Chicago’s Douglas Park was filled with nostalgia this past weekend, as Riot Fest, a 3-day music festival and carnival, closed out the summer music season while celebrating its tenth anniversary. Despite the unfavorable weather conditions and increasing amounts of mud during the weekend, attendees descended upon the park by the thousands to experience the live music of both well-known and up-and-coming artists. Riot Fest is unlike any other music festival, it’s an experience, one that is reminiscent. The festival is notorious for booking bands that haven’t performed or recorded together in years, as well as solo artists who haven’t released new material in quite some time.
This year’s Riot Fest was different than previous years. Traditionally it is a punk and metal festival, however, with festivals like Lollapalooza returning to their rock roots, Riot Fest organizers capitalized on the lack of hip hop acts this music season by booking some of the biggest names (and up-and-comers) in hip hop and reggae. An incredible lineup, on seven stages, along with its non-music related attractions, made Riot Fest delightfully overwhelming and memorable. Here are some of the weekend’s notable performances.
Post Malone: Texas-born rapper and musician, Post Malone only has a handful of songs, but the “White Iverson” rapper has a loyal and growing fan base. Malone took the Radicals Stage on Friday night for his 30-minute performance, which included a 10-minute DJ set with producer and frequent collaborator FKi. After enthusiastically breezing through “White Iverson”, with his cigarette in-tow, Malone took a quick, onstage wine break and went into “Too Young” and “TEAR$”. Post Malone had the tough job of performing on the Radicals Stage as Ice Cube was beginning his set on the Roots Stage (which was quite the walk). But knowing how huge it is to perform at Riot Fest, Malone took it all in stride.
Lee “Scratch” Perry: It wouldn’t be a Lee “Scratch” Perry show unless the man himself showed up tardy to his own show. Backed by his band, the Subatomic Sound System, who kept the crowd entertained during the wait, Perry finally took the stage, twenty-five minutes after his set began, and it was worth the wait. With his red beard and donned from head-to-toe in a very colorful and eye-catching costume, the 79-year-old reggae legend and dub music pioneer performed some of his most popular songs while persuading the crowd to dance along with him – which they happily did. For longtime fans, it was a privilege to see that this reggae great is still touring after such a long and successful career, and at this age.
Bootsy’s Rubber Band: Saturday’s lineup was metal and punk heavy, but the Mothership Connection did land in Douglas Park on Saturday evening and after a 10-minute technical delay, its passengers, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, were allowed to unload. With his band members dressed as astronauts and the bass rattling the souls of the thousands of funk fans in attendance, Bootsy, known for his over-the-top costumes, graced the stage dressed after his band warmed up the crowd with “Ahh…The Name is Bootsy Baby”. During his set, Bootsy Collins promised that “We’re going to funk you up” and that he did. He began to pay homage to the band that kickstarted his career, Parliament-Funkadelic – simply known as P-Funk to their fans – with “P-Funk Wants to Get Funked Up”. During a brief wardrobe change, the Rubber Band kept the crowd entertained by performing “(Not Just) Knee Deep”. Upon returning to the stage donned in all red, Bootsy went into an extended version of “I’d Rather Be With You” and closed the set with “Flashlight”. From his amazing bass guitar solos to his charismatic (and comedically dirty) speech, to coming out into the crowds dressed in his Chicago Blackhawks jersey, Bootsy Collins took home top highlight honors at Riot Fest’s halfway point (day 2).
Riot Fest’s third and final day was reggae and hip hop heavy (a rarity for the festival) as the likes of De La Soul, Cypress Hill, Snoop Dogg, Damian Marley and Stephen Marley took center stage. For the hip hop heads, the Rock Stage was the place to be as the day’s hip hop performances all took place there, while the day’s reggae shows took place on the Roots Stage. Crowd participation was at an all-time high during Sunday’s performances as many fans (both old and new) had been looking forward to this final festival day for months to experience these legends of hip hop and reggae.
Honorable Mention: Sunday’s honorable mention goes to Toronto-based MC, Jazz Cartier, who had the daunting task of performing in a 12 p.m. timeslot to the few festival attendees who managed to get out of bed early enough for his set. Cartier, who has a knack for throwing open water bottles out into the crowd, (he threw nine of them during his set) is very animated and full of energy. Cartier’s energetic performance gave life to the early crowd that started out small, but had swelled to a few hundred towards the end of his set.
He released his mixtape, Marauding in Paradise, earlier this year and performed just about every song during his show including, “New Religion”, “Holy Shit”, and “Dead Or Alive”. In addition to wetting his fans, Cartier enjoyed walking on the stage speakers, climbing the stage pillars, and starting mosh pits, without missing a beat on the microphone. Needless to say, Cartier gave his all at Riot Fest, built his fan base, woke everyone up, and prepared them for the remainder of the day.
Riot Fest Chicago came and conquered, and now as the traveling festival heads to its final stop of 2015, Toronto, with some lineup changes, it is safe to say that festival-goers are definitely looking forward to next year.
photo by Kris Lori Fuentes Cortes