Chicago – Sigh, Riot Fest Chicago is over. Give me a minute, I need to dry these tears. Though, I shouldn’t be too sad because we had not one ounce of mud to contend with, all weekend long, and the final day of Riot Fest left us we the best performance by a new band, this year. But if you love Riot Fest like most Chicagoans do, then you understand. Let’s cry together over some Chicago pizza and beers, while checking out the best new bands Sunday had to offer… and then we can re-watch Stranger Things together.
The L.A. punks of Bleached started my afternoon off right. A rainbow of colored hair flew in every direction, as sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin and fellow gal pal Micayla Grace thrashed about the Rock Stage. Drummer Nick Pillot got in on that, too, with his hair flying while pounding away. I bopped my head to the beat, though not as wildly, while sucking down a root beer float made with Guinness ice cream because f**k yeah, Riot Fest! Just a few months ago, Bleached released sophomore album Welcome to Worms, so it came as no surprise the band performed plenty of new material like “Keep On Keepin’ On” and “Trying To Lose Myself Again.” Well, I sure lost myself in Bleached, while sucking down that float, in the blazing afternoon sun.
Over at the Rise Stage, rapper Pouya had the crowd moshing, after ordering fans to get a pit started. While most rappers ask fans to jump or raise hands in the air – both of which Pouya asked at the start of his set – the Miami rapper wanted fans to get wild. When in Rome, I suppose? A large group of fans did just that, creating a dust storm in the process. Later, a Donald Trump look-alike came out and demanded fans keep at it and go harder, making that mosh pit great again. That fake Donald was Illinois rapper Sir Michael Rocks, who in his blonde wig, joined in on “FYE.” Fans up front rapped along word for word, just like they did for “Suicidal Thoughts In The Back Of The Cadillac.”
The Julie Ruin
Hands down the best set of the weekend goes to The Julie Ruin. Frontwoman Kathleen Hanna absolutely killed it! I want to be Kathleen Hanna when I grow up! Between her dancing like no one’s watching, her unabashed in-your-face feminist rants, and the fabulous punk the rock, what’s not to love? While riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna and the other members of The Julie Ruin are legends, who have been in and around the music industry for quite some time, this New York band is relatively new, having formed in 2010. This July, the fivesome, comprised of Hanna and her Bikini Kill bandmate bassist Kathi Wilcox, guitarist Sara Landeau, drummer Carmine Covelli, and keyboardist Kenny Mellman (of Kiki and Herb), released its sophomore album Hit Reset, so fans were treated to new tracks, like “I’m Done” and “I Decide.” Though, for many, the highlight of the set came at the end, when the band performed Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl.” Personally, I loved everything about The Julie Ruin’s set at the Rock Stage, and I must say, Kenny Mellman had the best t-shirt of the weekend because Lisa Frank forever!
My night ended with the soulful crooning of U.K. singer-songwriter Jake Bugg. The Englishman looked too cool for school, dressed all in black, from head-to-toe, which included a pair of shiny black Ray-Bans. The crowd went wild the moment Bugg stepped out on the Rock Stage, but when the twenty-two year-old broke into “Two Fingers,” from his 2012 self-titled debut, fans went absolutely apeshit! Of course Bugg played some new material, too. After all, he did just release his third LP On My One. Bugg treated fans to new tunes “Put Out the Fire,” “Bitter Salt,” and “Gimme the Love.”
I had a blast at Riot Fest Chicago! Here’s to next year and even more incredible music in Douglas Park! Follow Riot Fest on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for information on Riot Fest 2017. Follow Best New Bands on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Read our Day One Riot Fest coverage HERE and our Day Two coverage HERE.
Photography by Sarah Hess for Best New Bands.
After attending The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Sarah went on to study education at Dominican University, earning a degree in history. When not teaching, writing, or taking in a show, she is most likely to be found with a camera to her eye or hanging out in a darkroom.
You can follow Sarah Hess on twitter at @Sarahhasanh and view her music photography on her website: smhimaging.com.