Riot Fest Day 2: Insane Clown Posse sprays Faygo, Queens of the Stone Age bring their studio to Douglass Park

Everything about Riot Fest breathes “made in Chicago, by Chicagoans” — from the Goose Island Beer Company setting up their bar in a retired CTA train car to the vendor booths for Liar’s Club and Reggie’s.

SHARE Riot Fest Day 2: Insane Clown Posse sprays Faygo, Queens of the Stone Age bring their studio to Douglass Park
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Members of the Insane Clown Posse spray Faygo soda at the crowd while the hip-hop duo performs on day two of Riot Fest in Douglass Park.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Everything about Riot Fest breathes “made in Chicago, by Chicagoans” — from the Goose Island Beer Company setting up their bar in a retired CTA train car to the vendor booths for Liar’s Club and Reggie’s, and the video screens that, between bands, offered mini filmed tours of some of the local eateries around Douglass Park. Among the ones featured were Aloha Wagon in Pilsen and TacoSur and El Churro Shop in Little Village.

Fans also echoed that same earnest, supportive spirit, showing up in large numbers at doors to take it all in, Juggalos included, even though it was hours until the “main event” with Insane Clown Posse and full album plays from Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service being big draws of the day.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights from Saturday:

The Postal Service

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The Postal Service performs on day two of Riot Fest.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The energy Ben Gibbard may have conserved during Death Cab For Cutie’s mellow set may have paid off Saturday night for fans of The Postal Service, as the second band Gibbard fronts put forth an effort worthy of its headlining spot. Electronic musician Tamborello may have been partly responsible for the energy injection, but it was more than peppy beats that got the crowd dancing. The band harmonized well, and Gibbard’s voice matches the subtle synth-pop electro arrangements far more than it does with the guitars of Death Cab. The crowd especially got into the band’s rendition of the hit “Such Great Heights” and the highly danceable “Tattered Line of String,” and it was nice to see Gibbard redeem himself after a disappointing set with Death Cab just a couple hours earlier. — Bob Chiarito

Queens of the Stone Age

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Queens of the Stone Age performs on day two of Riot Fest in Douglass Park on the Southwest Side, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Breaking the chain link connection Saturday night between Death Cab for Cutie and the subsequent Postal Service set at Riot Fest was the heavy rock hammer from Queens of the Stone Age. With 11 electric saucers flying in a million different music directions on tracks like “No One Knows” and “Negative Space,” it was a welcome reprieve from the emo-indie onslaught that bookended the rest of the night on the main stages. From the pretty piano intro rework of “Go With the Flow” to the punishing guitar slides on new track “Emotion Sickness” to the percussive “Little Sister” (“It’s got a lotta cowbell so watch your ass,” Homme warned), it felt like Queens brought their studio to Douglass Park. The set was not only a great promo machine for the band’s newest album, “In Times New Roman…,” but also a perfect reminder to dive back into its entire catalog. — Selena Fragassi

Insane Clown Posse

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Shaggy 2 Dope of the Insane Clown Posse, performs Saturday at Riot Fest in Douglass Park.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

All day long the gathering of the Juggalos was waiting at Douglass Park for Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope to take Riot Fest’s Rebel Stage at nightfall. When they did arrive, it was an all-out explosion — of the countless bottles of Faygo soda that sprayed down a large swath of the crowd as well as a verbal barrage on tracks like “F- - - the World” and “Hey Vato.” ICP delivered on its “ultimate hip-hop horror show” promises with the whole shebang seeming like an early Halloween attraction: the waiting in suspense, the dark overhang of trees near the Rebel Stage, jesters and clowns every which way you turned. It’s hard to believe the dark carnival duo, formed in Detroit in the late ’80s and releasing a debut album in ’92, have been able to keep the shtick running for 30-plus years (and no doubt has kept Faygo in business in all that time too). It’s clear the much-revered “gatherings” are nothing short of a family reunion that just keeps growing. — Selena Fragassi

Death Cab for Cutie

Death Cab for Cutie performs on day two of Riot Fest in Douglass Park.

