Riot Fest was back again in Douglass Park with its classic carnival atmosphere. The stage set ups remained similar to previous years, with headlining double stages and cascading secondary stages, which led to some heavy trekking for some trying to see multiple artists in a row. Nonetheless, the Chicagoland crowd showed up in droves for such headliners as Foo Fighters and The Cure but how did it fare comparative to its previous years?
The answer is found in its fine tuning of the formula. The stage design has always been an interesting one. It manages to remove a lot of cross sound but is just far enough away to be annoying. At the same time, their bathroom situation has improved with rows and rows of porta potties placed in strategically convenient spots. Rarely did we have to wait in line longer than a few minutes, which is a breath of fresh air. The prices for most things remain on par with what you’d see at concerts, overpriced but not out of the norm. The food was also an improvement with lots of variations of tacos, and burgers but with style.
What did stand out were the bands. The Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age and the Cure are definitely some bigger pulls but snagging the rare appearance of the defunct indie sensation Postal Service was a massive drive for many. Considering Postal Service and Death Cab for Cutie share singers, it was nice to see them as a double bill. Throw in the cult followings of ICP, Mr. Bungle or 100 Gecs, and we have a jam packed festival with something for everyone.
Another staple of the festival scene in the last decade has been full album plays, and that was in no short supply here. We had The Breeders, Braid, Quicksand, Rival Schools, Postal Service, Death Cab for Cutie, and Gorilla Biscuits all bringing replays of their classic albums. The rain couldn’t stop the crowds or bands alike, with many bands continuing their sets throughout. Riot Fest 2023 is another one for the books. In many ways, it was a classic Riot Fest, but the slight improvements of food options and bathrooms plus a first class line up made for a much easier experience.