Riot Fest returns for 2022


“Portugal. The Man” performs at the Rise Stage at Riot Fest, 2022 (Huffman/LION).

Mckinley Huffman, Reporter

Last summer, I first heard that one of my favorite bands, My Chemical Romance (MCR), was going to be headlining at Riot Fest, and I knew right away that I wanted to go. A year later, after seeing the full lineup, I was sold. I bought my ticket and made plans to go on Sept. 16 with a friend. 

Riot Fest is an annual, three day music festival in Douglass Park, featuring bands and artists from rock, punk, metal, and alternative genres. Attracting around 40,000 people per day, it always features a great lineup for music fans with all sorts of tastes. 

Having gone to Lollapalooza earlier in the summer, I thought I knew exactly what to expect. However, Riot Fest is a unique festival, providing a completely different experience than any music event that I have been to. 

We got to the festival around 1 p.m. Getting in was quick and easy. After scanning my ticket and a quick bag search, we got in line to purchase merchandise, thinking we were beating the crowds sure to come later in the day. However, we ended up waiting almost an hour just to buy a T-shirt. This was the first experience we had with the outrageous waits and lines at this festival, but surely not the last. Before seeing our first band of the day, we walked in the direction of the water refill station. We were greeted with a seemingly endless line, stretching from one of the stages farther in the festival, nearly to the exit. After conversing with someone in the line, we discovered that they had been waiting for over an hour. 

After this, we decided just to purchase bottles of water every time we needed to. Although much quicker, this became very expensive. However, there were many people walking around selling water and other drinks out of coolers, providing a cheaper alternative which was much quicker than waiting in line at the official festival tents. 

The first band that we saw was Wargasm, a high-energy, punk-rock band. Though I’d never heard of them, they put on a great show and started off the day in a great way.  

Next, we waited about 30 minutes to see Jeff Rosenstock, a rock multi-instrumentalist and singer. We were right in the front, up against the gate. Though he started his set late due to issues with his microphone, he and his band kept the crowd entertained while we waited by playing covers of popular songs such as “Say It Ain’t So” by Weezer and “Wonderwall” by Oasis. Everyone was singing along. 

All of the people watching this set were very friendly, and I ended up talking to lots of people standing near us. The show was great, and it was a completely different experience than anything I’d seen before–the crowd was much more active. Though it wasn’t quite a “mosh pit,” everyone near the front was pushing and constantly in motion. I was caught off guard and a little nervous at first, but I ended up having a lot of fun. Everyone in the crowd was super kind and had each other’s backs, to make sure that no one got hurt. 

Following this, we headed back to the stage where we’d started off the day, to see one of my favorite bands, Destroy Boys, a feminist rock band with punk influences. This was by far my favorite set of the day. In only 30 minutes, they managed to get to every song I was hoping to hear. Lead singer Alexia Roditis was such a powerful and captivating performer, who left me feeling empowered and inspired. She spoke about politics and identity in between songs, and their performance of the song “Muzzle” in particular was an amazing experience. 

My friend and I decided to get dinner after this. Riot Fest offers many food options to accommodate most diets and preferences, but again, the lines were so long that we ended up just choosing the place with the shortest waitt. Even still, we waited almost an hour for the empanadas we decided on. 

My cheese empanadas were surprisingly great, though it might have just been that I hadn’t had anything to eat since 10:30 a.m. that morning. Still, the wait made it so that we only caught about 20 minutes of “Portugal. The Man.” Though I wasn’t very familiar with this band, they were great live, and hearing them play their popular song “Feel It Still” was so much fun. 

After this set, my friend and I ran across the festival grounds to try to get to the front for MCR. Getting there about 30 minutes early, we both thought we’d be able to push through the crowd and get a decent view, but we were wrong. After getting about halfway to the front, people were less willing to let us through, and everyone was packed in tightly. We were yelled at by other festival-goers for being rude, and trying to push through when some people had been waiting for hours. 

Even after teaming up with a few strangers who were also trying to get to a better spot, we never ended up too close to the stage. Still, we were considerably farther up than the majority of the people in the crowd. 

MCR put on a great show, the band was really tight, professional, and impressive, and they sounded almost exactly like they do on their albums. 

Throughout the show, frontman Gerard Way continued to stop the music and turn the lights on after almost every song, asking the audience to step back and make sure that no one around them was hurt or needed help. Though things were fairly peaceful where my friend and I were standing, it seemed that the closer you were to the front, the more dangerous and overwhelming the crowd was. It was great to see him making sure that his fans were safe, and this is definitely something that needs to be taken seriously, especially at large events like this. However, it felt a little excessive, and took away a lot of time from their performance. 

After the last song had been played, getting out of the festival took around 45 minutes since everyone was trying to leave at once out of one exit. Exhausted yet exhilarated, my friend and I headed home after an amazing day. 

In my opinion, Riot Fest did not accommodate the large crowds as well as other concerts and music festivals have, and the long waits were inconvenient and somewhat unexpected. However, my day at Riot Fest was one of the best days I’ve had. Every band we saw was great, and put on an amazing performance. I would recommend this festival to anyone who is a fan of the types of music seen there. It is a unique and incredible experience, and a great way to appreciate music and have fun with friends.