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The Best and Worst of Riot Fest 2016

No rain? No problem!

Photo: Andrew Nawrocki

Riot Fest blasted through Douglas Park this weekend, bringing with it more than 120 bands on six stages. The festival’s high-highs and low-lows, below.

The Best

The weather(!)

For the first time in years, Riot Fest dodged a rainstorm—the chief culprit in rendering Douglas and Humboldt Park mud pits during recent fests. The result was all the perks you’d expect of a mid-September festival: not too hot, not too cold, and not too humid.

No more rides and games

Riot Fest & Carnival scaled way back on the Carnival this year, axing all but one of its stock rides & games (the Ferris wheel). The Carnival had been a good idea in theory, but in practice it clogged the festival’s main thoroughfare. On that note…

The layout in general

The festival worked the final kinks out of 2015’s already pretty-stellar layout, cutting the remote seventh stage at 16th and Farrar and adding a pick-up and drop-off lane for Uber and Lyft. Traffic flow ahoy!

Adoptive Chicago bands

Riot Fest didn’t get a gold star for booking locals this year but made up for it with a wave of bands for whom Chicago is a spiritual home—notably the Wonder Years, who played their Chicago-set "Don’t Let me Cave In” Sunday, and Motion City Soundtrack, who got their start gigging here after failure to book in their native Minneapolis.  

No more food & drink tickets

It’s unclear why Riot Fest used them in the first place—some speculated it was to goad fans into overbuying concessions—but nixing food and drink tickets for cash saved everybody an extra line this year. An added bonus: ballpark-style beer vendors walking through the crowds.

No jerks

Not news, but Riot Fest’s crowd was tame as ever.​

The Brand New/Death Cab/Morrissey triple-play

Riot Fest’s three preeminent mopesters played back-to-back-to-back on neighboring stages Saturday night, leaving the festival’s latent emo fans to stick to its southeastern corner. Or they would have, had Morrissey played on time…

The worst

Morrissey’s lateness, divadom​

Fans should theoretically have been grateful that Moz showed up at all—the singer is notorious for last-minute cancelations—but a 33-minute delay and his usual, venue-wide ban on meat had all but the most devout fans leaving early.

Too many reunions, false final tours

It’s no fault of Riot Fest’s—the event specializes in legacy acts—but the trend in punk of reuniting with estranged bandmates to power through the hits has come to a head. When a band like Underoath, who went on a well-publicized “final” tour in 2012, resurfaces at Riot Fest, it saps the meaning from other bands’ final runs—say, Motion City Soundtrack’s at this festival. A quick fix: Never say never.

The Sleater-Kinney/Death Grips set conflict

Brutal.

$5 ATM fees

Not punk rock.

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