Riot Fest Chicago will showcase the best in punk, hardcore, psychedelic, and the Wu-Tang Clan

 By Jack Burrows

September 9, 2019

For the last 15 years, mobs of sweaty earthlings congregate in Chicago’s Douglas Park for the annual Riot Fest, a commemoration of good times and punk music. With the surprise addition of legendary rap group Wu-Tang Clan, Riot Fest 2019’s lineup is shaping up to be the festival’s finest. This year will showcase the best in punk, hardcore, psychedelic, rap, and genres unnamed and unknown.

So grab a Goose Island (the festival schedule is printed on the can!), slather on sunscreen and enjoy the Riot. Not sure where to start?

Here are a few acts that we are excited for:

Guided By Voices

Robert Polland and the multitude of musicians that have played for Guided By Voices throughout the band’s 35-year span have released a stunning amount of music that includes 28 full-length albums and minor releases. The group has embodied many different sounds and styles, including garage rock, psychedelic, prog and post-punk, and the April release of Warp And Wolf reliably delivers melody and movement in these eclectic dressings. Expect to see diehards and newbies alike gather to bask in the musical mishmash when Guided By Voices takes the stage on Sunday.

The Raconteurs 

This June, Jack White and the able musicians of The Raconteurs released their first album in 11 years, Help Us Stranger. Since then, the rock group has been making festival rounds, bringing their tight, bluesy rock romps to the stage with a renewed vigor and infectious zeal. Despite his middle age, Jack White has remained a youthful soul in rock, spryly hopping between his various projects and performing with unrivaled chutzpah.  On Help Us Stranger, the Michaganers have stuck to a sound that suits them, one of fuzzy guitars and stomping beats that translates well to stage– one we can’t wait to hear in our ears and feel in our feet.


One of the most influential acts of the punk and emo scene in the ‘90s, Jawbreaker reunited in 2017 to play the final night of Riot Fest. They decided to keep at it for a while longer and this year they announced their first tour in 23 years. We couldn’t be more thrilled that Jawbreaker is back on the menu, and I’m sure many Riot Fest attendees share the sentiment– this is a band whose frontman, Blake Schwarzenbach, generated his own cult-like following back in the early days of emo. Catch Jawbreaker on the opening night of Riot Fest 2019. 

Manchester Orchestra  

The emotive, maximalistic musical chemists of Manchester Orchestra have yet to cook up something new (barring a single released last year) since 2017’s A Black Mile To The Surface, but their live show never fails to deliver energy and showmanship. They return to Riot Fest this year to play Saturday night, and attendees should expect a performance of lush, poppy, indie-rock goodness.

Wu-Tang Clan 

The legendary rap group Wu-Tang Clan has come in clutch, replacing Die Antwoord at a moment’s notice and injecting an already excellent Riot Fest lineup with a dose of hip-hop prestige. A congregation of nine New York MCs, Wu-Tang’s been a mainstay of hip-hop culture since the mid ‘90s and a fan favorite at festivals. Under a variety of guises and banners, the Clan of producers and rappers has released albums and side projects, and inspired fashion trends. This year marks their 25th year of continued excellence since the game-changing debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Let’s hope they can match their 2017 Riot Fest performance– we have little doubts that they can– when they take the stage Saturday night.

The Flaming Lips

What’s a fest without The Flaming Lips? Here to showcase the entirety of Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Wayne Coyne and his squad of psychedelic folk-rockers are performing Friday night to start the festival off right. The band is already acclaimed for their bravura festival performances; their circus of lasers and balloons dominate festival highlight reels. This year’s feature of Yoshimi will be a not-to-be-missed spectacle. 

Taking Back Sunday

Taking Back Sunday’s appearance at Riot Fest 2019 will be their sixth. This year, many acts will be playing full albums and Taking Back Sunday will join their ranks by playing both Tell All Your Friends and Louder Now! I know my inner eighth grader is chomping at the bit at the chance to belt out “Liar,” and croon softly to “Make Damn Sure,” and I’m damn sure I’m not alone. We’ll all get our chance to sing along when Taking Back Sunday takes back the stage… on Sunday.

Bikini Kill

Hey, 2019 isn’t so bad. Bikini Kill got back together and is playing at Riot Fest. The riot grrrl pioneers have been testing the waters recently, adding a few dates here and there, and their addition to the Riot Fest lineup solidifies 2019 as a bonafide reunion tour year. In the ‘90s, Bikini Kill’s brand of punk feminism inspired girls and women across the world over to pick up guitars. Their influence is indicative in music festivals today, which tout far greater numbers of female-led bands than did the festivals of yore. It’s only appropriate that Bikini Kill returns to the stage to bask in their victory, and maybe create new waves of inspiration in their wake.

Check out the full lineup for Riot Fest Chicago 2019.

Read next: 

In this article