OK, I’ll come out and say it: I’m not really a music festival person. Massive crowds, long lines and drunken teenagers in flower crowns are just a few of the terrifying images that pop into my head when I hear the word “festival,” which is more than enough to make me say “pass.”
Why then, you might ask, am I writing a column for a music festival? Because Riot Fest isn’t your average music festival. All the horrible Riot-related misconceptions and stereotypes you might have heard, read or created in your very imaginative mind are most likely false, and after attending four Riot Fests myself, I’m here to set the record straight. Have no fear, because these are some of the most common Riot Fest myths that with a little research and honesty, we can most definitely squash.
1. ALL Music festivals are overpriced and unaffordable
This myth likely came to be because most music festivals are indeed overpriced. Without naming names, there are many festivals where a 3-day pass will set you back $300 or more to see only a handful of bands each day — and some weirdos even sell their festivals out before anybody can even learn who’s on the lineup — but Riot Fest isn’t like other festivals. Particularly for those who plan ahead, Riot Fest’s early bird pricing is more in line with a ticket to a single stadium concert than admission to see over 100 bands throughout an entire weekend. Even for those whose planning skills still need some work (you know who you are), Riot Fest is cool enough to offer layaway plans that let you pay off your pass over time. Or, you know, if you prefer, you could just buy these nice trash cans instead, because they’re the exact same price.
2. You’ll get attacked by bees
I was recently asked by a friend if bee swarms were a legitimate concern at Riot Fest. After some casual researching on Google, believe it or not, the legend of the Riot Fest bees is actually rooted in truth. Even if you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe Noisey‘s Dan Ozzi, who titled his recap of the Saturday of Riot Fest 2014 in the bees’ honor. Clearly nobody is immune; if a scene legend of Fat Mike’s stature can fall victim to a vicious bee attack during an interview like he did just last year, it can happen to anybody.
CHICAGO: The swarms of bees from last year have been confirmed again for this year.
— Riot Fest (@RiotFest) November 25, 2014
I learned 3 things from Riot Fest this weekend:
1. Punks love puppies
2. Punks love climbing trees
3. Punks are afraid of bees
— Josi (@josilyne_anne) September 16, 2014
These Riot Fest bees are really enjoying The Movielife’s set, Goddamn. Go away.
— Sarah Miller (@hail_satah) September 12, 2015
— Riot Fest (@RiotFest) September 11, 2015
But while the killah bees of Riot Fest may have once been more fact than fiction, they seem to be a thing of the past and unlike Andrew W.K., they are no longer regulars on the Riot Fest lineup.
3. Punks are mean and scary
If this is your first time attending a punk festival, Riot Fest will likely expose you to the most leather jackets, mohawks and back patches you’ll have ever seen in one place. While facial safety pins or 6” jacket spikes may look intimidating, Riot Fest is actually one of the friendliest musical events I’ve ever attended. Having encountered my fair share of jerks at concerts over the years, Riot Festers are like one big weird-ass musical family and make me feel at home.
Whether you’re singing along to your favorite band or waiting in line for a port-a-potty, (a kind gentleman at Riot Fest once held a port-a-potty door for me, so screw whomever says that chivalry is dead) you’ll be surrounded by friendly, music-loving people at Riot Fest. Like the poet William Butler Yeats once said, “There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t yet met.
4. The food at music festivals is nasty
Like the first myth, this misconception likely exists because most festivals do indeed have awful food. Luckily for us, at Riot Fest this is not the case. In fact, some of Chicago’s tastiest eateries set up shop in Douglas Park for the weekend. If you read my Riot Fest Essentials guide, you already know that Cheesie’s food truck is my personal favorite, along with everything from pizza to cold brew to huge-ass turkey legs (pictured below alongside my graceful friend Madeleine). The food vendors are usually announced in advance, so take a glance and see for yourself — just try and keep yourself from drooling.
5. Riot Fest is no place for children
Now that we’ve established that Riot Fest is a different scene from your stereotypical musical festival and that punks aren’t all terrifying, you can see that Riot Fest is actually extremely family friendly. While mosh pits and late night aftershows may not be right for the littlest of punks, there are more families at Riot Fest than you might expect enjoying the festivities during the daylight hours.
Between the variety of bands, carnival games and rides, and ample space for your little ones to run around, there’s more than enough to keep kids happy and occupied while sharing the music you’ve always loved with them.
Any other Riot Fest myths that need squashing? Tweet ‘em and let’s get to the bottom of it!