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Event 73: Riot Fest…it was Rock and Roll/ Mental/ Pop…

Blink 182– the band who soaked up positions in the charts in the 90s and the naughties were headlining a festival totally not part of my genre. I seem to have forgotten to wear my favourite bands t-shirt – Bee Gees that is – but I don’t think there grooving would have went down well with the bands such as Slayer, Pennywise and so on…maybe Rihanna…


What was the event?

 What: Riot Fest 

Where: Douglas Park, Chicago

When: Friday 13th September 2019

And the story begin…

I strolled through the gates with all the rockers of Chicago. I was completely out of place but in absolute heaven. Its exactly what I needed and wanted to experience. I need to appreciate the various genres and now I was in the middle of a giant mosh pit. The line up was impressive and had attracted a lot of positivity for the future of Riot Fest (at the time). 


Riot Fest was in its 15th year and ok…it’s a rock festival and has the audience but I think there’s a lot that can be changed to make it the best rock festival. For the people of Chicago this is the festival they go to – but many people would travel to engage with a genre they love. 

I can categorically and confidently say that in the space of 8 hours of being on site the audience demographic was mainly white. I would probably say 80%. The reason I say this the area we are in the middle of an area predominantly black and very run down. Douglas Park was noted in 2015 to be the new venue for the festival – BUT – the area  was well known – due to police statistics – as a haven for white heroin and gun crime. It was an area to not go to. Events are usually used to boost areas but in discussion with a few people I met at the event they told me – there is nothing that this event does for the local area. And walking through the area I couldn’t see what impact the festival could have or did for myself. Yes, they might dispute, but in reality it’s a rolling circus – rolls in rolls out the festival and that’s it. 


Music events are moments of bringing community to socialise in a environment that meets the needs of that audience. With my index and pinkie finger raised in the classic rock and roll symbol I watched people do exactly this – I felt as one. Phones were in pockets and people were launching themselves at each other with crowd surfing more prominent that posing for perfect Instagram photos. The festival had five stages which are all different and had there own “diehard” supporters who sat at the barriers waiting for here favourite musicians. 

I watched Pennywise from a distance and I watched Blink 182 from near the front. The Blink 182 crowd were “music fans” the Pennywise fans were proper ROCK ROLL…proper head beating I was like wow – I’m ok thanks. I watched everyone’s hair whip back and forth.

I met loads of people that day. One guy in a kilt – who literally just wore a kilt for wearing it. Loved it – we had a great chat! I met the lockers team – Vince – who really had an amazing product. Rock festivals are known to be the best type of festivals for merchandise incomes. Eventbrite wrote in 2017 that on average a rock festival consumer in USA will spend $50 – at this event it was of the higher end – simply because they could put there new souvenirs in lockers and not need to worry about them. Perfect – you put in the tools and everything will fit into place (more people will spend). 


Around the event it was very much like a usual festival with the old rickety Ferris wheel, bright lights and lollies and overpriced candy on sale (MASSIVE QUEUES). Hotdogs being turned on the grill but then past one of the very busy stages was an area that was a hidden a food village. I laughed as I strolled through to buy some over priced chicken and a pre-heated crepe. I mean that’s what I expect and it was all on overdrive. But the people here have disposable incomes – so in reality they can afford and spend at a festival.

The festival was everything I expected. Nothing was a surprise. The welcome – well didn’t exist. The music was epic. A local newspaper post the event discussed the “issues” that fans had with the event but nothings really going to change. It’s a rock and roll no thrills – although there is an attempt for VIP…that’s further away from the stage than majority of the crowd.

One thing to take away…

Rock is rock. But I feel the spectators probably deserve a better customer experience. It’s got the potential and hopefully those organising it will listen…especially is they can hear them since the speakers certainly were not working during Blink 182.


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