By: Lindsy Carrasquillo
This was my first year attending Riot Fest and their lineup consisted of bands I hadn’t listened to in years, some favorites I wanted to see again and artists I had just recently discovered. Overall, I had a great time and enjoyed trading the Florida heat (and unpredictable rain) for clear blue skies and three straight days of music. Here’s my stand out acts of the weekend.
Matt & Kim: They’re an act I wasn’t expecting to even watch but per a friends suggestion, I decided to check them out. Wow, was I glad I did! The indie-electropop duo really knows how to put on a show. They put on one of the most high energy and passionate performances I’ve seen in quite some time. While I could probably only tell you the names of two of their songs, their set kept me engaged. In addition to incorporating samples from various songs into their set and dancing on stage, they engaged with fans by throwing ziplock bags of balloons and asking the crowd to blow them up.
Bleachers: Back when their first album, Strange Desire, was released in 2014, it was one of the first records I ever reviewed as I stepped into the world of music journalism. So of course, I know every word. While I’m not too familiar with their newest record, their songs are easy to learn and sing along to live. During their set, Jack reflected on Chicago’s music scene and how much he loves playing in the city as well as the beautiful sunset that engulfed the crowd during their set.
Beach Bunny: I’ve been wanting to see Beach Bunny for months so on day 2 of the festival, I made sure to get there early to see them as they had the first performance of the day. Before their set, their crowd at the main stage quickly grew and it was nice to see so many people show up for the Chicago native act. Playing tracks off their recently released EP “Prom Queen” and other songs such as ‘Sports,’ which singer Lili Trifilio introduced as “the hit,” the band had the whole crowd dancing, singing along and even starting several mosh pits.
Just Friends: I saw them earlier this year in Gainesville when they toured with Graduating Life. They’re a band you just need to see. After their set, other people in the crowd reflected on their performance and described them the same way I would: fun. It’s hard to listen to their tracks like “Welcome Mats” without wanting to sing along as loud as you can. The whole band danced around on stage and it’s clear that they love everything about what they do. With horns and a blend of various genres, their sound is refreshing and undeniably energetic.
Save Face: Since the release of their debut full length, Merci, in July, it’s been one of my go-to records. “Merci” is a concept album with heavy guitar driven tracks and gripping vocals that explores the relationship of two characters who are struggling with addiction. Lead singer and guitarist Tyler Povanda’s vocals are are even more powerful live than they are on the record. Watching them, it’s clear how much passion each member puts into the performance.
Swmrs: They were one of the heavier acts, perfectly fitting into Riot Fest’s history as a punk festival. Taking influence from bands ranging from the Beach Boys to The Ramones, the Oakland based band ripped through their set with loud guitars and catchy vocal hooks. Throughout their set, lead singer Cole Becker spent time in between tracks addressing various significant topics such as the importance of consent and the hotel strike that was occurring in downtown Chicago.
The Wonder Years: This was the band I anticipated seeing the most as it’s been five years since I last saw them. Their set last week blew me away just as it did when I saw them in high school. Now with three new releases under their belt since I last saw them, The Wonder Years continued to bring back crowd favorites such as ‘Melrose Diner.’ Hearing ‘Passing Through A Screen Door’ again brought me back to the summer of 2013. Singing along to it reminded me that maybe I’m just as lost now as I was back then…but then again, that may not a bad thing. With a mix of their upbeat fast tracks and quieter songs like ‘Flowers Where Your Face Should Be,’ their hour long set was just what I hoped it would be. Their performance had even more power than when I last saw them and it’s always heartwarming to see how much an act has grown.