Riot Fest Chicago’s opening day was full of once in a lifetime moments. The most impressive was the early afternoon trifecta of sets by Death, Fishbone and Living Colour on adjacent stages. The sonic threads tying the three African-American rock bands together were loud and clear. Detroit’s protopunk pioneers Death played most of its 1974 debut record and tracks from the latest effort N.E.W., both released on Drag City Records. Fishbone entertained with its trademark upbeat mix of punk, funk, ska and soul. Lead singer Angelo Moore used “Everyday Sunshine” to remind fans that the band is no stranger to the issues now raised by the Black Live Matter movement. Midway through a set of hits and fan favorites, Living Colour’s guitarist Vernon Reid told the crowd, "We shared the stage with Death, and our other brothers Fishbone. Our brothers from other mothers, Anthrax, will be on later." Day 1 ended with disparate versions of life and times in Southern California. Ice Cube was straight outta Compton, directly across the open field from Orange County’s tragic kingdom hit-makers No Doubt.
Riot Fest’s second day was a muddy affair, with a roster stacked with well-established alternative, punk and indie bands. A solid set from emerging Welsh trio The Joy Formidable was an early highlight. Veteran acts Echo and the Bunnymen, Billy Idol and Iggy Pop played their greatest hits and added a few surprises. Sets by Drive Like Jehu and Merle Haggard were curiosities for most, but legions of diehard fans showed up for Rancid, The Academy Is… and System of a Down.
Day 3 was a bright, sunshine day with bands from all over the genre map. Cypress Hill gave a headline worthy performance that boomed throughout the surrounding neighborhood. The reunited L7 sounded great and clearly enjoyed playing live again, while later that evening Jimmy Cliff played “The Harder They Come” and other reggae classics. The Airborne Toxic Event was much more lively and engaging than headliners Modest Mouse who closed on the night a few hours later on the same stage. Festgoers determined to end the night with an energetic live show checked out Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley or migrated to the Prodigy’s intense headlining set instead.
The biggest disappointments of Riot Fest Chicago? Bootsy Collins failed to bring the funk during his tardy and sluggish set on Day 2. Even worse was Snoop Dogg’s chronically late, trainwreck of a performance on the final day.
Visit http://riotfest.org for details about non-fest shows the Riot Fest organization is producing as well as information about 2016 festival cities and dates.
Check out the photo gallery of Riotfest Chicago 2015 here: http://www.gratefulweb.com/photos/2015-riotfest-chicago