As throngs of slightly sunburnt people made their way through the gates for the second day of Chicago’s Riot Fest, the grounds started to buzz with sounds from all (seven?) stages. Morrissey wasn’t starting later that evening, but the park was littered with Moz shirts by 1pm. Ska legends The Toasters greeted early birds at 12 sharp, while The Vandals and Smoking Popes came on later in the afternoon to pick up where The Toasters had left off. Taking a break from the music, festival-goers treated themselves to local fare from vendors like Puffs of Doom, Taco in a Bag, and Billy Goat Tavern and took in Riot Fest’s famous Sideshow, which included fire dancers and ‘freaks’ of all kinds.For Day 2, hip-hop ruled the Rise Stage, bringing People Under the Stairs, GZA, Method Man & Redman, and Nas to crowds pining for old-school rap and 90s nostalgia. The Rock Stage continued to live up to its name with Swedish showmen The Hives; frontman Pelle Almqvist dove into the crowd, jumped from the rafters, and covered every single square inch of the stage. Fitz & The Tantrums had the crowd dancing with their electro-pop hits, and frontwoman Noelle Scaggs added to the roster of truly amazing female acts at Riot Fest.
The largest crowd before the headliners was definitely for Descendents, and the band did not disappoint. Being one of the most revered punk bands of the last 40 years (and coming in just one year shy of their 40th anniversary), vocalist Milo Aukerman brought fire to “Pervert”, “Everything Sucks”, and a plethora of other hits that had dozens floating over the crowd and roughly landing feet from the iconic group. Changing keys dramatically, Death Cab for Cutie played on the Roots Stage as the sun set, pulling on everyone’s heartstrings and covering songs from Transatlanticism to Kintsugi. Ben Gibbard has never been a particularly loud or flamboyant frontman, but he leads the band through the classics with ease and passion (and they sure had the crowd to back it up).
Finally, as the last rays of sunlight left the park, thousands of fans from all over the world (some came from Mexico, some from the Netherlands, some from just a few miles away) excitedly crammed together to see Morrissey. The crowd began to feel uneasy and upset when Morrissey’s 8:15 set time was filled with over 35 minutes of music videos and poetry readings from Moz’s favorite bands and artists, but no one moved or left. Finally, at 8:50pm, the legend took to the stage and, after singing a quick rendition of “My Kind of Town”, went right into “Suedehead” and “Alma Matters”. Those who traveled far and wide were immediately filled with glee and belted the hits right alongside their favorite artist.