Chicago’s summer music festival season is coming to a close, but not without making you mosh and watch Wu-Tang from a Ferris wheel. Riot Fest brings a punk-rock carnival to Douglas Park September 13–15.
The three-day event assembles beloved and emerging punk, rock, and hip-hop artists for a raucous, head-banging weekend. Riot Fest’s 15th anniversary lineup includes standouts Blink-182, Bikini Kill, Slayer, Patti Smith, Jawbreaker, and the Flaming Lips.
Offering an excuse to wear your favorite high school band T-shirts and play carnival games, Riot Fest lets you be a kid again—a kid who can visit the beer tent.
Photo by Jessica Mlinaric
Punk is beloved for its outsider mentality, and the Violent Femmes have kept it weird for more than 30 years. The Milwaukee freak folk band will get the festival off to a spirited start with its jangly, energetic favorites like “Gone Daddy Gone” and “Blister in the Sun.”
Details: September 13, 5:30 p.m., at Roots StagePennywise
If Riot Fest history repeats itself, Pennywise will have one of the weekend’s most intense mosh pits. Three decades on, the Hermosa Beach band’s catchy punk and hard-core sound still compels audiences to sing “f*ck authority.”
Details: September 13, 6:10 p.m., at Radicals Stage
Pennywise/Photo by Jessica Mlinaric
Blink-182 fans will finally get to see the trio headline Riot Fest after canceling their performance last year due to health reasons. To mark its 20th anniversary, the SoCal pop-punk band will be performing their breakout album, Enema of the State, in its entirety. Sing along to hits like “All the Small Things” and “Adam’s Song” and ask yourself, “What’s My Age Again?”
Details: September 13, 8:45 p.m., at Riot StageThe Struts
Take a walk on the glam-rock side with the Struts. The UK quartet delivers a high-energy set that’s more euphoria than angst. With bluesy riffs and arena rock choruses, they bring rock-and-roll swagger to the Riot Fest lineup.
Details: September 14, 6 p.m., at Rise StageWu-Tang Clan
Hip-hop legends Wu-Tang Clan are a welcome addition to a Riot Fest lineup lacking in rap acts. They were a late add to the bill, replacing South African group Die Antwoord. The 1990s hip-hop anthem “Protect Ya Neck” will ring out through Douglas Park Saturday evening thanks to RZA, GZA, Ghostface Killah, and the rest of the crew.
Details: September 14, 7:30 p.m., at Radicals Stage
Slayer/Photo courtesy of Herfitz PR
After nearly 40 years, Slayer is bringing their reign of terror to an end with a farewell tour—Riot Fest marks the band’s last show in Chicago. It’s safe to say the thrash metal legends won’t go quietly, with a blistering set and pyro show that will have Douglas Park feeling like the gates of hell.
Details: September 14, 8:30 p.m., at Riot StageBloc Party
UK band Bloc Party will close out Saturday night playing its 2005 debut album Silent Alarm in its entirety. The album is something of an indie rock icon for the early 2000s, featuring favorite tracks like “This Modern Love,” “Banquets,” and “Helicopter.” This electronic-infused dance party will battle Slayer’s thrash anthems in the headlining time slot.
Photo by Joseph Cultice/Courtesy of B-52’s
Art-pop oddballs the B-52's will play their final Chicago show at Riot Fest on their 40th Anniversary Tour. The new wave weirdos don’t immediately scream “punk,” but their campy take on surf rock and retro pop is nothing if not surreal and subversive. Groove to their singable, bubblegum singles “Love Shack” and “Roam” while you can.
Details: September 15, 5:15 p.m., at Radicals StagePatti Smith
The Godmother of Punk returns to Riot Fest for one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend. More than just a concert, she captivates crowds with a show that is part iconic rock and part conversation, poetic yet approachable. Songs like “People Have the Power” remind us that Smith’s work is still as relevant and urgent as ever.
Details: September 15, 6:20 p.m., at Riot Stage
Patti Smith / Photo by Jessica Mlinaric
Riot Fest has a way of reuniting bands, and Bikini Kill plays the festival as part of a handful of shows marking their first appearance in 20 years. The iconic Riot Grrrl pioneers feel as vital now as their feminist punk did in the 1990s. Kathleen Hannah is a force to behold, along with original members Tobi Vail and Kathi Wilcox, and they're joined by guitarist Erica Dawn Lyle. The reminder to amplify female and other marginalized voices is a very punk closing to the weekend.
Details: September 14, 8:30 p.m., at Riot Stage