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updated: 9/12/2013 8:35 AM

Raucous Riot Fest races into Chicago

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  • The Smoking Popes perform at 5:15 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, at Riot Fest in Chicago.

    The Smoking Popes perform at 5:15 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, at Riot Fest in Chicago.

  • Ben Foster of Screeching Weasel

    Ben Foster of Screeching Weasel

  • White Mystery

    White Mystery

  • Bob Mould

    Bob Mould

  • Public Enemy

    Public Enemy

  • Dinosaur Jr.

    Dinosaur Jr.

  • Flag


  • Doyle Von Frankenstein

    Doyle Von Frankenstein

  • Video: The Smoking Popes, "Rubella"


It's time to riot. Again.

Riot Fest, the annual three-day celebration of punk rock, returns to Chicago this weekend. As in the past, the lineup features a mix of local talent -- including bands from the suburbs -- and big-name acts with national followings. Add in food/drink vendors and a full carnival and you have a truly unique musical happening.

Riot Fest was launched in Chicago in 2005. It was a looser event then -- the bands played at multiple clubs throughout the weekend, so fans had to hop from one venue to another to see their favorites.

But the event grew steadily, so last year it was re-imagined as a three-day outdoor event in Chicago's Humboldt Park, complete with the aforementioned carnival. It's the same model this year, with a lineup that will make fans think they've died and gone to punk-rock heaven. To help make it easier to pick and choose among the more than 70 bands that will be performing, the Daily Herald is providing this handy guide to Riot Fest, highlighting some local favorites and other bands not to miss.

For the full schedule and lineup, go to

The 'Mats return!

By far the biggest Riot Fest story is the return of a band that had not played together in more than two decades. The Replacements, the legendary rockers from Minneapolis, have re-formed (well, two of them have) to play several Riot Fest shows around the country, including Chicago's. The Replacements are revered for their bristling rock, chaotic live shows and lyrics that veer from biting and sarcastic to devastatingly tender. After putting out a slew of classic records in the 1980s, the band disintegrated onstage in Chicago's Grant Park in 1991. Now, 22 years later, fans get to see frontman Paul Westerberg and bassist Tommy Stinson together again, performing songs from throughout the band's run. This is easily the can't-miss set of the fest. (Sunday).

Local heroes

• Many of the bands playing Riot Fest hail from the city and suburbs. Among them are the Smoking Popes, a pop-punk band whose members grew up in McHenry County towns like Carpentersville and Lake in the Hills. The Popes' sound is distinguished by melodic hooks and singer Josh Caterer's crooning vocals. (Friday)

Screeching Weasel is led by Prospect Heights' native Ben Foster, more commonly known as Ben Weasel. The band puts a harder edge on the Ramones' brand of punk, then adds Foster's smart, angry and often hilarious lyrics. (Friday)

• One of the many bands in the lineup representing the city proper is White Mystery, a brother-sister duo that delivers a sizzling brand of stripped-down garage punk. Singer Alex White's voice is a stunner. (Sunday)

College-rock gods

What's old remains new! A number of bands/artists who established themselves in the 1980s are on this year's Riot Fest bill. Here are a few to keep in mind:

• The almighty Pixies, performing now without departed bassist Kim Deal, have just started releasing new music after a long hiatus. They deliver a mix of inventive, abrasive rock and surreal lyrics. (Sunday).

• The original lineup of Dinosaur Jr., which had a less-than-happy breakup in the late '80s, re-formed six years ago, much to fans' collective shock. The band has since put out three records as good as any it released back in the day. (Saturday)

Bob Mould first achieved fame as a member of the great Minneapolis band Husker Du. A solo career followed the breakup of that band in 1988, and Mould has made smart rock music ever since, either on his own or with collaborators. (Sunday)

Doyle and Danzig together

Glenn Danzig, a punk and heavy metal legend, will celebrate the 25th anniversary of his band Danzig, purveyors of dark, bluesy metal, with a set at Riot Fest. He'll also perform songs from one of his previous bands, the Misfits, a horror-punk group he led in the late 1970s and early 1980s. For the Misfits set, he'll be joined by that band's original guitarist, Doyle Von Frankenstein. Fans of either group will want to see these old bandmates play together again. (Friday)

And so much more ...

Numerous other key sets abound this weekend. On Friday, you can check out North Shore pop-rock band Fall Out Boy. Saturday brings rap legends Public Enemy, current indie darlings Surfer Blood and the intense hard-core sounds of Flag, consisting of former members of the seminal band Black Flag. Sunday will feature a couple of acclaimed new Chicago bands, Maps & Atlasesand Twin Peaks.

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