DS Festival Recap: Riot Fest Day Three (The Academy Is…Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sleater-Kinney, Lunachicks and more)

Day 3 of the Riot Fest took place in Chicago’s Douglass Park on September 18, 2022, with some of the most influential all-women or women led bands dominating the stages.

Jawbox, the Washington D.C, iconic band founded in 1989, whose original run lasted until 1997, was welcomed back during its midday set. The bright sun beating down on most of the band members’ faces did not cause a step lost as Jawbox gave the crowd a forceful performance. The set included “Mirrorful,” “Motorist,” ”Cooling Card,” “Static,” “Cutoff,” and “Savory.” The band members J. Robbins, Bill Barbot, Kim Coletta, and Zach Barocas also solidly covered “Lowdown” by Wire, and “Cornflake Girl” by Tori Amos. A hot set made the hot sun more bearable for the Sunday attendees.

Concrete Castles hit the Rebel Stage with the Ferris Wheel and other carnival rides in the sightline of many in the crowd. Vocalist Audra Miller, guitarist Matthew Yost, and drummer Sam Gilman held their fans’ attention with an effervescent set which included “Wish I Missed U,” “Half Awake,” “Sting,” “Just a Friend,” “Lucky,”  and “You Won’t See Me Again.” The Erie, PA band started out as the very popular cover band First to Eleven in 2009 before forming Concrete Castles in 2021. Young though the members may be – all three are in their early 20s they all perform with the maturity of confident musical veterans. That’s what they are, combined with a bright and hopefully long future creating terrific music.

Zola Jesus‘ bewitching performance immediately brought to mind Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac, not just because of her flowing garments. The Merrill WI performer, known offstage as Nika Roza Danilova, has an ethereal stage presence, and her set including “Lost,” “Soak,” “Exhumed,” “The Fall,” “Sewn,” and “Undertow” made for as intriguing a performance as her stage name.

Lunachicks kicked off their set with some seriously iconic music, Bill Conti’s inspiring Oscar-nominated theme from Rocky “Gonna Fly Now.” This was the perfect walk-on song as the band appeared, as they always do, ready to fight (for issues in which they believe. Not physically. Though I’m guessing they can hold their own in that manner as well). Band members Theo Kogan, Gina Volpe, Sidney “Squid” Silver, and Chip English didn’t wear their hearts on their sleeves, they wore them on their jumpsuits, dresses and shirts. “Not Government Property,” “Roe Rage Riot,” and “Our Bodies, Our Choice,” were among the messages displayed prominently during a year in which The Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe V. Wade. Of course, feminist activism is engrained in the DNA of the band. The NYC band’s 2021 memoir “Fallopian Rhapsody” was met with critical acclaim. Lunachicks exhibited their signature power as they ripped through an extensive set including “Bad Ass Bitch,” “Say What You Mean,” “Jerk of All Trades,” “The Day Squid’s Gerbil Died,” “Luxury Problem,” and “Less Teeth More Tits.” A prodigious set indeed by voices perhaps more relevant than ever. Heroes we deserve? Probably not. Heroes we need? Most definitely.

One of Sleater-Kinney‘s first rehearsal spaces was located on Sleater-Kinney Road in Lacey Washington, nearby to Olympia, where the band was founded. The road from that road has been as long one for the now legendary Sleater-Kinney. Its set at Riot Fest 2022 once again proved why Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein continue to be so compelling, both as a band and as individuals. Among other tunes, the band performed “High in the Grass,” “Jumpers,” “All Hands on the Bad One,” “Bury Our Friends,” “Modern Girl,” and “The Center Won’t Hold.” Sleater-Kinney delivered a dynamic performance, one that makes us hope we won’t have to wait long before catching them again. Maybe at Riot Fest 2023?

Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O.’s signature black bowl hairstyle was partially obscured at the start of the band’s set by the topper of an elaborate bright, multi-colored outfit. The first sight of the outfit elicited wows from the crowd and other observers. Her bandmates, Nick Zinner and Brian Chase, clad in clothing nearly matching the night sky, and positioned further away from the spotlight focused on O. were partially obscured themselves. In any case, the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s stood out as a shining example of what a great band can accomplish during a crowded festival weekend. The band performed “Spitting Off The Edge of the World,” and “Burning,” from its new album “Cool it Down.” The well-received album, its first new one since 2013’s “Mosquito,” was released just under two weeks post-Riot Fest, on September 30, 2022. The set also included “Zero,” “Wolf,” “Soft Shock,” “Cheated Hearts,” and “Under the Earth.” It was a fun set to watch and Yeah Yeah Yeahs are enjoyable to shoot photos of as well.

As Riot Fest was born in Chicago, it was fitting that the band with the latest scheduled set start time, by a mere 15 minutes, was from Chicago as well. Nine Inch Nails might have been presented as the Sunday night headliner but The Academy Is… did a pretty good job of drawing many members of the hometown crowd, as well as visitors too, away from Trent Reznor and his bandmates. The band returned to active status seven years after its farewell tour in 2015 and for those fans, seeing them again or for the first time, could not contain their enthusiasm. Band members William Beckett, Adam T. Siska, Mike Carden Andy “The Butcher” Mrotek rewarded their wait with an energetic set, performing “The Phrase That Pays,” “LAX to O’Hare,” “Bulls In Brooklyn,” “Black Mamba,” “We’ve Got a Big Mess on Our Hands,” “Checkmarks,” and “After the Last Midtown Show.” The Academy Is…also paid tribute to Material Issue, the immensely popular Chicago band active from the mid-80’s to the mid-90’s, by covering the latter band’s song, “Very First Lie.” There was a special surprise for fans. Original band members Michael Del Principe and AJ LaTrace joined the others on stage to perform “Attention”  off their debut album, “Almost Here. “

Riot Fest 2022 was an exhausting and hot weekend full of great tunes and good times. As coverage of this year’s event winds down, we’re finding it difficult to take a full break from the event. After all, there’s Riot Fest 2023 in the works.

More photos from the final day of Riot Fest 2022 below!

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