11 Bands to See at Riot Fest Chicago From the Bottom Half of the Lineup Poster

posted by Alyssa Buffenstein on September 04, 2014

For some, one good headliner is enough to justify the price of a festival ticket. Hanging out at the Main Stage all day in anticipation of your all-time favorite band is something we can definitely relate to, but music festivals should be just as much about discovery as they are about appreciation of the artists you already know and love. With a lineup as stacked as Riot Fest Chicago's, you might feel overwhelmed creating your schedule when you have to first figure out if you're even going to make it alive through a weekend that includes The National, The Cure, Rise Against, Weezer, Slayer, Wu-Tang Clan, Samhain, Descendents, and so many more. 

This year's Riot Fest includes just as many up-and-comers as it does legends, and since some of them are bound to become the "classics" of 2024, we've compiled a list of must-sees that are listed on the bottom half of the lineup poster - in other words, they're not quite as well-known as the names at the top. These might be the bands that have early set times or overlap with festival veterans, but their relatively-unknown status doesn't mean you shouldn't make a point of catching at least a few songs.

**Note: We made this list based on Riot Fest's Chicago edition as its lineup is the most extensive, though a few of the acts below will also make appearances in Toronto and Denver.**


11. Pianos Become The Teeth 

via the band

The Baltimore screamo-revivalists may have carved out their niche with their signature worn-out screams and bleak, post-everything sound, but the band recently released a new song, "Repine," from their forthcoming Epitaph release Keep You, which, as is supposedly true of the whole record, contains no screaming at all. Instead, it's a 5-minute slow-build reminiscent of any or all of Anthony Green's projects (which makes Pianos' upcoming tour with Circa Survive all the more fitting). Pianos is at a crossroads, and depending how you feel about screamo, their set at Riot Fest will be the perfect time to see them either "play their old stuff" or "before they were cool."

10. The Hotelier

via the band

While The Hotelier's 2011 debut, It Never Goes Out might appeal to fans of pop-punk a la early Fall Out Boy (gang vocals and spoken-word parts make more than one appearance), their 2014 sophomore effort, Home, Like NoPlace Is There is the band's true assertion of their individuality in the vibrant 2014 emo scene we all can't stop talking about. Energetic, emotionally moving, and, at times, explosive, the only thing more fun than listening to the Hotelier is watching them live. Beware crowdsurfers and superfans fighting their way to the front row to scream along with vocalist Christian Holden - both for your safety and because once you see this band once, you'll be doomed to become one of those superfans. (Just keep your mosh pit etiquette in mind.)

9. Pity Sex 

via the band

Sad, fuzzy and with pastel-colored cover art - no, it's not a depressed Care Bear, it's Ann Arbor's Pity Sex. In recent months, they've played with the likes of labelmates Tigers Jaw and Basement, placing them within the context of emo and pop-punk - but their distortion-heavy sound is as shoegazey as anything else, so don't miss them even if you think you've got RFC all figured out.

8. Radkey  

via the band

Riot Fest is a punk festival, after all, so it's pretty much necessary that you catch some straight-up punk during the weekend. Sure, you don't get more historically punk than some of the big names at the festival like NOFX, Descendents, or Social Distortion, but Radkey are torch-bearers of old-school, unadulterated punk rock. Inspired by the likes of the Misfits, Ramones, the Who, and Death, you're probably able to imply exactly what the band sounds like. The real beauty of Radkey is that rather than seeing an aging punk on stage - replaced-hip reminder that we're all mortals - you get to watch the three Radke brothers, whose ages range from 16-20, thrash around on stage with the youth that Glenn Danzig only wishes he could reclaim.

Friday Honorable Mentions: Somos, Red City Radio, Title Fight


7. Skaters

via the band

Skaters exemplify modern Manhattan cool, not unrelated to the fact that the city is the band's hometown, as well as the inspiration for its 2014 debut, Manhattan. Of all the bands on this list, we vote Skaters and their garage rock the most likely to become mainstream festival regulars. On the punk spectrum, they're between The Horrors and The Orwells, so catch them before they start to climb to the top half of lineup posters.


6. The Pizza Underground

via the band

You may have read about The Pizza Underground around their debut - it was late 2013, and Macaulay Culkin's pizza-themed Velvet Underground tribute band was drawing headlines on all of the internet's finest indie music blogs. But the band is still playing shows here and there, and their Riot Fest appearance is a must-see for a few reasons, which we will spell out for you now. 1) Macaulay Culkin. 2) The possibility of free pizza handouts. Check them out to replace any memories you have of watching Home Alone with memories of all-black-clad art kids intentionally looking bored on a festival stage. 

5. The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid to Die

via speakimge

Yes, that's really their name, and its length can be matched only by the number of people the band has on stage at any given time. Wikipedia lists nine official members, but the band has been known to bring along more, like collaborator and spoken-word artist Christopher Zizzamia, who will be featured on the band's fall 2014 EP, Between Bodies - they've been playing those collaborations live for at least six months now, so the band's Riot Fest appearance will be your golden opportunity to catch them play some new songs before they move on to something even newer. TWIABP have also, for some reason, become the torch-bearers of the emo revival, so if you don't plan on hitting up Pygmalion to see American Football, their set should be a pretty close consolation. 

Saturday Honorable Mentions: Lemuria, Citizen


4. Chumped

via Rebecca R. Photography

The members of Brooklyn's Chumped play "bummer punk" and tag their bandcamp page with words like "Doritos," "beer," and "stupid." Lacking the suburban, bro-ish tinge that can make all pop-punk sound like it was written by the same bored teenager, Chumped will make you want to jump around while making you laugh with self-deprecating humor. For the record, though, we don't think there's anything about this band that makes them a bummer or stupid, but you probably would best enjoy their set while double fisting Doritos and beer.

3. Dads

via Carly Hoskins

Twinkly, witty, and whiny in a good way, the Dads duo know intensity through subtlety - their forthcoming album, I'll be the Tornado, will be out via 6131 Records in October, and so far the two songs released seem to be steps in a more controlled, delicate direction, asserting them as genre-furtherers rather than just another American Football protege. Their live shows are best enjoyed in a dark, smoky room, but their Riot Fest performance should be just as good - and even if emo isn't your scene, go for the good-guy guitarist: the last time this author saw Dads, he kicked an inconsiderate crowdsurfer out of the venue.

2. Modern Baseball

via the band

Are you: In college? On twitter? Someone who has recently been broken up with? If yes, go see Modern Baseball. If no, go see Modern Baseball and roll your eyes while trying not to sing along. With lyrics that a fan might call "accessible" but a hater might call "nerdy," Modern Baseball are the soundtrack to everyone's awkward college years, co-opted by eager high school pop-punkers who make MoBo crowds as dangerous as they are fun. 

1. Cerebral Ballzy

via the band

In the same vein as Radkey, Cerebral Ballzy play a type of punk that some might say "is dead." But the band's members met each other while skateboarding in Union Square, so they really aren't the type to give a shit. Their most recent release, Jaded and Faded, came out in June on Cult Records, and its 13 songs clock in at only 26 minutes. These dudes love pizza, skateboards, girls, parties, and thrash, so, try to have at least a little bit of fun when you watch them on Sunday.

Sunday Honorable Mentions: Tiny Moving Parts, Laura Stevenson, Team Spirit, The Front Bottoms, Pup

See Also:

Here's the Map for Riot Fest Chicago's New Location
Mosh Pit Etiquette for Music Festivals
How to Get to the Barricade at a Music Festival, Without Being a Jerk