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Fall is a joyous time for Chicago residents, and while late September harkens in the close of the festival season, the Midwestern emo tradition remains strong in the Second City as Riot Fest celebrated its 17th year in Douglas Park.
While photos proved exceedingly difficult in the late evening, the opening day of the festival saw some of the largest crowds of the weekend. Among others, we were pleased to kick off the weekend with a performance by Cleveland’s Cloud Nothings, on the circuit supporting their latest LP, The Shadow I Remember. Digging into many fan favorites from both Attack On Memory as well as their self-titled record, the group enjoyed a strong showing on the Rebel Stage in the late afternoon.
While notable acts like Portugal. The Man, Taking Back Sunday, Jeff Rosenstock and Bleachers made for a strong start, few bookings of the year (even the past several) could compete with Friday’s headliner – a rare, hugely anticipated appearance by none other than My Chemical Romance
MCR’s legacy cannot be understated, nor can the sheer, palpable excitement that lingered amongst attendees that day. Having been nearly a decade since their breakup and last live appearance, the group’s run (having initially been cut short in 2020 due to COVID-19) has been one of the most highly anticipated shows to see in recent memory.
Frontman Gerard Way, donned in a dress and heels (complete with a headscarf and sunglasses), led the band through a 90-minute spectacle, paused only by his near song-by-song insistence to ask the crowd to step back and avoid a crush, the fear of Astroworld still fresh in everyone’s mind.
Photo by Laurie Fanelli for Brooklyn Vegan
In spite of the Production Manager having to pull the band off-stage briefly to quell the crowd, the band’s triumphant return to Chicago was perhaps the highlight of the weekend, and one that was well worth the wait.
A strong breeze and cooler weather was welcome amongst the crowds as thousands spilled into the parks, with Misfits shirts dominating the fashion amongst old punks and new fans alike.
It was a pleasure to kick the day off with a full length, 25th Anniversary performance of 4 Minute Mile from The Get Up Kids, setting the stage for a long list of legacy pop-punk acts to walk on the Radicals Stage that day.
Among other standouts that day was recent TikTok sensation Jxdn and British heartthrob YUNGBLUD, whom, in spite of the crowds of heavily patched punk elders, set the new standard for young pop-punk that weekend.
Given the headliner’s photo restrictions, the weekend wouldn’t have been complete without photographing a stellar showing by Los Angeles’s Bad Religion
In a world so divided by differences in religion, politics and social opinions, Greg Graffin and his bandmates provided a fantastic, unifying backdrop for legacy punk fans to revel in, just prior to the headlining act.
Much can be said about Misfits, but perhaps it would be simplest to say that Glenn Danzig and company are among the rare pioneers still living and touring in the punk world.
In a setlist filled with classics, the feverish crowd provided ample harmony when Danzig seemed to strain, providing a unifyingly fitting end to the second day of festivities in the west-side of Chicago.
More to come from Jeff Elbel on tomorrow’s highlights.