Death Cab for Cutie performs on day two of Riot Fest in Douglass Park.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

One of the unique things about Riot Fest is that several bands play a full album, which is often very special. On the flipside, sometimes the album the group chooses to play is less than its best. This was the case Saturday evening, when Death Cab for Cutie played the 2003 album “Transatlanticism” in its entirety.

It was seemingly an easy choice for the band as it’s 20 years since the album was released, but a strange selection for Riot Fest considering how mellow several of the songs on it are. A large crowd turned out, but a few songs in, many seemed restless as lead singer Ben Gibbard nearly put them to sleep.

Gibbard may have been trying to conserve energy, since he had only an hour afterward before going back on with his other band The Postal Service, the evening’s final act.

Nevertheless, the performance was solid, even if several of the songs were snooze-worthy. Gibbard got right to work and throughout the set bantered little with the crowd, other than to take a shot at Morrissey and say he was enjoying the smell of fried chicken that was wafting over from the food vendors.

The bandmates were done performing the album 13 minutes before the scheduled end of their set, but instead of playing a few hits, they called it a night. Speaking of food vendors, if you weren’t a diehard fan of Death Cab, visiting them during this set would have been a better choice. — Bob Chiarito

Eshu Tune

Hannibal Buress performs as Eshu Tune on day two of Riot Fest in Douglass Park.

Hannibal Buress performs as Eshu Tune on day two of Riot Fest in Douglass Park.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Chicago’s track record for producing top-filter rappers continues with Eshu Tune, the newish alter ego project of funnyman and Steinmetz College Prep grad Hannibal Buress. It’s not exactly the same content as his local peers; where Chance may rap about “Blessings” and Vic decries “16 Shots,” Buress is out here talking about veneers and lifting weights and being the “tallest person at a Mexican party.”

He, naturally, was hesitant to play that latter track, it being Mexican Independence weekend after all. But the crowd ate it up anyway.

As a comic, Buress is versed in toeing some lines and his music is no different, with each song becoming its own kind of hilarious bit. But where humor lives so does talent, as Buress is quite the wordsmith and fits well into the current hip-hop echelon. Not to mention he’s supported by instrumentalists so smooth they might as well be a house band for one of the late-night shows the comic has appeared on

“Someone wrote me online about hanging out in Rogers Park after Riot Fest, like why the f- - - would I do something like that? Do you know how many places I’d have to pass?” Burress joked, giving a shoutout to the West Side and parlaying into a track with verses about the #86 bus and its route along Narragansett.

He also offered up his song “Knee Brace” about bedroom romps while wearing the extra leg support as well as “1-3 Pocket,” which he introduced as, “I got the hardest song about bowling right now, facts.” To end the set, the rapper defaulted to his latest track, “I Lift Weights” while changing into a jacked-up bodysuit and doing bicep curls with speakers, draswing some of the largest laughs of the set. “Chicago is lit,” Buress said, “It’s good to be back home.” — Selena Fragassi

Viagra Boys

Sebastian Murphy performs with the Viagra Boys.

Sebastian Murphy performs with the Viagra Boys.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

His bandmates knew there was something special about Sebastian Murphy when they first heard him sing karaoke on a debaucherous 2015 night in Sweden, where they all call home, (Murphy is an American expat originally from California.) And now a good portion of Chicago knows it after watching the oddball Viagra Boys frontman command the Roots Stage Saturday with his five equally entertaining counterparts offering their own weird variety show.

Viagra Boys often are lumped in with the post-punk pool but there’s more to their magic: They also throw in a good dose of humor, sardonic wit, pinpointed soapboxing (their name is an anti-patriarchal sentiment) and musical charm. As Murphy delved into a spoken-word monologue about the internet drug black market on song “Research Chemicals” (“a great time for science, a low point for humanity”), saxophonist Oscar Carls came in with a jazzy breakdown making the whole display just short of a few berets and finger snapping.

When Murphy wasn’t spitting beer like a fountain from his mouth and bathing in it, he was checking lyrics on his phone for a song he forgot the lyrics to (“Troglodyte”) or doing a round of pushups during the affable “Sports.”

