Riot Fest 2021 Preview

You can’t keep a punk down. While 2020 saw festivals shut down and stay inside thanks to the COVID pandemic, summer & fall of this year has seen them...

You can’t keep a punk down. While 2020 saw festivals shut down and stay inside thanks to the COVID pandemic, summer & fall of this year has seen them slowly come back, here & there – very much here with Chicago’s Riot Fest. Yes, there have been cancellations, but also additions, including a brand new day with the Thursday ‘Preview Party’ on September 16th, before the main fest, Friday-Sunday, 17th to 19th:



Morrissey, 8:15 PM – 9:30 PM

Headlining the special bonus ‘preview party’ for Riot Fest ’21 is the one, the only, the Morrissey (QRO live review). The iconic singer (QRO photos) first came to prominence fronting the band of the alt-eighties, The Smiths, before they broke up and he headed out on a storied solo career, most recently with last year’s I Am Not a Dog On a Chain (QRO review), as well as 2017’s Low In High School (QRO review), 2014’s World Peace Is None of Your Business (QRO review), 2009’s Years of Refusal (QRO review) and b-sides album Swords (QRO review), not to mention an autobiography and even a (poorly-received) novel.

In addition to a penchant for awesome album & song titles, Moz (QRO photos) has kept up his tart tongue and animal rights advocacy, and so Thursday at Riot Fest ’21 the food vendors will be vegetarian (when he played ’16, they just shut them all down early). Hopefully he will stay away from his most notorious aspect these days (QRO photos outdoors in 2019), Anglo nationalism. And hopefully the capable Riot Fest security staff can keep away his too numerous stage-crashers hoping to hug Morrissey (QRO photos) on the big stage (QRO photos at Madison Square Garden).


Patti Smith & Her Band, 6:05 PM – 7:05 PM

Riot Fest lined up a true icon for their festival – Patti Smith (QRO photos outdoors). The ‘Godmother of Punk’ was one of the first to truly fuse rock and poetry, and served as something of a bridge between the beatniks & hippies of the fifties & sixties and the punks of the seventies and eighties. Her music even gave the name to perhaps New York’s most important venue, Bowery Ballroom (QRO venue review), and she helped open its sister in Brooklyn, Music Hall of Williamsburg (QRO venue review). She may have been made a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture, but she hasn’t slowed down (QRO photos), and won’t be any less impressive when she comes to down the shore (QRO photos at a festival), as she plays her third Riot Fest (QRO photos at Riot Fest ’14).


WDRL, 4:20 PM – 5:05 PM

Patti Smith

Alkaline Trio, 7:10 PM – 8:10 PM

Chicago’s own reliable punk rockers Alkaline Trio (QRO photos at a festival) return to Riot Fest for a fourth time (QRO photos at Riot Fest ’18), behind recent records This Addiction (QRO review), My Shame Is True, and 2018’s Is This Thing Cursed? (not to mention anniversary release of Damnesia QRO review).

Alkaline Trio

Joyce Manor, 5:15 PM – 6:00 PM

Punks Joyce Manor (QRO photos) return to rock the special Riot Fest ’21 preview party (QRO photos) by playing their 2011 self-titled debut in full (QRO photos from 2012).

Joyce Manor


Kristeen Young, 3:30 PM – 4:15 PM

Kristeen Young



The Smashing Pumpkins, 8:20 PM – 10:00 PM

Riot Fest has lined up an iconic nineties alt-rock band in The Smashing Pumpkins (QRO photos at Madison Square Garden). They broke out of Chicago (QRO photos in the Midwest) alongside the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam with 1993’s Siamese Dream and 1995’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, eschewing the punk-infused grunge for layered guitar rock and psychedelia, even shoegaze to commercial & critical acclaim (QRO live review playing SPIN event). They (QRO photos) were one of the decade’s seminal acts (they didn’t just headline a touring season of Lollapalooza – they even played The Simpsons’ Hullabalooza…), but the decade/century/millennium ended, and so did the band, amid drugs, infighting, and declining record sales.

Frontman Billy Corgan wandered a bit, reuniting for a bit with drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, then recruiting a rotating cast of characters (QRO live review) for records like 2012’s Oceania (QRO review) & 2014’s Monuments to an Elegy (QRO review) that actually were really good. Then they one-upped by bringing back Chamberlin and guitarist James Iha (QRO live review together) for 2018’s Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun (QRO review) and last year’s Cyr (QRO review). See the old, hear the new, now Smashing Pumpkins (QRO photos).

