Riot Fest 2016 Ridealong Recap: A Festival with The Walters


by Kristina Pedersen

I have never been to Riot Fest before, I assumed it was a sort of emo thing and then I found out I was wrong and then I got there and found out I was right. It’s actually amazing that anything was happening at all: winding through Douglas Park, the festival feels massive and no person with any superficial authority knows anything about anything at any given moment. When we pulled into the vicinity, we asked a guard directing traffic if she knows where artist parking is. She said “not at all” in a way that more than implied she could zero percent help us/begin to want to help us. No one in matching t-shirts could seem to invoke the powers their t-shirts indicated. A lot of shrugging and head raising and violent head nodding and tilting, in perpetuity. We see a 50-year-old man with a Mohawk walking out of a car park and into the festival, and if that guy can do it so can we.


I am along for the ride with The Walters, the soft rock kings of Chicago. Eventually we find artist parking after seeming to ruin a lot of people’s days with questions. Once into the artist area: more questions. We were no one and then we were someone after we answered in the proper coded exchanges with a man sporting a mullet, hard lines and a golf cart (exercising full authority of said golf cart). In the car, those in charge had been playing Twin Peaks all this time because I think Twin Peaks is the music you want to listen to even when you think you make the best music in the world.

A man in a beard told us good news. I don’t remember what it was but The Walters were excited. This is their first big festival. Luke puts all his loose change and stuff in my purse and I am excited at his joy and feel like a Mom at Disney (there are carnival rides here and shit).

In the vegan tent, everyone realizes they forgot their cigarettes (vegan is really rock and roll). We stay there briefly as The Walters spaz about all the free shit, bouncing around the tent from free thing to other free thing. Luke had too much earwax and couldn’t get the free prize for being famous (custom molded earbuds this time).

The Walters have a scheduled interview so we head to the press tent. In this hilly purgatory: lots of ‘heys’ lots of ‘sorry about that’ lots of exclamation points. The media waits, practically in a line, and the talent shuffles in. Everyone is VERY nice to each other.

We all go our separate ways after that and I wander around trying really hard to be stopped by a fashion blogger but am really high so actually just looking crazy. Out in the real world of the festival: lots of lines, people running. A girl walks around with a giant cardboard menu on her back. Advertisement of performance art??

I catch up with my friend before The Walters’ set and we get right up in the first row. There at the front are those typical to a Walters crowd (plucky, spotted, and eager) and there are also new kinds of faces. The Walters start with “I Haven’t Been True” and bring probably more energy in their first three songs than I think most boring ass bands ever bring when playing live but the show doesn’t really start until their third or fourth song in, “Fancy Shoes.” It’s a beautiful and moving and full-sounding song, it reaches some amount of heights. After that the rest was crazy. The songI Wanna Know” always makes me cry, it looked like Luke was crying too as he was singing/wailing. At the end he jumped into the crowd, girls and boys and girls lost their marbles. The Walters’ shows are unfailingly consistent but I am always surprised at how moving they are, one way or the other.

The rest of Riot Fest was Riot Fest.

Luke Olson of The Walters
from @lukemartinolson on instagram

See more of Kristina’s writing, photography & art at

Follow Houseshow on Facebook for our latest articles and up-to-date happenings on the rock music & culture scene in Chicago.

If you enjoyed reading this, please click “Recommend” (the heart) below. This will help to share the story with others.