The annual Riot Fest event is set to make its sixth appearance Oct 6-10, 2010, and it’s shaping up to be the biggest thus far. It’s considered by most hardcore punk loyalists as the ultimate melting-pot of various styles and genres, offering a “something for everybody” outlook with a mellow vibe that draws fans from every part of the nation.
Stemming from what could only be described as musical separation anxiety, Riot Fest was founded on the mere idea of bringing back some of the classic punk bands that were sorely missed, while having them perform with current bands making waves in the underground music scene. Well known for reuniting chunks of prolific punk history like The Blue Meanies, Naked Raygun, The Bollweevils, and Articles of Faith (pictured above), Riot Fest is a virtual fountain of youth that caters to an audience from every conceivable walk of life.
If you’re wondering how all of this came to be, you might want to have a look at its founder, Mike Petryshyn, a thirty-two year old Ukrainian-American living in Chicago. “It started in 2005; I was bored one day at work and thought it would be a great idea to start a punk festival in Chicago with some of my favorite bands. I didn’t really know what I was getting into at that time….”
Often sporting a Naked Raygun T-shirt, wire-framed glasses, and a closely-trimmed Caesar-style haircut, some might say he looks more like an I.T. department head than a punk aficionado. Stereotypes aside, make no mistake - Petryshyn is the fire-starter who’s managed to build one of the most anticipated punk line-ups in the entire country. And with a knack for mixing a little of the old with a taste of the present, it’s a show that never disappoints.
"I was bored one day at work and thought it would be a great idea to start a punk festival in Chicago." -Mike Petryshyn
Scrambling to make the first event happen in 2005, Petryshyn admits that he wasn’t able to land the majority of the bands that he truly yearned for, but did manage to get his foot in the door as a serious independent promoter. The momentum carried over from his first show and helped build a relationship with a favorite band of his, Naked Raygun. They not only joined Riot Fest 2006, but also reunited officially and hired Petryshyn as their manager; releasing new material under his Riot Fest Records (est. 2007) banner.
With each year’s event proving even more successful than the last, Riot Fest fans began reading plans to create a Los Angeles-based event, along with various other satellite branches for 2009. Though the wheels were in fact turning, the extracurricular activities began to catch up with Petryshyn’s non-stop work schedule. After suffering from intestinal problems that have yet to be fully diagnosed, his doctor gave him some serious news and sound advice: “slow down.”
“I used to be able to work 16 hours in a row,” Petryshyn says. “Those days are over.” Regarding the postponement of the Riot Fest West event, he adds, “This was the toughest business decision, but it was the first time in five years I actually thought of myself first.”
With 2010 marking six annual events under his belt, a new gig as the head talent buyer at Chicago’s Congress theater, and a blossoming record label that caters to one of his all-time favorite bands, it’s safe to say that the dreamer from 2005 who didn’t really know what he was getting into has found his stride - and the punk enthusiasts around the country, old and young, are no doubt thankful.
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