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Riot Fest heats up (through music and controversy) in 2022
by Jerry Nunn
2022-09-22

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For three days, Riot Fest took rock and roll fans on a rollercoaster of a ride in Douglass Park. Located in Chicago's North Lawndale community area at 1401 S. Sacramento Dr., this loud outdoor celebration of music woke up the neighborhood on Sept. 16-18.

Many may not remember that Riot Fest began in various venues back in 2005 before taking place in the 173-acre space named after Frederick and Anna Murray Douglass that has been its home for many years.

Each year, residents in the neighborhood are offered free tickets in a four-block radius of the festival grounds to compensate for the inconvenience. While some complained about surrounding traffic problems, many locals have begun selling food and drinks just outside the gates for major profits.

As festivalgoers went through security entrances at the front, they witnessed a spectacle of merchandise tents, carnival rides and multiple stages of music. Vendors supplied everything from food and beverages to a marriage ceremony right on the spot, if desired. Massive attendance over the three days created challenges ranging from long lines to elusive shade from the bright sunshine.

Rising temperatures were another obstacle many people had to overcome while at Riot Fest. Trans drummer Chip English, from the band Lunachicks, suffered heat exhaustion that caused projectile vomiting behind the drum kit on the Roots Stage. Like a trooper, English turned around, spewed—and hen continued playing. The rest of the group told Windy City Times after the incident that they were oblivious at the time. Bandmate Theo Kogan described the heat as "laser-beam hot. It felt like we were in a Petri dish and we just fried!"

This is not the first year that artists have suffered from the sun and heat while performing on this stage. More mechanical cooling fans and misting systems should be considered for the future for their protection.

Headliners for each day were My Chemical Romance on Friday, The Original Misfits on Saturday and Nine Inch Nails on Sunday among smoke and lights. Along the way, there was more LGBTQ+ representation in the acts than ever before.

Karen O. gave a shout-out on the microphone to queer founding members of Sleater-Kinney who had performed on the neighboring stage earlier in the day, stating that they had "paved the way" for punk groups such as her band, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

English singer Yungblud talked with Windy City Times backstage on Sept. 17 about being pansexual, saying that he simply loves sensations including sex, clothing, food, perfume and scented candles. He said, "Every single one of us should never be denied the right to express ourselves. Restrictions are the enemy. Boxes are for cereal, not people!"

Queer singer Alexia Roditis, from the group Destroy Boys, also met up to elaborate on the bullying theme in the catalog of work and what they have heard from fans over the years. "I thought my experiences were so isolating but they are so common, I know about it logically but it doesn't hit in the same way," Roditis said. "When I hear from people about how songs like 'Fences' or 'Locker Room' have helped them, it is very encouraging to hear their responses."

Other acts at this year's Riot Fest with LGBTQ+ members included Mom Jeans, Bully, Pale Waves and Pvris.

Attendance soared this year along with the heat thanks to a lower number of COVID cases and redeemed tickets from past cancellations. It was a return to greatness for the massive festival that many consider being the last major summer music festival in Chicago for 2022.

Stay tuned to RiotFest.org for future updates on the upcoming festivities for 2023.


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