“We hear you like athletic activities,” Murphy said in a moment of trying to relate to the Chicago crowd before admonishing Second Citians of putting “entire salads on hot dogs.” Riot Fest was Viagra Boy’s second date of a new U.S. tour but already the group hit a milestone. “I’ve never seen such a big crowd in America for us,” said Murphy. “And that excites me.” — Selena Fragassi

Jehnny Beth

Jehnny Beth (formerly of Savages) entertains the crowd during her Day Two afternoon set at Riot Fest on Saturday.

Jehnny Beth (formerly of Savages) entertains the crowd during her Day Two afternoon set at Riot Fest on Saturday.

Bob Chiarito/For the Sun-Times

Former Savages lead singer Jehnny Beth brought her solo act to Riot Fest Saturday afternoon and although she didn’t have an ideal time slot (2:10 p.m.), she brought the energy of a headliner.

While Savages stopped playing in 2017 after releasing two critically acclaimed albums, Beth has been busy since, working on various music collaborations, a book with partner and current bandmate Johnny Hostile, acting gigs in her native France, and finally a solo album in 2020, for which the tour in support was cut short because of the pandemic. So, in many ways she is starting anew, albeit with the experience and seasoning of a crafty rock veteran.

Beth acknowledged her long absence to the crowd on Saturday, saying that it was good to be back in America and that it had been three years. She also made up for it in her 11-song, 45-minute set, playing with abandon and going into the crowd, no doubt causing security guards to stress out. However, the crowd adored her, and there were no issues.

In an unusual move, Beth opened and closed her set with the same song, “I’m the Man,” and in between, she continued on the path of solo works with the exception of a cover of the Nine Inch Nails’ industrial crossover hit “Closer,” which was well received.

If there were any negatives during the set, it was that at times she played to the Riot Fest cameraman instead of the crowd, and some of her vocals were drowned out by the heavy reverb from guitarist Hostile and new band member EREX (Alexandra Dezzi) on keyboards.

Beth’s solo act may be missing the guitars and drums that defined Savages, but she made up for it with her energy, often appearing to use some of her boxing moves (a hobby of hers) on stage. Of course, her best song Saturday was “More Adrenaline,” the song which she largely performed from inside the crowd while getting them to chant along. They obliged, happy to help someone who put it all out there. — Bob Chiarito

Corey Feldman

Corey Feldman performs on Day Two of Riot Fest in Douglass Park on the Southwest Side.

Corey Feldman performs on Day Two of Riot Fest in Douglass Park on the Southwest Side.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Corey Feldman was, naturally, one of the bigger draws of midday Saturday, with many Gen X’ers eager for the chance to see their favorite former child actor in the flesh and doing his other entertainment shtick on stage. The shtick also meant the crowd had to coax Feldman to even come to the stage. Feldman was a barrel of energy once he did make his entrance, his surprisingly gravel-toned voice leading a crescendo of a half-dozen rock songs that honed in on his life as a former kid star, his failed romances and multiple divorces and his “Angelic era” (from an album released seven years ago). Some brought handmade posters, others crowdsurfed their way to the front. And Feldman, who has often used his music as an outlet for some of the pitfalls that have publicly befallen him, was having a blast, basically inviting everyone to dinner: “I love Chicago, I love Rosebud’s. I hope we are all going to eat after this.” — Selena Fragassi

Enola Gay

Jehnny Beth joins Enola Gay on stage on day two of Riot Fest.

Jehnny Beth joins Enola Gay on stage on day two of Riot Fest.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Enola Gay will no doubt be the breakout band from Riot Fest 2023.

Early in, they even had a surprise, joined by their “hero” and fellow dark star Jehnny Beth, who guested on a rollicking take of their song “Scrappers” before she took the same Roots Stage an hour later.

“They are one of my favorite bands in the whole world,” Beth declared in a testimonial before exiting stage left.

Not only are they a great entrant in the long cast of U.K. bands making unparalleled punk music, but their diatribes are incredibly topical, voicing a collective frustration of modern societal ills that touch on race, sexism and the working class. All of it is done to a scream-worthy soundtrack full of chunky bass lines, piercing guitar work, battered drum rhythms and the quick whip of vocalist Fionn Reilly who is a poet in punk waiting. — Selena Fragassi

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