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Riot Fest brings a mix of punk, rock, and several other genres of live music to the stage for thousands of fans each summer in Chicago. It all began back in 2005 with the tagline “The Largest Punk Fest in North America!” Today, Riot Fest has grown to encompass three days worth of bands that take over Douglas Park – with the added bonus of carnival rides and vendors to really round out that festival experience! This music festival has expanded to cities all over – including Denver, Brooklyn, Toronto, Dallas, and Philadelphia. And since 2017, Riot Fest has exclusively taken place its hometown of the one and only Chicago. Here’s a breakdown of the history of lineups at Riot Fest (or at least a few of our favorite years and the most recent highlights).
Riot Fest is known for reunions that happen right on stage and live performances of whole albums. If you’re really into the details, you can check out a full history of Riot Fest lineups here.
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Back before Riot Fest moved outdoors, the inaugural music festival was held at The Congress Theater in Chicago – in November! Since then, it’s been moved outdoors and up to the month of September, because it is Chicago after all! They began the madness back in 2005 with headliners like the Dead Kennedys, The Misfits, and The Bouncing Souls. Chicago band The Lawrence Arms also performed and continued to return in later years…
2010 Riot Fest Lineup
Riot Fest was big time in 2010, featuring popular bands like Bad Religion and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones as headliners – possibly their most famous stars yet. Pennywise, Circle Jerk, Naked RayGun, Articles of Faith, and Less Than Jake also took the stage that year, many of them destined to return.
2011 Riot Fest Lineup
Remember when Weezer made it big? Well, many, many years later, they finally made it to Riot Fest where their true fans (the ones who were still listening and following their newer albums) could see them headline. They were accompanied in 2011 by Social Distortion, Danzig Legacy, The Descendants, and over 30 other (mainly punk) bands.
2012 Riot Fest Lineup
This was the year that Riot Fest moved outdoors to Humboldt Park, Chicago and began marketing itself as a music festival “and carnival.” They added food vendors, rides, games, and Lucha Libre wrestling. Over Saturday and Sunday, fans came out to see Elvis Costello, Rise Against, Iggy and the Stooges (that’s Iggy Pop’s band), The Offspring, A Day to Remember, Dropkick Murpheys, and NOFX, making it a solid showcase of the nation’s punk scene. Other names you might’ve heard of? Minus the Bear, Alkaline Trio, Imagine Dragons, and Built to Spill, among many, many others.
2013 Riot Fest Lineup
This was a big year for Riot Fest as well. The Replacements reunited on stage! They headlined alongside Blink 182, Fall Out Boy, and Sublime (with Rome). The Pixies, Violent Femmes, Rancid, and Blondie also performed in 2013, making this a Riot Fest that appealed to all sorts of fans, not just the niche punk kid genre. Blink 182 and Fall Out Boy are everyone’s high school faves (right?), but heck, we’d go just to see Blondie! (You could even bring your mom!) Taking Back Sunday, Bad Religion, Public Enemy, and Joan Jett & The Heartbreakers were all there too, really expanding the scene quite a bit. Radio favorites like Yellowcard even showed up. Another big deal? Chicago performed on stage together for the first time since their 1991 public breakup.
2014 Riot Fest Lineup
Riot Fest continued trending toward the mainstream and attracting more and more fans while managing to stay true to its punk rock roots. In 2014, The Cure, Jane’s Addiction, The National, Weezer, and Rise Against headlined (some of them for the second and third times). Other popular bands like Slayer, The Offspring, The Flaming Lips, Cheap Trick, Tegan and Sara, Pussy Riot, Wu-Tang Clan, and Dashboard Confessional (that emo band everybody loved then they were 16) helped sell tons of tickets that year!
2015 Riot Fest Lineup
In 2015, Riot Fest moved its antics to Douglas Park, where it remains today. It saw popular headliners like No Doubt, System of a Down, and Modest Mouse, but there were also performances by Snoop Dogg, Iggy Pop, Rancid, Faith No More, Billy Idol, Tenacious D, and Slightly Stoopid, among tons of others. Throwing rap and reggae into the mix drew a wider range of fans and Sunday also featured an added panel discussion called “Basement Screams” – a discussion of Chicago’s indie and punk scenes. In case you wanted to learn a little something in between sets…
2016 Riot Fest Lineup
In 2016, Riot Fest featured a lot of returning acts, including headliners like The Flaming Lips and Weezer, but in also brought in the likes of Morrissey, Misfits, Death Cab for Cutie, Rob Zombie, Deftones, and Bad Religion (also again). This particular festival signed on Ween, Jimmy Eat World, Julian Marley (to perform some Bob Marley hits) and more return performers like NOFX and All Time Low.
2017 Riot Fest Lineup
In 2017, Riot Fest held steady at Douglas Park and featured headliners like Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, and Jawbreaker, along with Paramore, New Order, and Wu-Tang Clan (yet again). Punk faves like New Found Glory and repeat offenders like Taking Back Sunday and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones kept fans entertained too. British hip hop artist M.I.A was there too!
2018 Riot Fest Lineup
Last year’s Riot Fest featured some old favorites and some bands that we’re shocked hadn’t been there before! The lineup included Beck, Incubus, Interpol, and Run The Jewels, as well as Riot Fest alums like Weezer, Taking Back Sunday, Blondie, Elvis Costello (& the Imposters), Dropkick Murphys, Pussy Riot, Bad Religion, and Alkaline Trio. Fans also got to see performances by Father John Misty, Jerry Lee Lewis, Flogging Molly, Cypress Hill, and Sum 41. If you weren’t into any of those bands (then what were you doing there, btw?), there were also like 50 other artists featured over the course of three days… no, really. Riot Fest has grown tremendously!
Riot Fest 2019 will take place September 13-16 at Douglas Park in Chicago. Stay tuned to see the lineup they’ve put together for this year…
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