Showbiz Chicago Feature Interview: RIOT FEST FOUNDER MIKE PETRYSHYN

By: Stacey Crawley

Without people like Mike Petryshyn, music would remain a virtual experience. Putting music festivals like Riot Fest together involves planning, creativity, innovation and a love of the process. It’s an art form. It gives us mere mortals a chance to connect with and worship our music gods. The stage, a pulpit where a song can stir feelings that perhaps headphones and YouTube cannot.

I had a chance to catch up with Mike and talk about the beloved festival which is coming back to Chicago for it’s 11th year on September 16-18 in Chicago’s Douglas Park. For tickets visit














(S) Thanks for taking the time to chat with me.

(M) No worries

(S) Riot Fest used to be a venue fest playing across Chicago at Double Door, Metro, Congress Theater. Besides moving outdoors, what else has changed since the inception?

(M) Everything (laughs). Everything. I think just the scale of it. When we started in 2005 it was really just one venue. It was at the Congress Theater and that was pretty much the mainstay venue up until 2011, which was our last year inside. And even towards the end, I think the final year of Riot when it was inside, was 5 days long, went from Wednesday to Sunday the big shows would be at Congress – Beat Kitchen, which has a 250 cap, and all the way up to Congress which, at the time, was 4800.

So, in that there were it’s own headaches. You had five or six shows going on simultaneously across the city, and it would be firing up at the same time, or one was ending and another was firing up, so logistically it was really hard. We were just sort of cannibalizing our audience. It was hard to traverse through the city to get to Congress or Metro, or visa versa. They’re on opposite sides of the city, so in the end moving outside, I wasn’t necessarily a fan of it, but it was that year that actually made up my mind. It was just becoming tough on our fans. It’s hard logistically, and maybe there was something to taking it outside and just doing it on our own terms that way. My partner Sean, he was pushing for it, and in the end it was the right decision.

(S) Some people of the Humboldt Park community had opposition to the event. How has the reception been with the new neighborhood?

(M) It’s been great. The majority of the residents in Humboldt Park, a high majority – 90% or more, wanted to keep the festival going. And they’re still very vocal about it. You know when I used to live in Humboldt Park the local gas station guy would ask me, “when are you coming back?” But even though it was our home for a couple of years and we loved it there, Douglas Park has provided us, you know, it’s the same – the residents are excited about it, it brings something new, brings people into the neighborhood.

Riot Fest Founder Mike Petryshyn hands out over 600 Thanksgiving turkeys to families in need through Riot Fest Foundation.

Riot Fest Founder Mike Petryshyn hands out over 600 Thanksgiving turkeys to families in need through Riot Fest Foundation.











(S) Julian Marley is performing his father’s “Exodus” album and Rob Zombie is performing White Zombie’s “Astro-Creep: 2000.” Is that something they come to you with or what’s that process like?

(M) It was on the table, we discussed it, and then the Rob Zombie idea came to fruition. Julian Marley’s thing kind of, I thought of it, and within 24 hours Julian was like yeah, I want to do this. So we’re stoked. It’s something that, will he do it again? I don’t know. It’s definitely a first, and you know last year with having Damien (Marley) it went well. So I think they talk to each other, they’re brothers, and so that helps because we didn’t have to sell the festival to him.

(S) Is it important is it to get local bands involved?

(M) It is. We’ve always been like that. So whether it’s somebody who has played the fest a couple of times like Deals Gone Bad, or The Falcon and The Popes, there’s other younger, developing bands like The Walters and Marina City. Even having School of Rock be a part of it, we’re doing two days with them, it’s important and it gives a feel. Even from year 1 and 2 with Raygun or The Bollweevils. It’s a part of who we are.


(S) What are you most excited about?

(M) That’s tough to say because there’s just a bunch of bands playing, you know, everything from The Misfits to Morrissey to Social D, a lot of stuff that’s in my wheelhouse. And there’s Gwar who plays every year. There’s a lot to be excited about. It’s our second year at Douglass Park and we’ve changed the layout a little bit. In Humboldt Park, depending on the time of day and how many people were there, it could take you 25 minutes to a half hour just to get to the next stage, where now it’s just on one piece of land and you can get to another stage in 2 or 3 minutes.

(S) I’m all about getting to my music in record time. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. I’m looking forward to the fest. I’ve got some friends coming in from out of town.

(M) Tell them to bring good weather. It’s rained the past 3 years. Actually 4 years.

(S) I’ve got my rain boots ready if it does! Thanks again and best of luck with the festival.

(M) Thank you.



Album Plays
Julian Marley – Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Exodus on Friday, September 16
Social Distortion – White Light, White Heat, White Trash on Saturday, September 17
The Hold Steady – Boys & Girls in America on Saturday, September 17
Rob Zombie – White Zombie’s Astro-Creep 2000 on Sunday, September 18

Friday, September 16th
The Flaming Lips, Ween, The Specials, Jimmy Eat World, Julian Marley, NOFX, Refused, Pierce The Veil, All Time Low, Glassjaw, Pepper, Meat Puppets, Dan Deacon, GWAR, The Anniversary, Set Your Goals, Neck Deep, Highly Suspect, Fu Manchu, Girls Against Boys, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Tigers Jaw, Basement, Touché Amoré, Diarrhea Planet, Big D & The Kids Table, Citizen, Turnover, Violent Soho, Off With Their Heads, Holy White Hounds, Laura Stevenson, Somos, 3Teeth, The Wans, Jule Vera, Worriers, Eskimeaux, The Far East, Bad Cop/Bad Copand Featuring Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow Revue.

Saturday, September 17th
Morrissey, Death Cab For Cutie, Social Distortion, NAS, Brand New, Fitz & the Tantrums, Descendents, Motion City Soundtrack, The Hives, Bob Mould, The Hold Steady, Method Man & Redman, GZA, Smoking Popes, The Vandals, Fucked Up, I The Mighty, The Toasters, Hippo Campus, Balance & Composure, People Under The Stairs, White Lung, Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas, DEE-1, Brick + Mortar, Night Riots, Plague Vendor, Microwave, Death Spells, Deal’s Gone Bad, Black Foxxes, The Walters, Nots, Donna Missal, Tasha The Amazon, Blackbox, High Waisted, Summer Cannibals, Partner, Kitten Forever, Sleepy Kitty, School of Rockand Featuring Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow Revue.

Sunday, September 18th
The Original Misfits, Featuring Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only and Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein, Rob Zombie, Sleater-Kinney, Deftones, Bad Religion, Underoath, Thursday, Jake Bugg, Death Grips, The Julie Ruin, Joey Bada$$, Chevy Metal, Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, Tiger Army, The Wonder Years, Dee Snider, Andrew W.K. Leftöver Crack, Billy Talent, The Falcon, Juliette Lewis & The Licks, FrnkIero AndThe Patience, The Bronx, Pouya, Swingin’ Utters, Denzel Curry, Bleached, Tancred, Creeper, Marina City, Syd Arthur, The Dirty Nil, The So So Glos, Big Ups, All Dogs, War on Women, Hard Girls, A Will Away, Can’t Swim, With Our Arms To The Sun, The Gallow Walkers, School of Rock
and Featuring Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow Revue.