Riot Fest Rocks Chicagoland

Riot Fest and Carnival came to a close last weekend and it was the perfect way to wrap up the summer concert season in Chicago. This annual festival, that’s held at Douglas Park, is the pinnacle of musical events. The talent, the festivities and the fun make it a perfect combination good for anyone.


This year rocked, but many were mourning the loss of Riot Fest co-founder and owner of the Cobra Lounge, Sean McKeough, who passed away at the young age of 42 last November. Riot Fest did not hold their festival in Denver this year.


I’ve been able to attend Riot Fest a few times and they always bring such a wide-range of talent from metal, to industrial to pop to rock. This year was no exception, the atmosphere was stellar, the crowd was pleasant and respectful, and there were five stages with non-stop musical enjoyment. 


Headlining on Friday was rocker Trent Reznor, with his band, Nine Inch Nails. Queens Of The Stone Age was the last to play on Saturday, and Sunday came to a close with punk rock heroes, Jawbreaker, who have not been on stage since 1996.


Other amazing acts that graced the stage this year were New York-based hip hop group, Wu-Tang Clan, GWAR, Mike D (from Beastie Boys) who played a DJ set, party man Andrew W.K., punk rockers Pennywise, and British rapper, M.I.A., to name a few.


The other half of the Riot Fest moniker is the “and Carnival.” Upon entering the festival grounds stood numerous carnival rides to satisfy your need for speed like the Zipper, the Tornado, Tilt-A-Whirl and a large Ferris wheel which had the greatest views of Riot Fest. Typical carnival food stands were there to quench your thirst and to satisfy your taste buds with lemonade, nachos, pretzels and pizza.


There were vendors galore. Booths selling clothing, pipes, jewelry, artwork, food, drinks, you name it – they had it. One booth in particular caught my eye. It was a company called Electric Sky Wine, who just so happened to be the official wine sponsor for this year’s Riot Fest. If you haven’t heard of this wine brand, It is the very first and only stackable wine and it’s brought to you by Interscope Records. Daniel Sena, Head of Strategic Marketing at Interscope Records said “at the festivals, we see fans engaging with wine like never before.” Electric Sky Wine varieties include Pinot Grigio, Rose and the California Red Blend. I sat down at their booth and sipped their Pinot and it was primo.


After the carnival, after the food, after the drinks and after the music concluded, Riot Fest hosted a plethora of late night shows from Thursday through Sunday with select Riot Fest artists performing all over Chicago land at the Bottom Lounge, Cobra Lounge, Concord Music Hall, House of Vans and Smart Bar. Nearly half of the late night shows sold out with The Queers & The Ataris, Dinosaur Jr. & Built To Spill, Buzzcocks, Taking Back Sunday, Hot Water Music and Airstream Futures.


Riot Fest continues to be the best and I am already looking forward to next year. Save the date, because Riot Fest 2018 is happening September 14-16.


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I had the pleasure of photographing many Riot Fest acts and activities. Check out my photo gallery below.






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