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Riot Fest 2021: Closing out a weekend of beautiful weather and killer vibes with Run the Jewels, Mayday Parade, Machine Gun Kelly and more

The last two days of Riot Fest were for pop punk and politics and the kids turned up and showed out in their Warped Tour best.

Day three also brought out all the hip hop enthusiasts, as Run the Jewels and Vic Mensa took center stage to spread their good word. However, the rest of the day was dominated by rock and pop punk, with the likes of Taking Back Sunday, State Champs, Bayside and Citizen drawing huge crowds that just wanted a good old-fashioned most pit.

We got things started early with the mellow and danceable sounds of Joywave before the alt-rock vibes of the rest of the lineup snagged our attention. Citizen played directly into the sun, but fans lined the barricade and beyond for a chance to jump around- even in the unseasonably warm temps. 

The biggest surprise of the day went to Gogol Bordello. The Manhattan group threw one of the biggest parties of the day with their wild blend of European-tinged punk, mixed with a healthy dose of sea shanty vibes. The band put their entire souls into the performance; dancing and gesticulating wildly at an audience that couldn’t get enough.

The night ended for Atlas with the back to back emotional and physical punches of Mayday Parade and Run the Jewels. In true Mayday fashion, the voices were loud and the tears were flowing as the band ran through a set full of the classics (still hard to believe that A Lesson in Romantics is 14 years old, but here we are). Run the Jewels competed with the likes of Taking Back Sunday and Dropkick Murphys, but each group had a huge crowd to call their own. 

We limped our way into day four, but quickly forgot the exhaustion the second Denver duo 3OH!3 bounded onstage. Sweating it out to “Rich Man” and “Punk Bitch” never felt so good, and the band was clearly elated to be back playing shows for such an excited audience. 

The Radical stage saw some action early on as well, as we got to catch our favorites in Blackstarkids and Kennyhoopla doing their thing. Blackstarkids, currently on tour promoting their upcoming album, was winning hearts right and left as showgoers stopped to catch a vibe from the trio. Kennyhoopla also had the field moving with his take on the pop punk revival, jumping into the outstretched arms of his thrilled fans.

The only unfortunate thing about Body Count and Fever 333 playing at the same time was not allowing each band to experience the other. Ice T was a force of nature, mean mugging the crowd and rocking out to their own songs. The band has never shied away from their message and they certainly held nothing back at Riot. Fever 333 is also quite vocal about politics and representation and Jason Butler spread their message far and wide on Sunday as well.

New Jersey staples Thursday had the kids running to catch their set and singer Geoff Rickly had them in the palm of his hand for the band’s entire hour. The general mood of the day had a tinge of seriousness but the joy on each musician’s face was proof enough that live music is very much back to stay.

We pivoted once again with the unexpected but entirely welcome addition of Devo to the day’s festivities. The band has a catalog of classics and quite a few fans were spotted sporting their own Energy Dome hats to match the band. 

Slipknot and Machine Gun Kelly closed out the night, but not without first starting a little beef across their respective stages. MGK couldn’t resist throwing a crack about the iconic group and their masks into his stage banter, but quickly got back on track to play music from his latest bestseller Tickets to My Downfall. 

It was a tumultuous four days, but Riot Fest is (thankfully) back! With such a wide variety of artists to watch, there was something for every type of listener and the smiles leaving the fest let everyone know we can’t wait to be back for 2022 and beyond.

Check out our gallery from Riot Fest days three and four!

Story and photos by Olivia Khiel