The Smashing Pumpkins

Motion City Soundtrack, 6:05 PM – 7:05 PM

Catch the synth-led emo-punk of Motion City Soundtrack (QRO live review), who broke up after playing Riot Fest ‘16 (QRO photos at Riot ’14), but you can’t keep a good city or soundtrack down, so reuniting in 2019 (QRO photos from last year) and returning to Riot Fest (QRO photos at a festival).

Motion City Soundtrack

Pinegrove, 3:55 PM – 4:55 PM

The literary lyricism of New Jersey indie-rock outfit Pinegrove (QRO photos) comes to Riot Fest behind last year’s Marigold (QRO review).


Meg Myers, 2:00 PM – 2:45 PM

Widening Riot Fest’s musical circle is Meg Myers (QRO photos at a festival), who asks that you Take Me To the Disco.

Meg Myers

Envy On the Coast, 12:35 PM – 1:05 PM

Long Island post-hardcore Envy On the Coast comes inland to Riot Fest.

Envy On the Coast

Coheed & Cambria, 7:10 PM – 8:10 PM

Sort of a successor to the storytelling complex prog-rock of the likes of Rush, Nyack, New York’s Coheed & Cambria (QRO live review) combine that complex prog-rock with post-hardcore heaviness – to tell singer Claudio Sanchez’s epic Amory Wars story, spanning eight concept albums and counting. Phish’s Gamehendge has nothing on Amory Wars!

The band comes back to Riot Fest (QRO photos at Riot Fest ’15) with word of a new Amory record in the works – centered around a celebration called “The Quarantine” (where things aren’t what they seem…).

Coheed & Cambria

Thrice, 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM

What began as another rock band has expanded into much more, as Irvine, California’s Thrice (QRO photos at a festival) have taken their music into seemingly every experimental direction, including back to Riot Fest (QRO photos at a festival).


Circa Survive, 2:50 PM – 3:50 PM

Anthony Green abandoned his successful Saosin when he became disillusioned, but found a new home in Circa Survive (QRO photos), most recently with 2017’s The Amulet, and return to Riot Fest (QRO photos at a festival).

Circa Survive

The Sounds, 1:10 PM – 1:55 PM

Of the ‘The Bands’ in garage revival of earlier this century/millennium, while Sweden’s The Sounds (QRO spotlight on) may not have the most inventive sound, the band (QRO photos) – fronted by frontwoman extraordinaire Maja Ivarsson – is electric live (QRO live review). They come to Riot Fest behind last year’s Things We Do For Love (QRO review).

The Sounds

Meet Me @ the Altar, 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM

Originally formed by three musicians in three different states making music over the internet, Meet Me @ the Altar have come together & were signed by Fueled By Ramen just last year.

Meet Me @ the Altar

NOFX, 9:00 PM – 10:00 PM

If you don’t want to be all high-minded and serious at Riot Fest, go the exact opposite direction with NOFX (QRO photos). The ska-punkers have turned cheeky fart jokes into a musical career for decades now, such as on 2009’s Coaster (QRO review), and have rebounded from some ill-advised jokes to return to the road (QRO photos), playing their fourth Riot Fest (QRO photos at a festival).


Circle Jerks, 7:15 PM – 8:15 PM

One of the legends of American punk rock, Circle Jerks formed way back in 1979 with former Black Flag singer Keith Morris and Redd Kross guitarist Greg Hetson. The group (QRO live review) influenced & inspired pretty much all punks from the eighties on. They also broke up & reformed many times, most recently this year to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Group Sex (originally planned for last year, but punks aren’t on time), and come to perfect place to do it, Riot Fest.

Circle Jerks

The Lawrence Arms, 5:30 PM – 6:30 PM

Out of The Broadways (who reunited at Riot Fest ’13) came Chicago’s own punk rockers The Lawrence Arms (QRO photos), who return to Riot Fest for a four time.

