Celebrating 15 Years of Riot Fest with Festival Favorites: Taking Back Sunday

The lights dimmed, silencing the thousands of voices surrounding me. Other peoples’ sweat began to mix with mine as the bodies behind me pushed forward with outstretched fists. I would have done anything for a sudden gust of Chicago wind to come swooping in.

The beating hearts of 40,000 strangers tumbled ahead, breaking the barricade, causing my face to slam into the neon green chest of a heavy middle-aged security guard as he attempted to brace me, twisting my torso between the cold metal arms on either side of my body. 

The crowd roared as the members of Taking Back Sunday took the stage. 

Broken barricade or not, the show must (and did) go on.

That was my first Riot Fest experience back in 2013, and it sounds an awful lot like Riot Fest 2019. Except this time my body ached from not being nineteen anymore, instead of being smashed between a broken barricade and thousands of roaring fans. 

Riot Fest celebrated their 15th Anniversary this past weekend in Douglas Park, so it was only appropriate for them to have one of their favorite acts, Taking Back Sunday, make a pit stop on their 20th Anniversary tour. 

The carnival experience has died down a bit over the years. I never saw a man swallowing a sword or a mute juggling clown this year, though the ever so present rain still managed to make it’s dreaded appearance.

Photo by Ryan Bakerink via Alternative Press

Starting at Concord Music Hall late Saturday night, they played their second album, Where You Want To Be front to back. The following evening at the festival, they played a 21 song set, which included their first album Tell All Your Friends, and their third album, Louder Now in their entirety.

Front man Adam Lazzara delivered his signature mic-swings and dance moves with such poise, and at times it was hard to tell who was actually singing the loudest: the one with a microphone or the countless screaming fans. 

Crowd favorites like “Cute Without the E” and “MakeDamnSure” echoed from thousands of voice boxes, bringing teenagers and thirty-somethings together in a moment they’ll be talking about for years to come.

Lesser known tracks were still met with the same enthusiasm, crowd shoves, and mosh-pit rotations.

Photo by Ryan Bakerink via Alternative Press

They weren’t the only ones to play some of their more popular albums front to back, though. On Friday, blink-182 played Enema of the State, and Senses Fail played Let It Enfold You, and then returned Saturday to play From the Depths of Dreams

Other bands followed suit for the 15th anniversary celebration like Against Me!, Dashboard Confessional, and Glassjaw, but none can fully represent Riot Fest like Taking Back Sunday.

The more recent history of Riot Fest and Taking Back Sunday go hand in hand, with performances in 2013, 2014, three nights in 2015, which included a Riot Fest After Party at the Cobra Lounge and a secret set early Sunday, an Album Release Party in 2016 at The Metro for their last LP Tidal Wave, an After Show at the Bottom Lounge with Chicago natives Sleep On It, and a last minute add due to blink-182 being forced to cancel for health reasons in 2018.

“We love playing Riot Fest,” said bassist Shaun Cooper. “Staff and security are friendly and accommodating.  Bathrooms are clean, catering is solid, and the swag is always very cool and useful.  From the top down, it is clear that everyone that works the festival is passionate about music and wants the bands and the fans to have a great weekend.  We always run into a ton of friends in bands we haven’t seen in a while and it feels like a reunion of sorts.  We feel very fortunate to have taken part in it all these years.”

Happy 15th Riot Fest, and happy 20th Taking Back Sunday! I hope to see one of my favorite bands at my favorite festival again next year. 


Writes about music. Mortal Kombat master. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles enthusiast. Carolina Panthers obsession.

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