, I’d say she’s electro-rock, but that’s really selling her sound short. And her live sets? Expect elaborate costumes, confrontational antics and, yes, crowd-walking. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Dead Cross, photo by Rich Cook from the band's Facebook page

Wear earplugs. Seriously:
Dead Cross on the Roots Stage at 3:25 p.m. on Saturday

The word “supergroup” sure gets abused, but when your band includes Mike Patton, Slayer’s Dave Lombardo, along with Retox members Mike Crain Justin Pearson, I’m gonna say the term applies. The result is just as fast and ear-shredding as you would expect. But these guys seem born to play together. This is especially impressive when you consider their debut was originally recorded with a different vocalist the group parted ways with before recruiting Patton to lay his own unmistakable singing over their turbulent blend of metal and hardcore. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

The Regrettes, photo by Lindsey Byrnes

These are just rock songs, don’t take them the wrong way. Or do:
The Regrettes on The Heather Owen Stage at 6 p.m. on Saturday

On Feel Your Feelings Fool! The Regrettes combine punk, pop (but not pop-punk) with straightforward lyrics that might cause you to blink the first time you make them out. Not because the lyrics are scandalous, but because they’re just so honest. Throw in a hint of ’60s girl group harmonies here and there and you have a can’t miss combo to take in as the sun begins to set over the grounds. Don’t worry though, this set will help get you amped up to party deep into the night. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

At The Drive In

Brace yourself for a delightful case of aural whiplash:
At the Drive In on the Roots Stage at 7:40 p.m. on Saturday

Remember when At the Drive-In released a new album this year? Probably not. But while in•ter a•li•a, the post-hardcore band’s first album in more than 15 years, played almost like self-parody in parts, the release cycle at least served to remind what diehards never forgot: the material on which they made their name, culminating in the semi-breakthrough Relationship of Command, still crackles with fierce, livewire power. And as you may recall from Lollapalooza, their hammy stage banter has few peers. Duds aside, it still feels like appointment viewing. — Stephen Gossett

The Wu Tang Clan, photo via their Facebook page

No, we have no idea which members are showing up either:
Wu-Tang on the radicals Stage at 8 p.m. on Saturday

As the seismic 1993 debut from Staten Island’s finest, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), nears its 25th anniversary, it remains quite simply one of hip-hop’s all-time masterpieces, regardless of region, era or any other qualifier. (And no pharma bro is gonna take it away from us.) While Wu-Tang members and affiliates are familiar sights at Riot Fest—last year saw GZA and Method Man & Redman—if the idea of a full-album performance of the classic that simultaneously introduced and perfected the Wu mythology doesn’t quicken your pulse, you might need a defibrillator. — Stephen Gossett

Queens of the Stone Age, photo by Andreas Neumann

Boogie down or bang your head, you can’t lose:
Queens of the Stone Age on the Riot Stage at 8:45 p.m. on Saturday

One of the truly great, beloved hard-rock bands of the last couple of decades, Queens of the Stone Age has ironically built a big tent out of their square pegs: poppier than the stoner rock scene from which they emerged, with far more sex appeal and self-awareness than the “contemporaries” from which they stuck out—and left in the dust—on their infamous early-career Ozzfest appearance. Josh Homme and his shifting roster of support (which now includes ex-Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore) have never released a stinker, but this year’s classic-rock-steeped Villains still feels like something of a return to form. The marquee reunions may get more ink, but this might very well prove the best headlining performance of the weekend. — Stephen Gossett

Downtown Boys, photo by Miguel Rosario

The breath of fresh air likely to knock you off your feet:
Downtown Boys on the Rise Stage at 1 p.m. on Sunday

The first time we caught woke-and-wired Latinx punks Downtown Boys was at sweaty DIY basement in Pilsen, not long after their part-English-part-Spanish LP Full Communism started wowing open minds. Led by Victoria Ruiz’s gale-force vocals, the group bowled us over with their political conviction and sheer force of commitment, and it was clear bigger stages awaited. But honestly, their impassioned sax-blaring punk could fill the Sahara. Do not be late on Sunday. — Stephen Gossett

Beach Slang, photo by Charlie Lowe

The Replacements couldn’t make it this year, but that’s O.K.
Beach Slang on the Riot Stage at 12:45 p.m. on Sunday

Beach Slang frontman James Alex would be the first to tell you his band owes a huge debt to The Replacements. Heck, the last time we saw them play was at Liar’s Club when they busted out a cover of “Bastards Of Young.” (And in a bit of eery prescience, they also covered Riot Fest 2017 headliner Jawbreaker’s “Chesterfield King” that night.) But unlike his heroes, Alex always brings his A-game to the stage to deliver sets that brim with that same wild abandon that blasted through the best house parties you’ve ever been to. Forget the coffee at brunch, this should be enough to jump-start your day. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

that dog., photo via their Facebook page

This is the band I thought I would never get to see live:
that dog. on the Riot Stage at 2:15 p.m. on Sunday

Sure, getting Jawbreaker to reunite is an amazing feat, but I’m personally more excited for the that dog. reunion I thought I would never get to see. The band has only played a couple times since they initially disbanded in 1997, and none of those performances were anywhere near Chicago. Well, suck it coasts, it’s our turn now! that dog. will be performing their crunch-pop masterpiece Retreat From the Sun—an album that has stood the test of time to remain one of the best releases of the ‘90s in my humble estimation. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

The Menzingers, photo by Charles Wzresniewski

Most likely to have the entire crowd shout “Chicago! during "Midwestern States”:
The Menzingers on the Radicals Stage at 4:15 p.m. on Sunday

Who knew Scranton could kick out such a heartfelt crew of punk rockers? The Menzingers specialize in those kind of fist-pumping anthems that both celebrate and bemoan not being the best you can be. The band makes you want to be a better person, but allows you to accept you’re not because neither are they. I mean, hell, one of their best songs is "I Don't Wanna Be an Asshole Anymore.” (Though their absolute best is “Bad Things” with it’s perfect chorus. It makes me shiver every time I hear it.) — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Best Coast, photo by Janell Shirtcliff

Reach out for the sun:
Best Coast on the Radicals Stage at 6:45 p.m. on Sunday

With every release Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno have just gotten better and better. Taking the simple notion of big guitars that mirror the California surf with melodies that reach for the sky the duo knit songs that blanket you in summer sunshine. On a day that also includes the band’s spiritual predecessors that dog., I’m expecting to get totally blissed out. — Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

Andrew WK, photo by Vicky Pea

Andrew WK The Heather Owen Stage at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday


Jawbreaker, image via their website

The band everyone is talking about. Everyone:
Jawbreaker on the Riot Stage at 8:45 p.m. on Sunday

“Most Anticipated” honors goes to these 90s pop-punk emo heroes, who surprise-reunited after more than 20 years apart ahead of the festival—and there’s really no contest. The band’s third album in particular, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy (1994), was one of the most beloved punk moments of the era and seems to have found purchase with a new generation as the emo revival continues. And even it doesn’t represent a foundational text for you, cuts like the immortal, anti-punk-police “Boxcar” are still undeniable. It’ll be a treat to hear it live, especially now that the angsty teeth-gnashing over “selling out” that plagued Blake Schwarzenbach and company has taken its rightful place in the dustbin of history. — Stephen Gossett

Riot Fest is Sept. 15 to 17 in Douglas Park, and some tickets are still available.