Making Riot Fest Feminist Again with The Julie Ruin, Juliette & the Licks and More

War on Women at Riot Fest 2016

The 2016 edition of Riot Fest Chicago on Sept. 16-18 will go down as one of the best festivals of the year. Between making the impossible possible by reuniting The Misfits for only the second time since 1983 – the first being at Riot Fest Denver earlier this month – and recruiting Morrissey to perform on the Riot Stage as the Saturday night headliner, the Douglas Park event was loaded with unforgettable sets, including a few from some of the strongest female-fronted groups in the business.

Girl power could be felt throughout the event, but on Day Three, feminist rock took over the festival grounds, led by none other than Riot Grrrl pioneer and all around badass Kathleen Hanna (right) and her current band, The Julie Ruin. After some minor sound problems early in their set – which Hanna confronted with humor, silliness and grace – the group played a trio of tunes from their latest album, “Hit Reset,” including “I Decide,” “I’m Done” and “Be Nice,” during which Hanna slowly collapsed down to the floor as she plead for friendliness among the masses. The New York group sounded impeccable, and Hanna peppered the set with commentary on the state of the world, the music industry and the internet, calling for an end to lists that rank musicians on their hotness – “f*cked up beauty pageants,” if you will – and uniting the women of the crowd in universal disdain in their hatred for cat-calling.

One of the best parts about attending Riot Fest is falling in love with a band on the merits of their live performance, and that’s exactly what happened for anyone who saw the Baltimore hardcore group War On Women (above) for the first time when they rocked the Rebel Stage on Sunday afternoon. Their fast and furious setlist, which vocalist Shawna Potter joked was full of “feminist bullsh*t songs,” tackled such topics as rape culture, the gender wage gap and transgender discrimination with intelligence and outrage.

Some fans may not have been familiar with Juliette and the Licks, but movie fans know the group’s front-woman Juliette Lewis (top) from her roles in award-winning films like “Natural Born Killers” and “Cape Fear.” Dressed in a American flag unitard, the singer proved to be the feminist superhero that we’ve all been waiting for. After opening their set with “Hot Kiss,” Lewis later expressed her contempt for the current election cycle, asking fans “which assh*le should we elect” as the band played the opening licks to the raging track, “American Boy.”

Later in the day, Sleater Kinney – who Lewis gave a shout out to during her group’s set – kept the feminist punk train rolling on the Rock Stage while Rob Zombie and Death Grips played across the grounds, making for one of the toughest scheduling conflicts of the entire festival.

While Sunday was overflowing with talented female musicians, earlier in the weekend, groups like Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas(above), Jule Vera and Eskimeaux delivered memorable sets. Head over to RiotFest.org to keep up to date with festival news and follow Rebellious Magazine on Instagram to see more photos from the rebelle musicians who took over Douglas Park in 2016.

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Laurie Fanelli is a Chicago-based writer and photographer who specializes in live entertainment coverage. She is at home at major music festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo and, of course, Lollapalooza and Riot Fest. She loves chatting with hilarious comedians and has interviewed the likes of Maria Bamford, Paula Poundstone and Tracy Morgan, to name a few. She has photographed tons of great bands/musicians – from every genre – including Rob Zombie, Florence and the Machine, Alabama Shakes, Neil Young, Shania Twain, Pitbull, Pierce the Veil, Kendrick Lamar, Patti Smith and many, many more. When not writing or shooting shows, Laurie loves to spend her free time training for marathons and exploring the city of Chicago. She is a longtime vegetarian and animal advocate who likes to cook healthy, delicious meals that everyone can enjoy. For more information or to contact Laurie, head over to www.lauriefanelli.com.

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