The Lawrence Arms

Anti-Flag, 3:45 PM – 4:45 PM

Steel City punks Anti-Flag (QRO photos at a festival) left the major labels behind on 2009’s The People Or the Gun and 2012’s The General Strike, but have kept up their activism – the band attempted to put on an anti-G20 show when the world leaders forum came to their native Pittsburgh, only for it to be closed down due to massive police presence in the city (and lack of parking). More recently, they’ve been heavily involved in the worldwide Occupy movement, so of course this ain’t their first Riot Fest (QRO photos at Riot Fest ’19).


Radkey, 2:15 PM – 3:00 PM

A decade ago, St. Joseph, Missouri’s trio of brothers – Dee, Isaiah, and Solomon (QRO photos at a festival) – rebooted punk rock as Radkey, and they’re the go-to answer for your favorite discovery at Riot Fest, playing it for it for a third time.


Oxymorrons, 1:15 PM – 1:45 PM


Lupe Fiasco, 8:40 PM – 9:55 PM

Discovered by no less than Jay-Z, Chicago’s own Lupe Fiasco (QRO photos at a festival) rose to fame on the back of 2006 debut Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor. He was able to follow that up the next year with Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool and other hit records, but for Riot Fest (QRO photos at a festival), he plays The Cool in the full.

Lupe Fiasco

Dirty Heads, 7:10 PM – 8:10 PM

Huntington Beach’s Dirty Heads (QRO live review) began by fusing reggae, rock, and hip-hop, and their 2008 debut Any Port In a Storm featured appearances by the likes of Beatles collaborator Billy Preston, Weezer/DEVO/Vandals drummer Josh Freese, and reggae singer/DJ Tippa Irie. They (QRO live review) return to Riot Fest for a third time, now with their recent tour partner Sublime with Rome (see just below).

The Dirty Heads

Sublime with Rome, 5:40 PM – 6:40 PM

Nineties ska-punk didn’t get much bigger than Sublime, whose “What I Got” was all over the radio. However, then singer/guitarist Bradley Nowell died of a heroin overdose at the height of their fame in 1996, and, other than some posthumous releases, the ride seemed over.

But in 2009, bassist Eric Wilson & drummer Bud Gaugh recruited singer/guitarist (and huge Sublime fan) Rome Ramirez and reunited Sublime (QRO photos) – only for Nowell’s family to sue and successfully prevent the band from using the name (which was owned by Nowell). So now they’re ‘Sublime with Rome’ (QRO photos at a festival), who come back to Riot Fest while on tour (QRO live review) with Dirty Heads (see just above).

Sublime with Rome

Living Colour, 4:25 PM – 5:10 PM

Embrace the fusion of all kinds of sounds that is Living Colour (QRO photos outdoors), who’ve been mixing heavy metal, hip-hop, jazz, indie rock, funk and more for thirty years (QRO photos), including previously at Riot Fest (QRO photos at Riot Fest ’15).

Living Colour

Fishbone, 2:45 PM – 3:55 PM

There’s really no act out there like Fishbone (QRO photos at a festival). Starting way back in 1979, their afro-punk mélange of ska, punk, funk, soul, and more truly stood out (they also added some color to the lily-white American punk scene of the eighties). While they never broke through to the mainstream, that might be for the best, as it would likely have sanded down their unique rough edges, which are sure to be out at their third Riot Fest (QRO photos at Riot Fest ’15), where they play The Reality of My Surroundings in full.



Amigo the Devil, 1:30 PM – 2:15 PM

Seratones, 12:30 PM – 1:00 PM


Beach Bunny, 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM

Beach Bunny popped up on radars with their debut Honeymoon (QRO review) last year – just before everything shut down. But we’re back, and they’re back at Riot Fest.

Beach Bunny

Eyedress, 6:20 PM – 7:00 PM

From the Philippines to Phoenix, Idris Vicuña, a.k.a. Eyedress, brings hot rhymes & sounds.



Beach Goons, 5:10 PM – 5:50 PM

Kississippi, 4:00 PM – 4:40 PM

Jackie Hayes, 3:00 PM – 3:30 PM

Girlpuppy, 2:00 PM – 2:30 PM

Señor Kino, 1:00 PM – 1:30 PM

Beach Goons



Run the Jewels, 8:45 PM – 10:00 PM

El-P blew up the Brooklyn rap scene with 2013’s Cancer 4 Cure (QRO review of release party), and brought about his team-up with Killer Mike (QRO photos at a festival) for 2012’s ‘Into the Wild’ tour. Mike & P have deepened that connection (QRO photos at a festival), working together as Run the Jewels (QRO photos at a festival) for four critically acclaimed records, most recently last year’s critically- and commercially-acclaimed Run the Jewels 4. It’s been really enjoyable watching this duo just love life as they get bigger & bigger, as they come to back to Riot Fest to headline Saturday (QRO photos headlining a festival).

