Riot Fest Day 1 Re-Cap

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Riot Fest is hailed as one of the best alternative/punk festivals in the midwest, and the festival is now in full swing. Acts on the first day ranged from the energetic progressive rock sounds from bands such as Pierce The Veil to swirling psychedelic wonderlands created by bands like The Flaming Lips. Here are our thoughts on the first day acts of Riot Fest:

Riot Fest stage. Photo via:

David T Kindler
Riot Fest stage. Photo via:

GWAR: It would be hard to describe a GWAR set to someone who has not seen them for themselves, but we are about to try. The show opened up with an announcer who shouted, “Tonight we are going to finally find out who will be the next president!” After this the band came out in their signature costumes and began to rip through songs such as “Sick of You” and “Let us Slay” as the crowd cheered them on. GWAR is known for their over the top stage theatrics, and they did not disappoint. Throughout the set various actors dressed as politicians came out and fought in battles to the death to determine who would be the next president. This included President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Even Bernie Sanders made an appearance when he rode into battle on what appeared to be a giant monster.

Julian Marley: Julian Marley definitely succeeded in channelling the good vibes for his Riot Fest set. His set was advertised as a full play through of the Bob Marley album “Exodus”, so when Julian came on stage the band launched into the first track on that album, “Natural Mystic”. They went on to play the title track of the album later in the set as well as the hit song “Three Little Birds”. Julian Marley also played a single that will appear on his new album that he is working on. Throughout the performance there were fans singing and dancing along to their favorite tracks on the “Exodus” album. There were several points where the members of the band would descend into funky reggae instrument breaks that would last for good amounts of time. This was usually met with resounding approval from the crowd. Julian Marley succeeded in carrying out the legacy of his brother through this performance, and delivered a performance that Bob Marley fans will likely not forget.

Jimmy Eat World: Jimmy Eat World’s North American tour has posted several dates in the midwest including The Big Snow Show in Milwaukee, the Majestic Theatre in Madison and of course Riot Fest in Chicago. The set opened up with “A Praise Chorus” which is a favorite from their 2001 album “Bleed American”.  As set went on they played tracks from “Clarity”, “Damage” and some of their new singles. They played both “Sure and Certain” and “Get it Right”, and they were sure to remind the crowd that their first new album since 2013’s “Damage” would be releasing soon. So many die hard fans could be found in the crowd singing the words to every song. When the band played their hits “Sweetness” and “The Middle” it seemed that there wasn’t a single person in the crowd who wasn’t screaming every word, and reliving their high school and middle school years in the process.

All Time Low. Photo via

All Time Low. Photo via

All Time Low: All Time Low took a day off from their tour with Blink-182 and A Day to Remember to play a set at Riot Fest. The band started off strong playing “Lost in Stereo,” with guitarist Jack Barakat jumping into the crowd.  In between songs, the band joked around and sang impromptu covers of Quiet Riot and Limp Bizkit.  Songs of their own included “Future Hearts”, “A Love Like War” featuring Vic Fuentes who joined them on stage, and concluded with the pop punk classic “Dear Maria, Count Me In”.  Their use of pyrotechnics during their most popular songs left the crowd thinking three words: it was lit.

Pierce The Veil: Pierce the Veil opened their set by walking out of a crashed space ship in full astronaut gear.  The four-piece band from San Diego immediately jumped into an hour of shredding guitars and owning the stage.  They played newer songs like, “The Divine Zero” and “Texas is Forever” and fan favorites, “Bulls in the Bronx” and “Bulletproof Love”.  In the middle of their set, amongst all the high energy fun, frontman Vic Fuentes gave an inspirational talk about “when you grow up”.  The 33 year-old realized that there is no moment when you know you have grown up and become an adult.  But that epiphany, he said, gives you freedom to take control of your destiny right now.

The Flaming Lips: The Flaming Lips were one of the festivals three main headliners for a reason, the special effects and stage theatrics that they utilized during their set was nothing short of spectacular. The show started with the band jamming out under the direction of frontman Wayne Coyne in synchronicity with the twinkling lights suspended above the stage. They opened up with a song from their record “The Soft Bulletin” called “The Spark that Bled”. When the band played “Yoshimi Battles the Giant Pink Robots Part 1” they were joined by two people in giant inflatable caterpillar costumes and one person in a giant inflatable sun. Coyne danced gleefully around the stage as he sang the song, and gave the sun a big hug at one point in the middle. As the set went on, the effects and gimmicks became even quirkier. Coyne sang a song while riding on the shoulders of a person in a Chewbacca costume, rode around in a giant hamster ball through the crowd and of course pumped out a metric ton of confetti into a crowd of screaming fans. All in all, the show was a one of a kind experience that only The Flaming Lips could deliver.

The first day of Riot Fest show cased a variety of different acts over a wide range of genres, making it a very diverse concert going experience. This is something that we are noticing is a great strength of the festival as a whole.

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