We’d made it to Day 3, and honestly I was feeling a pretty haggard for a weekend of not drinking. Staying out to late o’clock is something I am no longer conditioned to do, apparently. But Mat and I made it to the festival grounds on time and we were able to check out The Linda Lindas. Finally! This band has been on my ‘Gotta See’ bucket list since I heard about them years ago. And since they’re West Coast-based and many of my friends live in LA, I’ve been watching IG feeds of their shows for what seems like years, just coveting what everyone else seems to have had. But today, they moved off my bucket list and on to another list, the ‘Make Sure To Go See Them Whenever They Tour Through’ list. They are so powerful and strong and at such young ages, they are reshaping the face of not only Punk music but the music industry as a whole.
We bounced off to the Press Area for what would be my very last 0% Riot Pop of the weekend. They were all out. ALL the tents were almost out of 0%, which was sad but also pretty cool that there were so many people downing NA drinks besides good ol’ fashioned water. Mat and I set up for the few round of Bad Libs that we had scheduled. Luckily for me, he was able to take a little time off from shooting his amazing band and artist photos and be there for all of them today! Reece Young was first up. Followed by the dudes in No Trigger. We had seen their set yesterday and fell in love and spending time with the dudes today just solidified that. They were hilarious. From start to finish, they made the whole experience really fun and they had us cracking up the whole time.
There was one band that, when I saw them on the lineup, made me almost fall out of my chair. Sure there were a ton of bands I wanted to see this year, some of which I didn’t even know I wanted to see until I saw them. And then there were the bands that would be fun to see, that I would never see anywhere else besides Riot Fest. But this band’s 1999 release, Luxury Problem, was a change-your-life and open-your-eyes kind of album. I, of course, am writing about NYC’s own Lunachicks. The band had reunited back in 2019 and were slated to play PRB in Vegas in 2020 before COVID shut down the world and put all our fun on hold. Since I likely won’t be going to any Vegas festivals soon, seeing Lunachicks on the RF lineup made me elated. And they did not disappoint.
My god, they were fabulous. Lead singer Theo was a fucking vision in her pink babydoll prom dress and bright blonde hair, the hair that launched a thousand bleach jobs on my poor brunette locks over the last 20 years. She was like some sort of fucked up gorgeous Punk Disney Princess. Their setlist was as if I requested it myself: “I’ll Be the One,” “Say What You Mean,” “Don’t Want You,” “Drop Dead,” and the title track of that 1999 release I mentioned among 9 other hits. *chef kiss* As the set progressed, Theo shed layers of her extensions until she was down to her actual hair and I found myself talking my brain down from trying to make glittery topaz blue eyeshadow and thick straight cut bangs work for me again as Gina and Squid battled their axes and Chip murdered the drums. Did a little tear squirt out of my eye when they closed with “Less Teeth More Tits” and I realized how impactful this band was to my understanding of what being female was in the music scene and how the importance of individuality was drilled into me when I needed to hear it most? Yeah. But just one.
I fanned my eyes as I headed back to the Press Area for the very last round of Bad Libs with Chastity. As he approached me, I excitedly mentioned his ICP shirt and we had a quick Juggalo-down session (like a bro down but with more face paint) about the band before libbing. He was wonderful!
After that, it was a slow slide to the end of the festival for me. There were a few bands left that I wanted to see. Mat was out there somewhere in the ether, snapping amazing photos. With a little down time to spare, I met up with Jessica and Jehiah and did a good lay down in the shady grass. While we hung out and rehydrated with plain old boring water (still bitter about the Riot Pop shortage? You betcha!), Sleater-Kinney played in the background. We pulled ourselves up and over to the correct stage for Yeah Yeah Yeahs which was the right move; they were insane to see live. They are one of those bands I mentioned earlier, where I don’t know that I would ever go out of my way to have seen them before, but I am so glad that I did. While in the crowd, I saw and said hi to Mikaela Jane and her partner Chris. Perhaps you know her as the designer of every single piece of band merch that you own and love. She is amazingly talented and hardworking and she’s currently the hottest artist/designer (I’m sure I’m saying it wrong) out there right now.
