Will Chicago’s two rising indie promoters stay indie?

June 13, 2012

Hot on the heels of announcing that in year eight, Riot Fest will stage its biggest punk-rock bash yet outdoors in Humboldt Park, its promoters have broken the news that in addition to Chicago and Philadelphia, they will add three more cities to their quest for world-domination: New York, Toronto and Dallas.

Meanwhile, red-hot electronic dance music promoters React Presents are gearing up for their biggest glow-stick-lit blowout yet, with the massive Spring Awakening Festival taking place in Soldier Field topped by Skrillex and with a cast of countless other DJs Saturday and Sunday–all for the bargain price of $143 for a two-day pass, or $262 for the V.I.P. package.

Over the last few years, Riot Fest and React have become powerful forces on the Chicago concert scene, finding their own lucrative niches with sounds either slighted or ignored by the big boys like Jam Productions and Live Nation. Yet whether the goals are to become permanent fixtures here in their own rights or to create valuable entities to sell to the highest corporate bidders a la Lollapalooza or the Warped Tour remains to be seen.

Riot Fest has slowly but surely been selling its soul for some time, since allowing an energy drink to make itself part of the event’s name in a sponsorship deal a few years ago. The press release from a giant Los Angeles publicity firm announcing its new expansion is just the latest handshake with the corporate devils who, ironically, are excoriated by many of the bands on its bills.

Of the expansion shindigs, the New York event will take place in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Park on September 8 (among the headliners: Gogol Bordello, Descendents, Hot Water Music, the Bronx and Screaming Females); Toronto will be at Fort York’s Garrison Common on September 9 (Decendents, Nofx, F**ked Up, Hot Water Music, Less Than Jake, Andrew W.K. and the Lawrence Arms) and Dallas will be at the no doubt intimate and very punk Gexa Energy Pavilion on Sept. 22 (Rise Against, Descendents, Nofx, the Gaslight Anthem, Less Than Jake, Andrew W.K., the Sword).

The Chicago concert, which takes place from September 14 to 16, will feature Rise Against, Iggy and the Stooges, Elvis Costello, the Offspring, Coheed and Cambria, the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Dropkick Murphys and more, as reported here a while back.

Robert Sillerman

Meanwhile, for its part, Spring Awakening’s massive expansion into the home of the Bears comes amid the news that none other than Robert F.X. Sillerman, the man who created the model for Live Nation’s monopolistic domination and Big Brother-like vision of corporate synergy in the radio and concert industries, has set upon EDM as his next big movement to monetize and culture to ruin. He plans to spend $1 billion in the next few months snatching up indie dance promoters from coast to coast (he started with a Louisiana rave promoter, Disco Productions) to form a massive company a la Live Nation that he will, of course, eventually take public.

Ecstasy-fueled electronic orgies on the NASDAQ—who’d have ever thunk it!

Sillerman almost certainly has React on his radar, but will the company sell out? It’s hard to say, since its main players almost never talk to the press.

Repeated requests for interviews from this blog have been ignored—the tale of how React convinced the city that passed one of the world’s most notorious anti-rave ordinances back in 2000 to let the kiddies party in its big waterfront stadium remains a mystery—and my colleague Greg Kot fared no better in getting them on the record for his recent Tribune piece on EDM’s big blow-up here and nationwide. (In case you missed it, Sound Opinions also recently dug deep into the genre with one of its most knowledgeable chroniclers, Philip Sherburne of SPINS’s Control Voltage blog.)