Photos and review by Chelsea Whitaker
Riot Fest is an independent, three-day rock festival in Chicago, Illinois. Check out a live review with photo impressions from day one of the fest, featuring Foxy Shazam, Boston Manor and The Wonder Years.
Riot Fest kicked off early Friday afternoon with a frenzy of people rushing through the front gates, ready to sprint for the best spot to see their favorite bands. Early attendees were greeted with the likes of British hardcore quintet Boston Manor at the Radical Stage. Opening their set with synth-led single “Carbon Mono”, you could feel the excitement in the air. The electricity of anticipation, excitement, and joy could be felt by all. Boston Manor kept the high energy going with a blend of tracks from their latest record, Datura, and some favorites from previous albums.
If other attendees were anything like me, at 2 o’clock they were running across the park, from the Radical Stage to the Rise Stage.
Foxy Shazam put on an energetic set, collecting a significant crowd under the bright sun. Eric Nally ran across the stage, jumping and doing somersaults. Sky White took his keyboard, climbing off the stage and launching himself into the crowd. Fans roared as he crowd surfed with his keyboard. They pulled out fan favorite classics like “Welcome to the Church of Rock & Roll” and “Oh Lord” while introducing new music from their latest album. The Heart Behead You is the second record Foxy Shazam released after their reconciliation in 2019. The first being “Burn” released in 2020. The band took a hiatus in 2014, in an attempt to spend more time with their families while exploring other musical avenues. After five years apart, they’re back and better than ever.
As the day went on, the temps continued to rise. It may have been hot and sweaty, but that did not deter anyone from dancing, moshing, and crowd surfing.
I felt like I had taken a step back in time to high school as The Wonder Years took the stage. Dan Campbell ran onto stage, starting “I Don’t Like Who I Was Then”. The energy of the band blending with that of the crowd made it feel like it was 2011 all over. While the band members have remained the same for the majority of its existence, they have all grown as humans. This is made apparent in their latest album, The Hum Goes on Forever, as Campbell alludes to his mindset change after having a child. Mental health is a continuing motif throughout the album - performing songs like “Summer Clothes” and “Low Tide”.
Portugal, The Man, took on the Rise Stage at 7PM, but not how you may have expected. They introduced a native woman, originally from Alaska, to open their set with a song. Portugal, The Man has been a strong advocate for Indigenous folks, hoping to educate others.
The crowds grew as the night went on, in anticipation of My Chemical Romance closing the night. By the time Gerard Way took the stage, the park was full. Opening with the latest single, “Foundations of Decay” the crowd roared, waves of people swept from the back of the park to the barricades at the stage. It seemed as though Way would pause in between each song, reminding the audience to take a step back and allow those in the front to breathe. Nevertheless, the show went on. They performed fan favorites such as “Helena”, “Teenagers”, and “Mama”, facetiously closing the night with “Famous Last Words”.
Although things got a little hairy there at the end, Riot Fest kicked off with a bang, setting the tone for the remainder of the festival. And with day one under their belts, fans headed to their homes for the night, ready to get up and do it all over again tomorrow.
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