No one had any idea that when they flocked for the exits after Bikini Kill’s 2019 Riot Fest set, that the festivities would be on pause until 2021. Fear not, Riot Fest returned to form with their first night of 2021 action.
There’s nothing quite as refreshing as returning to Douglas Park for Chicago’s marquee festival. The carnival rides, food vendors as far as the eye can see, and drunken haggards wildly missing their target at the dunk tank. Mind you, it was 4:00pm when I arrived.
Joyce Manor, the Torrence, California imports, were the first band I saw. They ripped through their nearly-flawless 2011 self-titled record, performing all 11 songs in just over 20 minutes. The band answers the question of “what if 1994 Weezer had a baby with 1994 Green Day?” Their hooks are infectious, their riffs are contagious, and their harmonies are flawless. They concluded their set with a rousing rendition of My Chemical Romance’s “Helena”, giving us a brief taste of what we’ll see next year when MCR finally takes their rightful place atop the headlining stage.
Joyce Manor covered HELENA and proved they should open for My Chemical Romance next year. pic.twitter.com/DdntiDjIqb
— riot tony (@ItMeTony) September 16, 2021
Nothing more accurately defines Riot Fest and why it’s so special than the stark contrast of Patti Smith and Alkaline Trio, both of whom followed Joyce Manor. Patti Smith thanked the sun for all that it does, while Alkaline Trio sank their teeth into an array of gothic anthems from their illustrious twenty-year career. It is up to the patrons over the next three days to top the wheelchair-stricken crowd surfer that rolled over the heads of the AK3 faithful.
— 101WKQX (@101WKQX) September 17, 2021
Morrissey closed out the night, because for better or worse, there is no way to follow Morrissey. The eccentric frontman broke into the iconic Smiths tune “How Soon is Now?” to kickoff an unrelenting, energetic 70-minute set full of hits, covers, and deep cuts for everyone to enjoy. The grays in his hair do not define the 62-year-old. There is no denying that he still has some fight in him after his raucous closer, “Jack the Ripper”, which covered the park in a thickening smoke.
When it cleared, he was gone into the night.
-Case the Producer