After their set, I ran across the park to the ticket booth and bought enough tickets for 6 people to ride the ferris wheel. The RFPC (check out our Day 1 coverage for acronym breakdown) has ALWAYS talked about riding the ferris wheel during the festival but we’re always so busy with running from stage to stage that we have never done it. But, I made the crew – including Jessica and Jehiah, our honorary 2022 crew members – commit to meeting me at the ferris wheel during Ice Cube’s set so we could do it. Besides the fact that it would just be really fun to see the fest from up high, there was another reason that I wanted to make sure we lived this year to the fullest. Alex, our amazing RFPC member from Mexico, had announced to us only days earlier that he was having a BABY in just a few weeks! And while that was insanely exciting news, it also means that he likely won’t be able to travel next year or for a few years. I had also talked to Mat while heading over to the fest one day about how we really don’t know how long we’re going to be able to or want to do this. What was so certain just a few years ago is now all drawn out in very different terms. So… I was determined to make this year the best Riot Fest for us ever. And that included an overpriced ride on the ferris wheel, goddammit!
We all met up in line and waited together while also watching Ice Cube. What a sentence I just got to write! The people directly behind us were on so many drugs that they had trouble explaining to the people behind them all the things they were on. All I can remember was there was weed and a water bottle of molly that someone got confused with the regular water bottle and chugged. So someone who was dehydrated was about to get a lot more dehydrated. We hopped on the ferris wheel in 2 different cars, 3 each. And I will say, it was actually really cool to be up so high, seeing all the stages at once, watching Nine Inch Nails wail “Shit Mirror” while Ice Cube rapped “Straight Outta Compton.” Only at Riot Fest, my friends.
After that, we were all ready to wrap it up. We went back to the Press Area and packed up, we said our thank yous and goodbyes and see you (hopefully) next years to the Riot Fest Staff and bartenders. Dr. Matthew Ray had closed up shop and packed away his chiropractic table so I couldn’t confess my undying love for… his alignment services all weekend. So we headed out. Jessica and Jehiah were waiting for us outside the tent and the six of us headed through the park and to my ultra super secret parking spot.
We weren’t done yet! These 30+ year olds were still ready to party! And by party I mean eat dinner and by dinner I mean go back to Handlebar for a second night in a row because restaurants are shockingly closed at 10PM on a Sunday in Chicago. Six in the Civic with the windows and sunroof down again as we blasted more late ’90s and early aughts tunes including Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week” which I found that I still know all the words to. We took over the back patio of the restaurant and had another amazing ‘family dinner.’ We helped Alex on his mission to eat the most American foods on the menu. We talked about past loves – bands that started the flame for the people we ended up becoming. And we invented our own personal Psychobilly band called The Problemantix; this joke went on for so long and got so in depth that we were about 30 seconds and another round away from having an album fully written.
It started raining, but everyone kept eating and talking and laughing. Jessica joked around with Mat. Jehiah looked at Alex and said, “Are we best friends now? Because I think we’re best friends.” And I did what I sometimes catch myself doing as the writer, the observer. As everyone laughed and talked, I felt myself detach and start putting this moment and the weekend into a much larger perspective. THESE are the reasons why I keep coming back year after year. I never would have met any of these people if not for my little corner of the music scene. This is what drives me to improve myself, to be a better writer, photographer, Bad Libber, friend, fan, human. Helping the bands is so important to me, but the friendships that I’ve been lucky to cultivate along the way are some of the most empowering and deepest bonds I have ever made. And coming back from a two year hiatus where I was granted the time to be introspective in regard to how and with who I was spending my time made this all so much sweeter.
Six in the Civic and it was time to take everyone home. Mat was first and we all piled out of the car outside of his house to hardstyle and form an impromptu dance party in the street in the rain.
Curtis and Alex were up next. By the time we got to their Air Bnb, it was pouring so hard we couldn’t see. We said our goodbyes and got back into the car drenched. As we headed over to Jessica and Jehiah’s Air Bnb, we kept up the ’90s theme as Jehiah and I belted along to Matchbox 20’s “3AM” which may or may not have been recorded by Jessica in its entirety.
The car was finally empty. It was down to 1 in the Civic as I drove through the flooded streets of the city I love more than any other. Alone with my thoughts, my mind replayed the whole weekend on fast forward. I came to two realizations before I dragged my soggy self into my apartment – 1.) out of the 15 or so years I’ve been going to this festival, this was easily my favorite year so far and 2.) I would absolutely kill if I ever sang “3AM” at karaoke night. Maybe The Problemantix will cover it one day when we play the Rebel Stage.
Check out Mat’s photo gallery from Sunday!
ICYMI: Check out our DAY 1 and DAY 2 coverage here!