Tim McIlrath, lead singer for Chicago hardcore punk band Rise Against, has played festivals all over the world, but homegrown Riot Fest (where last weekend the group headlined) holds a special place in his heart—and mind. “I think [founder Mike Petryshyn] brought a Chicago mentality to the idea of festivals,” McIlrath told Chicago Sun-Times. “The idea was always more about creating a lineup of artists the community wanted to hear and less about trying to figure out who was on the Billboard Top 10. Riot threw all those rules out the window and, because of that, it has an identity and credibility.” With Rise Against’s reputation for angry, intelligent lyrics and protest, the “new” music culture’s reactions can be both unpredictable and fickle. “It would be naïve of me to think everyone in the audience is on the same page as we are. But the goal is to get people talking about issues. Music is at its most incredible when it’s used as a vehicle for ideas.”
This punk DIY sensibility is a thread running through Rise Against’s history—from playing gigs in VFW halls and church basements, to plastering flyers all over town in the days before Internet prominence. And, given an international following and hits like new single “I Don’t Want to Be Here Anymore,” that driven attitude is paying off.