I’m not sure why I’ve procrastinated so much on writing about our trip to Chicago. I suppose there really isn’t a great way to cleanly summarize a whole weekend long festival experience. It was an amazing weekend but also a difficult weekend, physically and logistically.
We arrived a day before the festival and used this time to explore the downtown area. We of course went to Millennium Park and checked out The Bean. It’s such a fascinating art installation and look at the amazing perspective of the downtown buildings in the reflection. We had lunch at Plant Junkie and I got the Moroccan Mirage bowl. It was pretty good, not my favorite meal, but I would certainly eat there again. We did some wondering around along the river front after lunch and booked a last minute Chicago River Architecture Tour. The tour was amazing and so informative. The cocktails on the boat were not so great.
We had to get some deep dish pizza while we were in Chicago so we took an Uber to dinner at Kitchen 17. The vibe was very cool and they were playing campy old horror movies on the bar TVs. The service was a bit, umm, carefree I think is the right word. None of the employees were rude or mean, they just definitely moved at their own pace. We ordered fries and a deep dish pepperoni (vegan of course). The pizza was really good and I would go again just for that. We never received the fries, but they weren’t on the bill so we decided not to even worry about it. I would say, if we travel back to Chicago and have a deep dish craving, I would go to this restaurant with a much different mindset. This is a place where things are just going to take more time so go here with the intent to be chilling there for a while, maybe plan to have a few drinks.
The Uber ride home was rather interesting. Apparently we were in Chicago during National Hispanic Heritage Month and that weekend was the huge kickoff celebration. Every year in Chicago people parade in their cars in the downtown streets with flags flying from their windows and music blaring. It was actually a really fun celebration to witness, but it choked up all the roads in the downtown area. We eventually left our Uber and walked a few blocks back to our hotel. I sometimes wonder how long our driver was stuck in traffic that night. That first night the celebrating was so loud we could hear it well past midnight in our 14th floor hotel room that faced away from the partying. The following nights weren’t quite as loud.
Friday morning we walked a few blocks from our hotel to get empanadas for breakfast/brunch at Fons. This quickly become our favorite spot and we got breakfast here every remaining morning of our trip. I got a latte here on the first visit, but it was just ok so after that I just picked up my coffee at the Starbucks across the street instead. Together we tried nearly the whole menu except for Lumpia and Ropa Vieja. I’m sad I missed out on those 2 flavors but Fons does ship nationally so I’m sure we will order some as a treat sometime. The only one I tried and didn’t care for was the Smoky Mushroom. I felt like the mushroom sliced were too big and should have been minced instead. Austin didn’t mind it though. The apple cinnamon wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as flavorful as I was expecting. My favorite was 100% the Corn with the Tinga as a close second. Austin really enjoyed the Andean.
On day one of Riot fest I wore my favorite dress from Aritzia, The Tempest Dress with my favorite slip shorts from Amazon. I wore shorts on the other days and I think for future festivals I’m sticking with the dress and slip shorts combo. I was the most comfortable in this outfit.
One day one we saw Sitting On Stacy, LS Dunes, Fozy Shazam, Anberlin, Bob Dylan (pictured above with me in the front row), Bleachers, and My Chemical Romance.
I guess I can’t technically say we “saw” My Chemical Romance. It was so packed during that set we couldn’t even see the huge screens on the sides of the stage. This was the only time during a music festival I’ve ever felt like I was in very dangerous crowd situation. The crowd didn’t have tiered guardrails and there was an abundance of what were clearly festival virgins. That, combined with 50,000-ish people being in one small place, surging at the stage every time a new song started was a bad situation. MCR stopped their set after every single song to ask people to take steps back because people were being crushed in the crowd. They handled it as well as a band possible could. At one point their management pulled them from the stage and said they could not let them back out on stage unless everyone stopped surging. We saw security pulling pass out people out of the crows scraped to chairs on wheels like looks like hand truck dollies. It was insane.
As far as food goes I had a pesto rice bowl and a fruit smoothie from a plant based booth. The rice was was bland but filling. The smoothie, on the other hand, was delicious. I went back for one everyday.
Day 2 was visibly less crowded that Day 1, which I think has a lot to do with MCR. Thankfully, that made Day 2 far more chill. On Day 2 we saw The Get Up Kids, Jxdn, YungBlud, Bad Religion, 7 Seconds, The Story So Far, and Yellowcard.
Yellowcard played the entire Ocean Ave album start to finish, in order. Amazing doesn’t even begin to cover how great their set was. I couldn’t believe how much music I remembered! I stayed in the crowd fairly close to the stage for most of the set and then crowd surfed out towards the end of the album to meet up with Austin in the back of the crowd to peace out from the festival a little early.
Leaving early is almost a necessity because of where Douglas Park in located within Chicago. It’s a very residential area (actually the Shameless neighborhood) and there is only one train line in and out. Cell reception was complete crap, but even if we did have reception there was no way we were getting an Uber to take us downtown with the celebrations blocking all the major roads. We actually had to take the train in the opposite direction to get on it in the correct direction before other people who were getting on at the closest station to the festival.
On this day we ate at a vegan vender that was handing out free Cinnaholic in line. I got loaded nachos that were delicious and such a huge portion I couldn’t even finish it.
On Day 3 we arrived a bit later in the day. We saw Less Than Jake, Midtown, Sleater-Kinney, Jimmy Eat World, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I would have liked to see The Academy Is… but we decided to leave extra early to not have to fight crowds for the train. I think on this day I just had a smoothie at the festival and had leftover deep dish pizza in our hotel room for dinner.
The next day we packed up and flew back home. It was quite a whirlwind weekend trip. I would love to go back to spend more time exploring Chicago and eating all their vegan food. I don’t love RiotFest taking place in Douglas Park, but for the right lineup I would go again.