Run the Jewels

Vic Mensa, 6:20 PM – 7:20 PM

Chicago’s Vic Mensa (QRO photos at a festival) comes back to Riot Fest (QRO photos from Riot Fest ‘17), throwing down rhymes. In the festival’s grand tradition, he’ll be playing an album in full, his Innanetape – and more.

Vic Mensa

Best Coast, 4:10 PM – 5:10 PM

Los Angeles’ Best Coast (QRO live review) is a practical veteran in the garage-scene (QRO photos at a festival), but a goodie (QRO photos at a festival), combining surf, garage, indie, and pop for a sound (QRO photos) that’s sure to be sweet coming from frontwoman Bethany Cosentino (QRO live review) outdoors (QRO photos outdoors). They come back to Riot Fest (QRO photos at Riot Fest Toronto ‘13) behind last year’s Always Tomorrow (QRO review).

Best Coast

Big Freedia, 2:15 PM – 3:00 PM

Just as the post-Katrina rebuilding of New Orleans has been taking a while, so has the post-Katrina (re)discovery of New Orleans music – but one of the biggest & best to come out of the Big Easy is bounce music, mixing hip-hop with local dance and Mardi Gras call-and-response, and one of the biggest & best in bounce is Big Freedia (QRO photos at a festival), with the big asses (QRO photos) that set the world twerking record, starred in their own FUSE series, and more…


Just Friends, 12:50 PM – 1:20 PM

Big Freedia

Just Friends


Rise Against, 7:25 PM – 8:40 PM

Chicago’s own punks Rise Against (QRO photos at a Middle American festival) may have moved to major label status over a decade ago, but they’ve kept up their output, such as 2017’s Wolves (QRO review) & this year’s Nowhere Generation (QRO review), and political agitation, from the straight edge lifestyle to endorsing vegan-friendly Vans shoes. Stepping up as a last-minute addition, they’ll be playing their fifth Riot Fest (QRO photos at a festival)!

Rise Against

Gogol Bordello, 5:15 PM – 6:15 PM

From Eastern Europe & elsewhere, through the Lower East Side comes ‘gypsy punks’ Gogol Bordello (QRO live review). The many, many-person outfit is fronted by singer/guitarist Eugene Hutz (also of the film version of Everything Is Illuminated), but there’s so much going on on-stage, you won’t know where to look (QRO photos outdoors). The band followed up debut Underdog World Strike with the not-quite-as-impressive Super Taranta! (QRO review) in 2007, and even less so with 2010’s Trans-Continental Hustle (QRO review), but were revived in 2013 on Pure Vida Conspiracy (QRO review) – and the band still brings it live (QRO live review), including at festivals like Riot Fest (QRO photos at Riot Fest ’17QRO photos at Riot Fest ‘14). They return to the festival behind 2017’s Seekers and Finders (QRO review).

Gogol Bordello


Les Savy Fav, 3:05 PM – 4:05 PM

There may not be a band more suited for Riot Fest than the always-entertaining Les Savy Fav. It’s been a while since Brooklyn group released 2010’s Root For Ruin (QRO review), to say nothing of 2007’s Let’s Stay Friends (QRO review), but they’re best known for their crazy, wild live shows (QRO live review), with singer Tim Harrington running into the crowd, up against his band members, stripping to his portly frame, and more (QRO photos) – bassist Syd Butler both founded Frenchkiss Records and plays in Late Night with Seth Meyers’ 8G Band.

Les Savy Fav

Joywave, 1:25 PM – 2:10 PM

The indie-pop of Rochester’s Joywave (QRO photos) hit Riot Fest (QRO photos at a festival) behind this year’s third full-length, Every Window Is a Mirror.


Man On Man, 12:15 PM – 12:25 PM


Taking Back Sunday, 8:45 PM – 9:45 PM

It’s all come full circle. Though the line-up for Amityville’s emo-rockers Taking Back Sunday (QRO photos) has changed since 2002 debut Tell All Your Friends, it returned to the original line-up for 2011’s self-titled album – as well as 2012’s tenth anniversary tour Tell All Your Friends (QRO live review). They play Riot Fest for their seventh appearance in eight times (QRO photos at Riot Fest ’18).

