Big music festivals might not be the ideal way to experience music you’ve never heard before, but from a quantity perspective it’s hard to beat. I figure I saw 30 bands at Riot Fest this year, and of those, I had previously never listened to 13 of them. And that’s what makes a fest so compelling for music fans: there’s the potential to stumble across your new favorite band on the way to the taco truck.
Of course, the odds of that happening depend a great deal on the fest(s) you attend. Glorious Noise covered Lollapalooza from the time it settled in Chicago in 2005 all the way through 2016, when it expanded to four days and gave up any semblance of quality control. We’ve been going to Riot Fest since then. What makes this fest unique is in a world where everybody listens to everything on shuffle and even the fluffiest of mainstream pop is given critical acclaim, Riot Fest has stuck with its original idea of showcasing punk rock bands.
For fifteen years!
Their definition of punk has expanded its umbrella beyond old school hardcore to make room for some hip-hop, reggae, and jangly indie pop as well as founding fathers of rock and roll like Jerry Lee Lewis and, yes, even the Village People. But the focus has always been consistent and if you still prefer guitar bands, there’s really no other fest that compares. I don’t think we’re going to have to worry about Riot Fest booking Ariana Grande anytime soon. Better find a focus or you’re out of the picture…