[Photo credit: Christopher Andrew and Riot Fest]
Riot Fest shared the heartbreaking message on their website that the massively popular festival's partner, producer and organizer, Sean P. McKeough, died at age 42.
“Last night, Riot Fest lost an irreplaceable part of its closely-knit family,” the post, from Nov. 30, said. McKeough's Riot Fest partner, Michael Petryshyn, added the following statement:
“Sean was Riot Fest’s pillar of strength. I loved him. I admired him. And to lose him is a lonely and barren feeling. I miss my friend immensely. Without Sean and his belief that a little fest could make a positive impact on people’s lives by doing things differently and left of the dial, Riot Fest would have never become such an intimate family. His Herculean-sized heart and volition made that all possible. Anyone lucky enough to have witnessed his kindness and compassion knows Sean’s muddy work boots will never be filled. It’s impossible… he cared when no one else did. He worked when no one else did. And, he believed in Riot Fest when no one else did.
Our thoughts are with the entire McKeough family and his beloved partner Erin. You were the closest people to him and without your constant love and support for Sean, his unimaginable impact on thousands of lives may have never been realized.
Sean, I will forever be indebted to you. I love you, brother and I’ll make sure that Riot Fest never loses its purpose or vision… the one you saw before any of us.”
Rolling Stone tells McKeough's story, a multi-talented producer who, along with organizing Riot Fest, owned Chicago's Cobra Lounge venue and All Rise Brewing and worked on the Sundance Grand Jury Prize winning documentary We Live in Public and Austin music scene documentary Echotone.
McKeough first got in touch with Petryshyn in 2006—a year after Riot Fest's inaugural year. Riot Fest spent seven years as a multi-venue festival to present the best alternative—punk, metal and more—around. Soon becoming an important piece of the Riot Fest puzzle, McKeough was the first who suggested to make the festival outdoors.
In 2012, Riot Fest moved outdoors and became Riot Festival & Carnival.
Petryshyn says to Rolling Stone about the pivotal decision, “I was scared to death of it. It was OK to me to be in clubs, but he saw something bigger for it and, looking back, he was 100 percent right about it. It was much more impactful.
“He really loved building out the site, working with the crews, working with community groups, doing permits and all the stuff nobody thinks about when they go to a festival,” Petryshyn continues. “He just had a knack. If he was doing something that had a standard way of doing it, he could say, 'Nah, there's an easier way and better way to do it.' And he'd just do it. Nine out of 10 times it would work.”
AP sends its condolences to McKeough's family and friends.