Taking Back Sunday

Mayday Parade, 7:15 PM – 8:15 PM

Tallahassee’s Mayday Parade (QRO photos) goes more for the straight rock ‘n’ roll, but still with some of the emo-skate northern Florida is known for. They return to Riot Fest for their third time, behind 2018’s Sunnyland.

Mayday Parade

Bayside, 5:45 PM – 6:45 PM

Queens’ emo-punks Bayside (QRO photos) come back to Riot Fest (QRO photos at a festival) for the fourth time (QRO photos at Riot Fest ’15), celebrating ‘Twenty One Years of Really Bad Luck’ (QRO 2021 live review).


State Champs, 4:15 PM – 5:15 PM

Albany rockers State Champs (QRO live review) come back to Riot Fest behind 2018’s Living Proof.

State Champs

Four Year Strong, 3:00 PM – 3:45 PM

Worcester’s own Four Year Strong come to Riot Fest behind last year’s sixth pop-punk studio album, Brain Pain.

Four Year Strong

Citizen, 1:45 PM – 2:30 PM

Emo-pop meets post-hardcore in Toledo’s Citizen (QRO photos at an Ohio festival), who play their third Riot Fest.


Action/Adventure, 12:45 PM – 1:15 PM


Dropkick Murphys, 8:55 PM – 9:55 PM

Just as no town in America is as Irish as Boston, there’s no band more associated with today’s ‘Celtic Punk’ movement than Dropkick Murphys (QRO photos). They play regular St. Patrick’s Day shows in Beantown – 2013’s (QRO review) featured a guest appearance by Seal Team Six! Of course the Irish-American experience stretches across the country (QRO live review), so expect it to work at Riot Fest as the band (QRO photos) returns (QRO photos at Riot Fest ’14) to play behind this year’s Turn Up the Dial (QRO review) just don’t wear a Yankees cap (or do a Nazi salute – the bassist clocked a guy doing that at their NYC stop in 2013…).

Dropkick Murphys

Rancid, 6:55 PM – 7:55 PM

Out of the highly influential Bay Area ska-punk band Operation Ivy in 1991 came Rancid (QRO photos at a festival), who helped punk rock break through into the mainstream alongside such local friends as Green Day and Fellow Riot ’21 performer NOFX (see above). Let’s Go and …And Out Come the Wolves launched them into the big-time, and though they’ve never quite matched that level of success again, they want your “Salvation” in their return to Riot Fest (QRO photos at Riot Fest ’13).


The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, 5:25 PM – 6:25 PM

It’s the one-and-only Mighty Mighty Bosstones (QRO spotlight on)! Maybe no act more exemplified the nineties third wave ska craze (QRO Ska In the ‘90s DVD review) than Boston ensemble (QRO live review), who introduced kids across the country to horns with songs like “Don’t Know How To Party” “Someday I Suppose”, and “The Impression That I Get”. The decade ended and they went on a hiatus, only to reunite in 2007 (after singer Dicky Barrett became the announcer on Jimmy Kimmel Live), because this is a revival well worth happening. The group returns to Riot Fest (QRO photos at Riot Fest ’17QRO photos at Riot Fest ’14), to play both new albums like this year’s When God Was Great (QRO review) and classics such as Let’s Face It (QRO live review playing Let’s Face It in full).

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

Hepcat, 3:55 PM – 4:55 PM

The more soulful harmonies and mellow rhythms of California’s Hepcat has made them stand out among nineties ska (QRO Ska In the ‘90s DVD review).


GWAR, 2:15 PM – 3:15 PM

There is no band as unique as GWAR (QRO spotlight on). Somewhere between Motörhead, Tenacious D, George Romero, KISS, and Gallagher, GWAR combines thrash metal with sci-fi/horror spectacle, including massive costumes & massive amounts of stage gore (QRO photos), plus taking on about every taboo there is for one of the most amazing spectacles out there (QRO live review), including at Riot Fest the last eight times (QRO photos at Riot Fest ’19QRO photos at Riot Fest ’17QRO photos at Riot Fest ’16QRO photos at Riot ’15QRO photos at Riot Fest ’14QRO photos at Riot Fest ‘13).

