10 Must-See Bands At Chicago’s Riot Fest & World Music Festival 2019

The music goes on all month long.

Two big festivals are coming to town this month, and we have your ticket for who to see at each one—Riot Fest, September 13-15 at Douglas Park and World Music Festival Chicago, September 13-29 at venues across the city. Get rocking!

Riot Fest

Held during the intersection between summer and autumn, Riot Fest is a three-day punk rock carnival held in the west side of Chicago at the lovely Douglas Park. 

This year marks the festival’s 15th birthday, and they’re celebrating in a major way with performances from some of modern music’s biggest and most influential acts. On Friday, pop punk band blink-182 headlines with a massive set and a performance of their seminal album “Enema Of The State.” Thrash metal architects Slayer brutally say goodbye with a final Chicago performance that headlines Saturday night. And headlining the festival on Sunday are the incendaiary feminist punks Bikini Kill, in their first tour since breaking up in 1997.

Here are our recommendations for five bands you must see at Riot Fest this year.


The more things change for the pop-punk trio, the more things remain the same. Longtime guitarist Tom DeLonge left the band in 2015 to focus on his musical side projects and was replaced by Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba. Removed from DeLonge’s space rock tendencies, Blink have rediscovered the combination of muscular punk and anthemic pop that dominated their earlier work. New singles, “Darkside” and “Generational Divide” sound cathartic and massive, but don’t worry if you just wanna hear the classics. In addition to some of the new stuff, Blink will perform their breakthrough album, “Enema of the State,” in full. 



Anchored by the LGBTQ activist lead singer Lynn Gunn, PVRIS [pronounced “Paris”] aims to be a beacon of visibility in a music community that often ignores queer voices. They’re an American trio who specialize in the crystalline indie-pop similar to acts like CHVRCHES. Songs such as “Hallucinations” and “Death of Me” are festival ready with driving bass lines and large chrouses. After stints opening for bands such as Fall Out Boy and Bring Me the Horizon during their recent arena tours, PVRIS are ready for their turn in the spotlight. 


Wu-Tang Clan

In support of the recently released series “Wu-Tang: An American Saga,” a biographical Hulu drama that focuses on the legendary group’s humble beginnings, the mighty Wu-Tang Clan have returned to Chicago for a rowdy celebration of their storied career. Don’t miss your chance to see RZA, Ghostface Killah, Method Man and the rest of the crew perform rap essentials such as “Bring da Ruckus” and “Protect Ya Neck” live and in-person. 



Named after a mental dissociative disorder, Ganser are a Chicago-based quartet making waves with their blend of Joy Division adjacent post-punk and arthouse film aesthetics. Exemplified by their latest single, “Bad Form,” Ganser’s music is provocatively dark with contemplative lyrics and frenzied instrumentation that explores themes of anxiety and intimacy. National outlets such as the New York Times and Billboard are united in their admiration for them. Don’t miss your chance to see what the tastemaker Paste Magazine recently called a Chicago band that you need to know. 


Bikini Kill

Anchored by riot grrrl, a radical feminist movement they helped pioneer, Bikini Kill formed in the early ‘90s in the Pacific Northwest during the emerging grunge scene alongside groups such as Nirvana. The band toured extensively, cultivating an environment at shows that focused on female empowerment and safe spaces, encouraging and exclaiming “girls to the front” during performances that included their breakout single, “Rebel Girl.” Bikini Kill amicably broke up in 1997 to focus on various side projects, including The Julie Ruin who played at Riot Fest a few years back, but reunited earlier this year for a small series of shows after realizing the songs they wrote back in the day have newfound power with a younger generation of feminists. Their headlining set at Riot Fest marks the first time the quartet have performed in Chicago in over 20 years. 



World Music Fest Chicago

After Riot Fest, go on a global adventure without leaving Chicago. Throughout the month of September (the 13th-29th), hundreds of musicians from around the globe will perform at venues throughout the city as part of the cherished World Music Festival. This means that you can watch breathtaking performances of Indian classical music, have a drink at southside Irish museums while singing along to traditional Irish folk songs and so much more. The best part is it's all free!

Below are our recommendations for five bands you must see at World Music Festival Chicago this year.

Ragamala: A Celebration of Indian Classical Music 

Stay up all night to celebrate the 21st annual World Music Festival Chicago with Ragamala: A Celebration of Indian Classical Music. This overnight concerts kicks off at 6 p.m. in Preston Bradley Hall under the gorgeous Tiffany stained-glass dome and showcases ragas, music based on scales with a given set of notes. The night and morning performance will feature Hindustani and Carnatic music and dance during an all-night show that continue until 8 a.m., a traditional concert format for ragas in India that is seldom performed publicly in the states. SEPTEMBER 13-14 || CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER || 78 E. WASHINGTON STREET || 6 PM - 8 AM || ALL-AGES

Girma Bèyènè and Akalé Wubé

Girma Bèyènè may never be a household name here in America, but he’s a bonafide folk hero in Ethiopia. Probably best known for his prolific work as a jazz musician in the ‘60s and ‘70s during what was known as the Golden Era of Ethopian music, Girma Bèyènè was forced to flee from his homeland to escape the brutal reign of a dictator. After a long hiatus, he returned to music with his proteges, the French band Akalé Wubé. As part of World Music Fest, Bèyènè and Akalé Wubé have teamed up for a rare performance in Chicago at the posh northside nightclub Constellation for a smooth evening of Ethopian jazz. 



Head to the neighborhood of Beverly to get a taste of modern meets traditional Irish music with Lankum. The award-winning quartet have gained success worldwide for combining traditional Irish folk music, from busker classics to heartfelt ballads, with original material showcasing their rich four-part vocal harmonies alongside instruments found throughout Irish song, including uilleann pipes, concertina and fiddle. The band will release their new album, “The Livelong Day,” in October, so expect some possible sneak peeks for the Chicago crowd. Opening the evening is the Yandong Grand Singers, a choir from China's Guizhou province that was formed by farmers from the Dong ethnic group. The Dong people do not have a written language, and use song to pass down and share their history and culture. 



Equipped with a wide assortment of instruments, both modern and traditional, Mabang are a Chinese fusion band that seamlessly blend elements of folk, rock n roll, ska and reggae into a unique style rarely heard outside of Southwest China. Along with the Yandong Grand Singers of China, Mabang will perform in the heart of Chinatown at Ping Tom Memorial Park for a captivating exploration of Chinese music. 


Les Filles de Illighadad

An all-femme band of nomadic psychedelic guitarists, Les Filles de Illighadad make the long trek from Niger to headline a spohsitcated night of Sahara Desert blues at the trendy Avondale nightclub Sleeping Village. Percussionist Kim So Ra performs a serene set of traditional Korean music with her janggu, a traditional hour-glass shaped drum that dates back hundreds of years. SEPTEMBER 26 || SLEEPING VILLAGE || 3734 W. BELMONT || 7 PM || 21+