Words by Hillary Hedstrom | Photos by Bobby Talamine, Wes Nott, and Freddie Benitez
The rains early in the morning of September 15 turned Douglas Park into a mud pit. As a crowd waited to turn those mud pits into mosh pits, the Riot Fest crew was putting down mulch to help soak up the moisture.
The first band on the lineup was Ultra Q. A small, but strong, group were waiting for the band to go on. Their sound drew in others who were waiting for other acts. The big mud pit was no worry for a small group, who proceeded to slip and slide while forming a mosh pit.
The sun came out and dried up a majority of the grounds, save for a few deep puddles. Later, on the same stage as Ultra Q, was Frank Iero and the Future Violents. All members on stage were in matching jumpsuits. The mud had mostly dried up, which was good because the pit did not stop during their set.
JBTV alum The Beaches took the stage that day. It was their second Riot Fest, but their first in Chicago. They have previously performed at Riot Fest Toronto. The crowd was drawn in by the loud music, coordinated outfits, and fun dance moves.
One of the acts that was highly anticipated were the Village People. The members came out in their costumes, and the front to the back turned into a dance fest. The group ended with their most famous song, Y.M.C.A.
Against Me! had a double-album play with Reinventing Axl Rose and Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Two completely different eras, blended together. Although 12 years and lots of changes separated the two albums, the sound was still the same. The same energy was there. As the crowd screamed “baby, I’m an anarchist” with the band, the 17 year old song felt brand new.
Another highly anticipated act were the B-52’s. Another classic band, taking the stage. The crowd had their lobster claws, or inflatable lobsters. The band had their costumes on, ready for a funky time.
As the sun began to go down, Patti Smith took to the stage. Born in Logan Square, Riot Fest was almost a homecoming. Her first breath was taken in Chicago. The giant crowd hung onto every last word she spoke and sang.
The two headliners were hard to choose between. Taking Back Sunday or Bikini Kill. Taking Back Sunday were playing their albums Louder Now and Tell All Your Friends. The crowd gathered, anticipating, ready for a wave of nostalgia.
Rows and rows of people were jumping around. It was a high energy, carefree crowd. The screaming fans almost drowned out Adam Lazzara. Lazzara thanked Riot Fest, and the staff who made the weekend possible.
The other headliner, Bikini Kill, were playing their first show in Chicago in 24 years. This energy was different from every other show that weekend. Rows and rows of girls and women were lined up in the front, ready for this act.
Kathleen Hanna did not say her signature phrase, “Girls to the front,” even though people were chanting for it. “I would join you, but there’s too many people here and I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”