The group (QRO live review) survived longtime member Flattus Maximus (Cory Smoot) departing to the intergalactic heavens in 2011, recruiting a new scumdog of the universe from the Maximus clan, putting out Battle Maximus in 2013 – only to lose singer/frontman extraordinaire Oderus Urungus (a.k.a. Dave Brockie – QRO interview) the following year. The band could have folded their tent, but instead have kept defiling the universe – and Riot Fest (QRO interview at Riot Fest).


The Bronx, 1:00 PM – 1:45 PM

Certain hardcore bands have been breaking into the indie-mainstream, such as Canada’s Fucked Up (see below) and Los Angeles’ own The Bronx (other than Chicago & Boston, are any bands named after their own hometowns?…). Not that The Bronx (QRO photos at a festival) are your run-of-the-mill hardcore act – see their Latin alter ego, Mariachi El Bronx (QRO photos at a festival), who’ve also previously played Riot Fest (QRO photos of Mariachi El Bronx at Riot Fest ’15).


Spider, 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM

The Bronx

Andrew W.K., 8:30 PM – 9:30 PM

No artist in this millennium has done as many different things, worked with as many different people, while staying true to who he is, than Andrew W.K. (QRO photos). He started as a party-rock impresario with 2001’s I Get Wet and “Party Hard”, but has since built a wide list of accomplishments, from founding his own NYC venue, Santos Party House (QRO venue review), to doing self-help & motivational speaking, his own MTV series (and guest-appearing on Adult Swim’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force), playing with a classical string quartet (QRO photos), hosting the World Snowboarding Championship in Oslo in 2012 (QRO kick-off review), founding the ‘Party Party’, and even bringing I Get Wet back for its tenth anniversary (QRO live review of I Get Wet show). The hard-partying, hard-working man comes to Riot Fest for his ninth time in a row (QRO photos at Riot ’16QRO photos at Riot ‘15QRO photos at Riot ’14QRO photos at Riot Fest ’13) on his latest tour (QRO live review), behind the upcoming God Is Partying (and getting engaged to one of the Two Broke Girls, and MCU scene-stealer, Kat Dennings!).

Andrew W.K.

Fucked Up, 6:50 PM – 7:50 PM

While Holy Fuck lost the Polaris Music Prize in 2008, that kind of a name didn’t stop Fucked Up from winning it the following year with Chemistry of Common Life (though it almost derailed the Pool Parties at Williamsburg Waterfront in Brooklyn – QRO photos), and the band followed that up with singles collection Couple Tracks (QRO review) and 2011’s concept rock opus, David Comes to Life. Whether their hardcore music lives up to praise rarely given to hardcore is still up for debate, but what isn’t is how nuts the crowd goes (QRO photos at a festival) for this act out of Toronto (QRO photos outdoors), with singer/frontman Damian Abraham bringing it (QRO live review), shirtless and crazy (QRO photos at a festival). They come back to Riot Fest (QRO photos at a festival) after 2018’s release of Dose Your Dreams.

Fucked Up


The Bollweevils, 5:35 PM – 6:20 PM

Ganser, 4:20 PM – 5:05 PM

Night Moves, 3:10 PM – 3:50 PM

Bearings, 2:00 PM – 2:40 PM

The Orphan The Poet, 1:00 PM – 1:30 PM

Devon Kay & The Solutions, 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM


Night Moves



Slipknot, 8:30 PM – 9:45 PM

Slipknot were wearing masks before it was cool (QRO photos). Their horror-metal has been scaring people for over two decades now, most recently on 2019’s We Are Not Your Kind. They have a look as signature as anyone (QRO photos), and come to Chicago to close out Riot Fest (QRO photos).


DEVO, 6:05 PM – 7:05 PM

If a festival comes along, you must whip it! So proto-punk they seemed light years ahead of it, Akron, Ohio’s DEVO started in 1973, but broke through in 1980 with the classic out there hit, “Whip It” (whose video was a mainstay in the early days of MTV). One of the first futuristic, strange-yet-accessible bands, DEVO had the predictable decline after “Whip It”, finally breaking up in 1991, but reuniting five years later to play the classics.

