Riot Fest Day 1 Review

Date: September 23, 2019
By: Valentino Petrarca

For those that do not know me, I’m DJ Valentino. I am the host of Pop-Punk/Emo/Post Hardcore show Under The Stars and the Assistant Music Director. I had the privilege to attend Chicago’s very own Riot Festival during its 15th year anniversary. The festival was everything I hoped it would be and more. It was one of the most memorable and phenomenal experiences. Day 1 was the first taste I had of the renowned festival and it did not disappoint. 

The first thing that absolutely blew me away was how pretty it was. The venue was actually filled with nature. They took Douglas Park in Chicago and repurposed it just for the festival. This didn’t feel like a man-made structure for money. There was an abundance of trees, grass, and fields. Everything about the scenery felt genuine. It was obvious that the people at Riot Fest care about their music and creating a memorable experience for the attendees. Running around in a circle pit, jumping in a mosh pit, and relaxing in the shade all felt improved just by seeing greenery everywhere I looked. 

The second thing I noticed on the first day was the cleanliness. This was the 12th festival I’ve attended, and it was hands down the most trash-free. There were plenty of recycling and trash cans everywhere and the staff took great care to clean up any and all litter. The festival promoted having a safe and eco friendly environment by allowing people to volunteer for trash pickup. Anyone who volunteered to help clean up the park would get a free one-day pass to Riot Fest 2020. Simple acts like this show how caring the festival is. Riot Fest really does care about the environment and the park they are utilizing. This was something that was appreciated and did not go unnoticed. 

There was also so much space throughout the whole festival. The pit never felt too tight and small, and the stages never felt too close. There was also plenty of room if you wanted to kick back and relax. They truly nailed the special relations of shows to create the ideal festival. I felt this really added to my appreciation of every band I saw this weekend. There was such a positive and happy atmosphere throughout the whole weekend, it was truly bliss. 

In terms of bands that blew me away, Anti-Flag produced one of their most insane and powerful sets to date. DJ Chewie and myself had the privilege of interviewing the band after their set and discussed the inspiration behind their albums. They were energetic and connected with the crowd perfectly. Everyone was getting pumped up and unleashed their built up energy in a fantastic manner.

Another incredible band was Glassjaw, as they performed Worship and Tribute in full. They were super fun and had a powerful stage presence. Their set fell at a weird point in the night where the crowd was just starting to get tired so everyone was very calm during their performance, but that does not minimize how amazing of a show they put on. It was great to see such an iconic album in full. 

Another performance that must be mentioned is Senses Fail’s fantastic show. They performed Let It Enfold You in its entirety. This is one of the most iconic emo albums of all time, and the band truly delivered on every aspect I was hoping they would. Lead vocalist Buddy Nielsen was swinging his microphone all over the place and doing cartwheels while belting out with powerful vocals. The guitarist felt electric as they delivered some of the most memorable riffs of all time. Drummer Dan Trap was vicious while playing the drums, which made the album truly come alive. The show was a massive highlight of the weekend and one I’ll never forget. 

A show that deserves special recognition is I Don’t Know How But They Found Me’s set. Frontman Dallon Weekes commands the stage in such an entertaining and charismatic way. He really makes every single person in the audience feel special — he has the personality of Frank Sinatra and Ronny Dangerfield mixed into one. He is an absolute pleasure to watch live and was hands down a highlight of the weekend. Ryan Seaman is also a fantastic drummer with incredible energy. He oozes absolute happiness and positive vibes. If there is one band you want to check out live, it is these guys.

The final performance that I feel the need to discuss is Blink 182. They closed out the set on Friday and completely rocked the whole park. They delivered a fantastic show that thousands of people were screaming along to. Mark was hilarious and had so much energy, Matt was an absolute pleasure to witness, as always, and Travis is one of the best live drummers of all time. Watching Travis Barker live is something that should be on every single rock fan’s concert bucket-list. DJ Chewie and I were in a deep mud puddle during their set and got completely drenched in mud, but we hardly noticed because of how amazing the performance was. Our shoes and legs were caked by the time the show was over and that night we washed our shoes in the hotel room reflecting on what an amazing day it was. 

To end my review of Day 1 off, I must mention the sound quality. Every single band on this day sounded amazing. Their notes were crystal clear, mixed extremely well, and not loud for the sake of being loud. All the bands sounded unbelievably good. Day 1 was a complete success and left me ecstatic for Day 2. 

Valentino Petrarca is the Music Assistant for WSOU, and can be reached at

Posted in: Show Review, Metal, WSOU Exclusive, WSOU, Reviews

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