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Riot Fest Preview

Although music festivals have risen to a level of ubiquity, Riot Fest has retained a special place in my heart.  With summer on the verge of giving way to fall, Riot Fest is a unique punctuation to another lively festival season.   

Much of my fascination regarding Riot Fest traces back to the festival's humble beginnings, which could easily be a movie script. It started with one avid punk-rock fan, Mike Petryshyn. While still in school and working a 9 to 5, Petryshyn decided to invite all of his favorite bands to play together - and somehow it worked! The festival has grown enormously since that time, but its consistently unorthodox line-ups demonstrate the same unabashed music-loving excitement that got the ball rolling in the first place.

For it’s 10th anniversary, Riot Fest has a particularly exciting line-up. Here are some of the acts you won’t want to miss this weekend!


Pussy Riot (Panel Moderated by Henry Rollins)

Riot Fest really outdid itself this year by booking Russia’s most outspoken feminist punk-rock band, Pussy Riot, for this year’s Riot Fest Speaks panel. In addition to having the word ‘Riot’ in their band name, Pussy Riot also couldn't be more appropriate because it’s a band that embodies the DIY, anti-establishment ethics of punk-rock that Riot Fest seeks to recognize. The band rose to international fame, both among punk rockers and political pundits, when members were arrested for protesting the oppressive policies of Vladimir Putin. 

This Friday, Pussy Riot members Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina will speak out about sociopolitical movements, music, and art. Other best speakers include Bad Religion's Greg Graffin, Rise Against's Tim McIlrath, feminist writer Marcelle Karp, and Riot Fest’s founder, Mike Petryshyn. Henry Rollins will be the panel moderator.

Time: 5:45 PM- 7 PM

Stage: Riot Fest Speaks


 Gogol Bordello

Gogol Bordello, a self-described “gypsy-punk band,” hosts a multi-ethnic lineup and prides itself on bringing Eastern European music to the United States. I was first introduced to this band when they came to the Pabst Theater last year, giving what is easily one of the most memorable concerts of my life. I can still feel the floor shaking as musician Elizabeth Sun climbed atop stage monitors. If you feel like dancing this weekend, this is one show you will not want to miss.

Time: 7 PM- 7:45 PM

Stage: Riot Stage





If you are looking for a band that’s been a little more under the radar than some of this year’s big acts, then I would have to suggest Wavves. This punk rock, lo-fi band formed in 2008 out of San Diego, California and has steadily gained a following since. Lead vocalist and lyricist Nathan Williams is unafraid to speak out about life’s banalities and best of all, he does so in a dead-pan manor that manages to be more comforting than depressing.

Time: 12:20 PM- 12:50 PM

Stage: Roots Stage


 Die Antwoord

 Die Antwoord is a South African rap-rave duo with an aesthetic flair inspired by South Africa’s zef subculture. If that doesn’t sound intriguing enough, check out one of their numerous music videos and I guarantee you’ll be hooked. Die Antwoord members Ninja and Yolandi Vi$$er are undoubtedly blazing their own trail in the music world, combining music and visual arts to promote their wildly unique vision. I don’t know what will happen, but I can at least predict that their performance will take you a few days to fully process. (caution: video uses strong language)

Time: 3:45 PM- 4:30 PM

Stage: Riot Stage

 Wu- Tang Clan

The Wu-Tang Clan may seem like an unlikely act for a predominantly punk-rock festival, but it makes more sense than you’d think. At it’s original conception, the rap collective set out to wreak havoc on the record industry in a DIY fashion. They took the hip-hop community by storm by firing out many albums met with commercial success and critical acclaim. Today, the Wu-Tang Clan is widely respected for the innovations brought to hip-hop and stands as one of the most influential rap outfits in history. This is undoubtedly a show you won’t want to miss.


Time: 6 PM- 7PM

Stage: Roots Stage



Kurt Vile & the Violators

Kurt Vile has made a name for himself over the years as a solo artist and as a member of the indie-rock band War On Drugs. Now, you have the opportunity to see him preform with backing band, the Violators! Vile, who cites influences like Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, produces a sound that harkens back to an older era of music, one which is unhurried and strongly introspective. This show should be a calm spot in an otherwise riotous day.


Time: 1:45 PM - 2:15 PM

Stage: Riot Stage 


Modern Baseball

Modern Baseball is a relatively new band to watch out for. The band formed in 2012, when two high school friends met their other halves at a University party. Since then, the four piece band has released two albums- all before turning twenty-two! The bands second album, You’re Gonna Miss It All, has been particularly well received. The album achieved a Pitchfork rating of 7.2. Their music is energetic, angst-y, and riddled with pop-culture references. It’s the perfect coming of age punk-pop soundtrack.


Time: 6 PM- 6:30 PM

Stage: Revolt Stage


Director of Digital | Radio Milwaukee