The twenty-first century have seen DEVO more active, from their first European tour in almost twenty years in 2007 to their first Akron show in thirty years to support Barack Obama. They even released a new album in 2014, Something Else For Everybody, and just this year released their own documentary, Devolution: A Devo Theory. Are we not men? We are DEVO! (QRO photos at a festival)


Body Count, 3:55 PM – 4:55 PM

Ice-T (QRO photos at a festival) brings his Body Count to Riot Fest. The Los Angeles crossover thrash metal outfit made mega-headlines in the early nineties with “Cop Killer” – so much so that Ice-T thought it was eclipsing the rest of Body Count’s debut record, so decided to remove it from the album and release as free single (and that’s back when singles were physical records, not a link to download some ephemeral megabytes…).

Of course, these days Ice-T plays a cop on Law & Order: SVU, while three of Body County’s original five members have passed away, but just this year won the Grammy for Best Metal Performance for their song “Bum Rush” from Carnivore.

Body Count

HEALTH, 2:00 PM – 2:45 PM

Los Angeles’ own HEALTH (QRO photos) not only bring the noise-rock back to Riot Fest for a third time, but are also known for their mash-ups, though outdoors (QRO photos outdoors), they’re more ‘noise’ than ‘rock’.


Facs, 12:35 PM – 1:05 PM


The Flaming Lips, 7:10 PM – 8:10 PM

There’s a good reason The Flaming Lips (QRO photos at a festival) have been so popular for so long on the festival circuit (QRO photos at a festival), as there is no live show out there like a Flaming Lips live show (QRO live review). Confetti cannons, costumes, video screens, balloons from the sky, puppets, singer/guitarist Wayne Coyne (QRO interview) surfing the crowd in a giant plastic bubble – The Lips have it all (QRO photos), and expect them to take it even higher (QRO photos at a festival) as they play their umpteenth festival (QRO photos at a festival).

Oh, and they’ve got some great music, too, from early nineties hit “She Don’t Use Jelly” to seminal The Soft Bulletin (QRO photos from top-to-bottom performance, at a festival), as well as 2006’s Grammy Award-winning At War With the Mystics (even put out a movie, Christmas On MarsQRO review), and 2009’s Embryonic (QRO review), 2013’s The Terror (QRO review), 2017’s Oczy Mlody (QRO review), 2019’s King’s Mouth (QRO review), and last year’s American Head (QRO review). Plus they (QRO spotlight on) appeared in an issue of X-Men, headlined both The Colbert Report’s ‘Pepsi Presents StePhest ColbChella ‘012 Rocktaugustfest’ (QRO photos) and Amnesty International’s ‘Bring Human Rights Home’ event (QRO recap). They’re perfect to return to Riot Fest (QRO photos at Riot Fest ’19QRO photos at Riot Fest ‘16QRO photos at Riot Fest ’14) where one can expect it to get a little weird (QRO live review).

The Flaming Lips

Anthrax, 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM

One of the ‘Big Four’ in heavy metal (QRO live review of all four together), Anthrax has been breaking eardrums for four decades now. They’ve also had a number of line-up changes, with their most recent release, 2011’s Worship Music (QRO review) and 2016’s For All Kings, their first with singer Joey Belladonna since 1990. A special late add, they’ll be playing their second Riot Fest in a row (QRO photos at Riot Fest ’19) and third overall (QRO photos at Riot Fest ’15).


K.Flay, 2:50 PM – 3:50 PM

A musical aficionado, K.Flay (QRO photos at a festival) seems to know how to do it: producing beats, making rhymes, and playing guitar, piano, and drums. Her inexplicable catchy hooks, and beats are something least expected of a Stanford graduate. She’s been nominated for Grammys, and has become the go-to guest rhymer for everyone from Whethan’s “Hurting On Purpose” (QRO review) to Arkells’ “You Can Get It” (QRO review). She returns for her second Riot Fest (QRO photos at Riot Fest ’18).


Alex G, 1:10 PM – 1:55 PM

When he’s not playing guitar for Frank Ocean, Alexander Giannascoli shortens his name to Alex G (QRO photos at a festival) on records like 2019’s House of Sugar.

Alex G

The Gories, 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM

From just over in Detroit, The Gories (QRO photos at a festival), rocked out of the garage all the way back in the eighties, reuniting in this century/millennium.

