So you’re coming to Chicago for Riot Fest this weekend, huh? We here at For the Love of Punk thought we’d put together a little weekend guide for you. Whether you’re a lifer, a suburban weekend warrior, or an out-of-towner crashing on your buddies couch, we want to make sure you know the DO’S and DON’TS of Riot Chicago.
DO: Prepare for the elements
Chicago has a history of irrational, moody, and sometimes unforgiving weather… much like that ex that you hope you don’t run into while you’re walking around Douglas Park this weekend. So come prepared. With rain falling the last few years, the grounds turned into some kind of Woodstock ’99 mud pit under the feat of a few thousand punks. Boots aren’t a bad idea. A raincoat will make up for the fact you couldn’t bring in an umbrella. And as someone who’s admittedly Polish as fuck, you better believe I’ll be packing some sunscreen.
DON’T: Tank top all weekend, bro
I know you just got your first visible tattoo and you’re suuuuuuper excited to earn all the punk points and maybe even impress a member of the opposite sex, but nobody thinks the person who burned themselves lobster red the first day is cool. Plus shelling out $45 for a hoodie is pretty fucking expensive when you have one for free at home/your AirBnB/your buddy Jim’s place.
DO: Take in the sights
Chicago is unquestionably one of the most gorgeous cities in the world. From the historical architecture downtown to neighborhood landmarks stretching from the north to the south side of the city, there’s a lot to take in. If you’re near downtown, check out the Wrigley Building which features built in parts of dozens of historic buildings from all over the world. The river is always a stunning sight…just don’t buy weed from any number of sketchy dudes walking around the bridges. There is a 100% chance of getting ripped off. If you’re staying in the ever popular Wicker Park/Logan Square/Avondale area, take a stroll around the boulevards to clear your head and enjoy some quiet before returning to ear shattering, high decibel punk and metal.
DON’T: Take a picture at the Bean
Just don’t do it, you fucking rube.
DO: Try the local cuisine
Chicago’s beauty is only outweighed by one thing: its amazing culinary contributions. Hot dogs (drag that shit through the garden/NO KETCHUP), Italian beef (dipped, sweet and hot peppers), pizza (deep dish and incredibly underrated thin crust), and other meat heavy classics put this city on the map. Hit up almost any corner stand for a solid Vienna Beef hot dog, Pequod’s or Dante’s for pizza, the almighty Kuma’s Corner for burgers, and Portillo’s for pretty much any other Chicago food you could ever want. For our vegetarian/vegan friends there are spots like Handlebar, Ground Control, Quesadilla La Reyna del Sur and the famous Chicago Dinner (full disclosure, I think Chicago Dinner is shitty and overrated, but that’s your call to make). Boiler room offers a full time $8.50 slice/PBR/shot of Jameson deal and has offerings for carnivores and vegans alike! In search of late night drunk snacks? Tacos. Where? Everywhere. Especially where? FLASH TACO.
DON’T: Eat bullshit fast food
For real, you can do that all the time. Even if you’re a local, take the weekend to fully embrace Chicago ala Saturday Night Live’s Superfans. What would Ditka do? Sure as hell not eat at Taco Bell three nights in a row.
DO: Go out after the fest ends
Riot Fest has put out a smorgasbord of late night fun…but unfortunately many of the highlights have been snapped up. There still are tickets available for awesome late night sets from The Specials, Bad Religion, and The Bronx! You also have great late night areas on 18th street in Pilsen, 6 corners in Wicker Park, or Milwaukee Ave in Logan Square. One of the highlights of the weekend is going to be the Trusty Chords after parties Friday-Sunday at Five Star Bar. They’ll have DJ sets from the likes of Masked Intruder and Brendan Kelly (plus I hear their secret guest on Friday is gonna be radddd) as well as a shuttle service to get you from Douglas Park to the bar!
DON’T: Pay scalpers to get into after shows
There is so much happening around the city this weekend that there is no excusable reason to pay these dickheads $80 for what was a $20 ticket. Look to places like Liars Club, Exit, Crown Liquors, Beat Kitchen, Cole’s, Subterranean, and Quenchers for great shows played by great local and touring bands. Go see something new! Shameless plug alert: the rad folks at Soothsayer Hot Sauce are hosting the second annual Pop Punk Pizza Party at Quenchers (2401 N Western Ave.) Saturday night where $10 gets you 4 bands (including a secret guest headliner) along with free pizza and hot sauce tastings. And the $4 Chicago handshake (can Old Style/shot of Malort) is not only an incredible deal but a must for anyone visiting from out of town.
DO: Have the fucking time of your life
It’s a great weekend to be in town. Unlike Lollapalooza where everyone is a pastel clad, headdress wearing, boat shoe having douchebag, the city is teeming with black shirt, black pants, black vested, black souled people just like you! Cut lose, spend too much money, support bands by buying merch, tip your bartenders, eat some regrettable tacos (read: Flash Taco), and high five everyone.
DON’T: Be shitty
Drink water, don’t take more drugs than you can handle, be nice to people, don’t catcall anyone, keep your shit together on public transit, and respect the neighborhood you’re in (don’t litter or piss on anything). We’re all here for the same reason, don’t be the douche that ruins it for everyone. This has been today’s ‘Be a Real Person’ PSA.
That’s all we have for now! If you’re looking for other recommendations on what to do with your time in Chicago, turn to a stranger and ask them! We’re very friendly people here in the Midwest. Have fun and stay safe.