Welcome to Riot Fest -(3rd in a 3 part series)
Originating in Chicago as a Punk Rock Festival in 2005 at multiple venues located throughout the city, the festival took root in an outdoor location only four years ago in Humboldt Park and this year it moved to its new location at Douglas Park. Riot Fest has now evolved into the 2nd largest Festival held in Chicago, second only to the infamous Lollapalooza festival – with its own broad variety of music for a slightly more mature crowd than Lollapalooza.
Where else could you expect to see Punk, Heavy Metal, Rock, Pop-rock, Country, Hip Hop and of course our favorite genre of Reggae all at the same three day festival. Genres of music only separated by the seven stages scattered throughout Douglas Park. And let’s not forget the full scale Carnival smack in the middle of the park, complete with a giant ferris wheel, amusement rides, cotton candy, funnel cakes and much more carnival fanfare! The multi-day festival has since expanded its footprint to include stops in Denver and Toronto.
One of the main attractions in Chicago this year for us, was the wide variety of Reggae acts featured at Riot Fest including Lee Scratch Perry, Dirty Heads, Slightly Stoopid, and Jimmy Cliff as well as the Catch A Fire artists in the middle of their month-long tour: Skip Marley, Black-Am-I, Jo Mersa Marley, Tarrus Riley, Morgan Heritage, Stephen Marley and Damian Marley. The Reggae artists paired with the legendary acts of No Doubt, Billy Idol, Fishbone, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and much more made this a not to miss festival.
Sunday’s Highlights – September 13, 2015
Tarrus Riley had the honor of kicking off the sunny afternoon with a longer set than had typically been the norm on the Catch a Fire Tour, which mostly had condensed sets due to early venue curfews. We enjoyed seeing more of Tarrus Riley and the solos highlighted in his set from Dean Fraser and the Blak Soil Band, including a song by his keyboardist, Chris Smith as well as a spotlight on producer and bass legend, Glen Browne.
Once Tarrus kicked off his set, the crowd steadily grew with hard-core Reggae fans as well as other festival attendees that stopped by to check out the music, all “vibzing” to the beat. One couple sporting mohawks and Anthrax T-shirts agreed with a smile for a photo and when I asked them how they were enjoying the Reggae set, the response I received said it all – “How could anyone not love this?” A great testament to the fact that Reggae music can and will bring everyone together.
Tarrus’s powerful medley of songs set included popular selections from his always growing catalog of hits including Lion Paw, Superhuman, Human Nature (Michael Jackson cover), My Day, Good Girl Gone Bad, and Gimme Likkle One Drop as well as his original breakthrough hit, She’s Royal. Tarrus also brought a new style of energy to the stage starting with a pre-recorded intro “Someone told me something crazy today, they said it’s ok to be happy!” before performing Powerful, the New Major Lazer song collaboration also featuring Ellie Goulding.
Dean Fraser and The Blak Soil Band
Tarrus Riley – My Day Live at Riot Fest
Fans started their day early to enjoy a full day of Reggae on the Roots Stage
(click on first photo to view gallery)
Morgan Heritage – It’s Cool To Be Conscious
Off Stage Moments at Riot Fest
“Lively up yourself, and don’t be no drag, Lively up yourself, Reggae is another bag
Lively up yourself and don’t say no, Lively up yourself, because I said so”
Lively Up Yourself – Stephen Marley
“You can get it if you really Want” – Jimmy Cliff
Damian Marley – Putting in the Hard Work
Damian Marley wrapped up the evening with an encore of Get up Stand up, Road to Zion, and his chart-topping song Welcome to Jamrock, which put him on the international map just 10 years ago. He also mixed in a bit of his 2014 release Hard Work. Hard Work indeed it must have been as Damian Marley was instrumental in pulling off some of the most memorable Reggae events I’ve attended in the last couple years: Last year’s inaugural Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise and this year’s month long Catch a Fire Tour including the stop at Riot Fest. However, it’s well worth the hard work to inspire others in the Reggae industry to follow in the same footsteps. We certainly hope to see many more Reggae bands included in future Riot Fest events as Reggae succeeds in bringing people together in new and unexpected places.