Making plans with your Netflix queue this weekend? Finishing your novel? Working on that jigsaw puzzle you had made of the orange sky on the West Coast? Whatever you’re doing, we’re damned confident it’s not as great as this year’s Riot Fest lineup. This year’s event looked like the ultimate rock ’n’ roll weekend. We were stoked by the return of My Chemical Romance. But when Riot Fest pushed the proceedings into 2021, we were lured by the addition of bracing sets from Smashing Pumpkins, Run The Jewels, Taking Back Sunday, Jawbox and more amazing bands. Dammit. Can someone get us some vaccines and a cold beverage, please?
Alas, Riot Fest isn’t happening this weekend or this year. But ask anybody who has ever rendezvoused at Chicago’s Douglas Park and there’s a great chance their memories are vivid. As if it happened last weekend. For decades, Riot Fest has been giving us more thrills for our skrilla. (Did we mention the return of My Chem yet? We did? Oh.) This list runs down some of the bands who raised both our heart rates and the ringing in our ears.
We curse the microbes that screwed up our year (and the livelihoods of people who help bring us joy). We’ll heartily agree that FOMO is a better option than COVID-19. Consider this select list of Riot Fest reunions. We can’t help but wonder what moves that team are making to blow our minds yet again. Our knuckles will remain forever whitened as we hang on their every word. But until then, here are 10 times Riot Fest reunited our favorite bands.
Punk-rock legends Naked Raygun called it quits in 1992, and although they had a two-show reunion in 1997, the band didn’t have a proper “back for good” return until they took the stage at 2006’s Riot Fest. Since reforming, they’ve played with the Offspring, Bad Religion and opened up for Foo Fighters at Wrigley Field in 2015, proving the innovators of the “Chicago Sound” are far from finished.
Although their appearance at the 2019 Riot Fest wasn’t their first return performance, Bikini Kill closing out the last day of the festival’s 15th anniversary with the riot grrrl classic “Rebel Girl” is guaranteed to be a moment that will forever live in both Riot Fest and punk-rock history. Known for their confrontational live shows and unapologetic feminist activism, the band transform the stage into a progressive feminist statement.
Motion City Soundtrack
Although famous for bringing bands back, Riot Fest has also served as sacred grounds to lay acts to rest. From I Am The Movie to Panic Stations, Motion City Soundtrack created their own brand of neurosis-driven, Moog-heavy pop rock and shared it with every hopeless romantic emo kid for 19 years. But the band decided to make the 2016 Riot Fest their penultimate gig, performing their final 36-song set at Metro after the festival. However, MCS announced the end of their three-year hiatus with their “Don’t Call It A Comeback” tour beginning in January 2020. With any luck, the run made the band refreshed and ready to potentially play Riot Fest in 2021.
Craig Owens with Chiodos
Chiodos without Craig Owens is like watching a Quentin Tarantino movie with the dialogue on mute—still pretty cool but simply devoid of what makes it great. Chiodos and Owens parted ways in 2009, with the band saying the “decision was a necessary one.” In their time apart, Chiodos went on to release the album Illuminaudio with former Yesterdays Rising vocalist Brandon Bolmer in 2010 while Owens fronted post-hardcore supergroup Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows. All parties eventually agreed to reassemble in 2012 and turned Riot Fest into a public demonstration of their reestablished dominance. The band returned to a full-time touring schedule and released their final record, Devil, in 2014 before breaking up for good in 2016.
Saosin with Anthony Green
Although Anthony Green was a founding member of the band and the original vocalist, it seemed that his replacement, Cove Reber, had solidified his legacy as the definitive frontman of Saosin. A reunion with Green seemed impossible. That is until Reber parted ways with the band in 2010 and vacated the lead singer position. The band finally announced the reformation of their Translating The Name-era lineup and made 2014’s Riot Fest one of the key moments of their big comeback.
The Academy Is…
The Academy Is…? More like the Academy Was…! The emo-pop darlings behind “About A Girl” and “Checkmarks” disbanded in 2011—leaving bassist Adam T. Siska to play with Carly Rae Jepsen and frontman William Beckett strictly a solo act until 2015’s Riot Fest where the band got back together to perform their debut, Almost Here, in full. The return performance led to a 17-date Almost Here 10th anniversary tour, and although the status of the band has hung in limbo ever since, we’ve got our fingers crossed that we’ll get a chance to sing along to “Summer Hair = Forever Young” once again.
Slayer—final Chicago set
If you look closely, you will see a few tears in the wicked awesome mosh pit at the 2019 Riot Fest as Slayer played their final Chicago date. The first of heavy metal’s legendary “Big Four” to call it quits, Slayer put their band to rest on their final tour for over a year, and Riot Fest marked the last time the metalheads of the Windy City had the opportunity to get whiplash to the tune of “Angel Of Death.”
The universe had been lacking the Replacements’ brash and sloppily earnest brand of poet-punk alt-rock for 22 years until Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson reunited at the Toronto Riot Fest in 2013. The ’Mats’ setlist was a thing of dreams. But the reunion was short-lived. Stinson and Westerberg parting ways again before a new album could come to fruition. But hey, at least we got to hear “Bastards Of Young” live a few more times…
Every punk on planet Earth had an unspoken mutual understanding that there would never, ever be a Jawbreaker reunion. With the initial commercial failure of their major-label debut, Dear You, accusations of being sellouts, fans literally turning their backs to the band and a roadside fistfight between singer/guitarist Blake Schwarzenbach and bassist Chris Bauermeister, Jawbreaker disbanded—forever. For years, Schwarzenbach refused a reunion in favor of fronting Jets To Brazil and being an English professor until the band had a soft reunion in a recording studio for the documentary Don’t Break Down in 2007. Jawbreaker made their official public return as the headliners of 2017’s Riot Fest, answering every punk-rock prayer and leading to several subsequent shows and the possibility of new music.
For several decades, you would be more likely to see Morrissey and Johnny Marr holding hands and eating pastrami sandwiches together than witness Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only next to each other onstage. The reunion that would never be, could never happen but somehow did—the Misfits. 2016 saw hell freeze over, and with it came the reformation of the original Misfits on the Riot Fest stage. Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein on guitar, Only on bass and founding vocalist Danzig once again fronted the famed fiends. It was a license for every die-hard fan to one day die a little happier knowing that the original Misfits had, once again, walked among us. The Sept. 2016 Denver show was the first of several gigs the original Misfits have played since reuniting. We owe our eternal thanks to Riot Fest for making all of our little dead dreams come true.
What was your favorite Riot Fest reunion? Which band would you like to see reunite at Riot Fest? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe to APTV! Thanks for watching!