For the first time in recent memory, Chicago’s Riot Fest opened on a sunny day. Not huge mud puddles to walk through, no dark and cloudy skies waiting to dump on thousands of punks. While tons of festival-goers still wore rain boots, the mood at Douglas Park was excited and happy to be dry. People who ventured to see GWAR, however, didn’t say dry for long. The shock-metal band, known for spraying delighted audiences with blood, turned the crowd red and blue as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump lookalikes literally tore each other’s apart, dousing the front row with political guts and gore. Fear not! Bernie Sanders rode in on a giant phallic monster, saving the band and Riot Fest from the terror of a bad election.
The sun continued to shine as Julian Marley played his father’s album Exodus in its entirety and Set Your Goals turn the crowd into a moshpit. Fans of nostalgia and ‘remember when’ flocked to Jimmy Eat World and sang along to “The Middle” at the top of their lungs. Thousands of teens screamed for joy and whipped out their phones as All Time Low jumped into the crowd. For those looking for a more heavy metal vibe, Swedish rockers Refused brought new meaning to the term “heavy metal”.
As night fell and the temperature dropped, The Flaming Lips warmed the park and sent confetti, balloons, and beautiful music tumbling towards the earth. Wayne Coyne, the enigmatic frontman that he is, brought giant caterpillars onstage to dance to “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots”. As the string lights that hung overhead cascaded light down onto the stage, Riot Fest turned into another world, one that felt miles away from the center of Chicago; punks, metalheads, hippies, and everyone in between were transported to a beautiful and joyous world.