Riot Fest 2023 – Day Three Recap

Riot Fest '23 ended with a big bang....
Riot Fest 2023 - Day Three Recap
Riot Fest 2023 - Day Three Recap

While the COVID lockdown was extremely tough on music festivals, they’ve since come roaring back. One of the best to come back has been Chicago’s Riot Fest. As opposed to the big mainstream corporate fests or government-supported highbrow ones, Riot Fest is independent, and focused on a style of music not always appreciated by either the mainstream or governments: punk rock. Now yes, Riot Fest does range, because it’s not some sneering purist, but rather about having a great time with some great music. It returned to Douglass Park, Friday-to-Sunday, September 15th-17th.


Like with many a festival these days, rain pushed back doors two hours for the final day of Riot Fest, but it let up by the 2:00 PM time of the delayed start. This meant some very early acts got canned, but the sun was shining for the shiny Cults on the Riot Stage, even if it was still a little early in the day for the psych-rock of Roots Stage’s Black Angels. On the other hand, it was just the right time of day for the shoegaze of Ride on the Riot Stage, with the sun out, but windy chilly. And they’re just great musicians.

The Black Angels

“It’s our one-year anniversary as a band – as a ‘real band’. It sucks when you have to say, ‘real band.’ ‘Bunch of industry plants…’” So joked singer Anthony Green (also of Circa Survive & more) of post-hardcore super-group L.S. Dunes, who also include Frank Iero of My Chemical Romance, Travis Steer of Coheed and Cambria, and Tucker Rule of Thursday. Returning to Riot Fest for the second year in a row, Green also noted a fan dressed as a dinosaur, had a pizza crowd-surfed to him, and generally had a great time on the Radical Stage.

L.S. Dunes
The Dresden Dolls

Other returning acts at Riot ’23 included AFI on the Roots Stage, emo rock to a big crowd (and at least mom finally let him get that mohawk), and the uproarious good time of Flogging Molly at the Rise Stage. While Finch rocked the Radical Stage, The Dresden Dolls brought their baroque punk to the Riot Stage. While a day late with their own white face make-up, but they’re a different kind of Insane, Amanda Palmer & Brian Viglione mixed songs of their own such as “Coin Operated Boy” with left field hard rock covers of “War Pigs” & “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)” – admitting that they were too scared to play the new songs that they’d been working on. And yes, Palmer had a story about seeing headliner The Cure as a teen, because you know she had (and so probably have you).


That big-name headliner had no acts playing at its time (save for a tiny Rebel Stage artist who was bumped into the unenviable slot by the rain delay), so there was serious competition for who to see in the slot before them. There was the post-rock of Godspeed You! Black Emperor at the Rebel Stage, math-rock of The Mars Volta at the Roots Stage, but it was the Jersey boys The Gaslight Anthem who rocked the Rise Stage. Of course, frontman Brian Fallon joke-insulted Chicago deep dish, “the casserole pizza,” and late in the set noted that afterwards, “You can fuck off and watch The Cure. I’m gonna get DoorDash, because I don’t get cocaine…” After doing some solo work, Fallon’s gotten his New Brunswick act back together, out in late October with new record History Books (which includes the single/title track, which itself includes none other than fellow Garden Stater Bruce Springsteen – QRO review).

The Cure

But you ended your day at the Riot Stage, came to Riot Fest this day, came to Riot Fest ’23, for The Cure. Coming off their first tour in many years, which actually included Chicago, The Cure returned again to the Windy City. Yes, they played the classics (despite it not being Friday, the day you’re in love with), but also deeper cuts. They were everything you wanted out of The Cure headlining Riot Fest; just so great to see a huge alternative music band still doing big shows, tours, and festivals.

The Cure

-words: Ted Chase
-photos: Amelia Baird

Concert Reviews
Album of the Week