The Gories

New Found Glory, 7:45 PM – 8:45 PM

New Found Glory (QRO live review) emerged on the leading edge of the second wave of nineties pop-punk and have somehow kept on going, including returning to Riot Fest for a third time (QRO photos at Riot Fest ‘14).

New Found Glory

Knuckle Puck, 6:15 PM – 7:15 PM

Chicago’s own Knuckle Puck play Riot Fest (QRO photos at a festival) for a third time, behind last year’s 20/20.

Knuckle Puck

Thursday, 4:45 PM – 5:45 PM

New Brunswick’s Thursday defined the post-hardcore sound of the twenty-first century before hiatus/break-up, but after frontman Geoff Rickly ended the financial backing for his label Collect Records from pharmaceutical price-gouger/most hated man in America Martin Shkreli, they thankfully reunited 2016 (QRO photos at a 2016 festival), and now return to Riot Fest (QRO photos at a festival).


The Bled, 3:15 PM – 4:15 PM

Tucson’s post-hardcore outfit The Bled released for albums before disbanding in 2012, but this year have reunited – so, of course they’re coming to Riot Fest.

The Bled

Mother Mother, 2:00 PM – 2:45 PM

From all the way over in British Columbia’s Quadra Island, indie rockers Mother Mother (QRO photos) have been together for over a decade-and-a-half, but found another wind last year when their music went viral on TikTok. They come to Riot Fest just months after the release of their eighth album, Inside.

Mother Mother

3OH!3, 1:00 PM – 1:30 PM

Electro-pop Coloradans 3OH!3 (QRO live review) make music for dancing. And yes, there will be dancing at Riot Fest.


Pet Symmetry, 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM


Pet Symmetry


Machine Gun Kelly

While he came up with rapid machine gun fire rapping (QRO photos from a decade ago), Machine Gun Kelly (QRO photos at a festival) has since blasted into being a full-fledged crossover star. Most recent record, Tickets To My Downfall, brought pop-punk to the top of the Billboard charts. He’s even acted, like in hit horror Bird Box and playing Tommy Lee in Mötley Crüe biopic The Dirt. Oh, and he’s currently dating none other than Megan Fox, so look for her in the wings like at his surprise Lollapalooza set this year (QRO recap).

Machine Gun Kelly

The Ghost Inside, 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM

It’s a rare show by Los Angeles’ The Ghost Inside (QRO photos at a festival), who come to Chicago behind last year’s self-titled hiatus return record.

The Ghost Inside

Simple Plan, 5:30 PM – 6:30 PM

The emo-pop/punk done in Canada is naturally better than that in the States, and that holds up with Montreal’s Simple Plan (QRO photos at a festival), who have played everything from the 2010 Winter Olympics closing ceremony to an Olsen twins movie. They’re truly Taking One For the Team.

Simple Plan

Fever 333, 4:15 PM – 5:00 PM

There is Strength in Numb333rs for Inglewood rockers Fever 333, who return to Riot Fest.

Fever 333

KennyHoopla, 2:45 PM – 3:30 PM

Cleveland rapper KennyHoopla asks, How Will I Rest in Peace if I’m Buried by a Highway?


Blackstarkids, 1:30 PM – 2:15 PM


The Weak Days, 7:45 PM – 8:15 PM

Ratboys, 6:30 PM – 7:15 PM

The Bleached, 5:15 PM – 6:00 PM

The Clockworks, 4:15 PM – 4:45 PM

Melkbelly, 3:15 PM – 3:45 PM

Gymshorts, 2:15 PM – 2:45 PM

Airstream Futures, 1:15 PM – 1:45 PM


And it’s not Riot Fest without some killer after-shows:

Friday, September 17th

Mr. Bungle, Fishbone @ Radius
Motion City Soundtrack @ Concord Music Hall
Living Colour, The Revel @ Reggies Rock Club
Man on Man @ Cobra Lounge

Less Than Jake

Saturday, September 18th

New Found Glory, Less Than Jake, Hot Mulligan, Lølø @ Radius
Gogol Bordello @ Concord Music Hall
The Sounds, Starbenders @ Reggies Rock Club
Big Freedia @ Martyrs
Thursday @ Cobra Lounge

Sunday, September 19th

Bayside, Senses Fail, Hawthorne Heights, The Bombpops @ Concord Music Hall
Taking Back Sunday @ Metro
The Bronx @ Cobra Lounge


Album of the Week