Things Riot Fest has in common with a riot: A lot of people. Very little direction. A few idiots ruining it for everybody.
Things Riot Fest does not have in common with a riot: Good food. Good music. Jugglers.
This weekend was Riot Fest in Chicago (it also happens in Denver and Toronto), the only one of the big summer music festivals that I’ve attended, although to say I attended it is a bit of a stretch, because it was three days long and I saw about eight hours of music. Life happens like that sometimes. I did get to see Saul Williams, Bad Religion, Devotchka, Public Enemy, and Violent Femmes, and the weather was beautiful on the two days I was there, and I ate a duck sausage and some fried stuff, so I win.
But here’s the thing: music festivals make a great excuse to travel. I talked to a couple on the bus who’d come in from Iowa, and I met some kids in the crowd who’d driven up from Southern Illinois. That’s not too far to come, but it was a good reason to make the trip.
I’ve traveled to South by Southwest twice before, and it was both a great time to see all the people and the shows and also gave me the desire to see Austin in all its natural glory. It’s a barbecue town–how can you not love it? But there are some other festivals I’d love to venture out to see.
Bonnaroo, down in Tennessee, is a little jammier than my typical taste in music, but I’ve heard the camping and the carnival atmosphere is a good time.
Coachella is too cool for me, but if you like to wear feathers, short-shorts, and tall boots, you’ll probably fit right in. My guess is that what happens here is more “glamping” than camping, but that’s made up for by the fantastic lineups.
A little further afield, there’s never a bad reason to go to Barcelona, but Primavera Sound is a particularly fun one. They seem to get a lot of the same acts as the other major rock festivals, but the setting alone makes it worth the trip.
And the mother of them all is probably Glastonbury. Even though I feel a little bit “too old” for a serious festival-going experience anymore, Glastonbury is so legendary, so gigantic, so out-there that I feel compelled to give it a try at least one summer. Maybe next year’s the year?