Interview with Mr. Riot
By Bill Jones
The Riot Fest Twitter account is not the usual festival feed that simply offers formal corporate announcements and only carefully crafted responses to fans. Send a smartass comment to @RiotFest, and odds are @RiotFest will be sending one back. Looking for information? It’s a safe betting that hitting up the account will provide an answer. Just love John Stamos? Riot Fest’s social media presence has fans covered on that, too.
It’s all run by Mr. Riot, an anonymous personality who handles the social media interactions and announcements for the Chicago-based festival. Leading up to the return of Riot Fest Sept. 13-15 to Humboldt Park, we chatted with Mr. Riot to get the inside scoop on the importance of social media when it comes to the fest.
Why do you tweet anonymously as Mr. Riot?
It’s not about me personally. We always want it to be about the festival. It’s just not as fun if people think, “Oh, it’s that guy I saw at a bar,” as opposed to Riot Fest as an entity. This way, too, they can kill me off and no one will know [laughs].
Why is a Twitter feed important to something like Riot Fest?
No. 1 — It helps us be more than just a corporation or festival or something. It’s much more personal. We can get back to people instantaneously. Every once in awhile people are like, “Oh, Riot Fest is sold out.” And we can be like, “No, it’s not. Tickets are right here.” It’s just a more immediate and direct way to let our fans know, “Hey, we’re listening to what you guys want — good things, bad things, complaints — we’re here to get back to you right away or just be a smartass if you’re being a smartass.”
What has made the feed so successful?
Just being a person, being completely honest and open with people, as much as we can be. When people talk bad about Humboldt Park, I personally take offense to that, because I live in Humboldt Park. It’s my house. So being able to do that stuff and have the freedom — I don’t know of any other festival on our scale to do anything like that, where it’s being a smartass back to them or giving them answers to every little question. I try to get back to every single question or comment I can.
What was it like to help announce some of the major bands for this year’s lineup, obviously headlined by the big Replacements announcement?
That was a fun tweet to send. That was so exciting to tell people. I tweeted that, “I’m really excited to tell you guys this. Wait until you hear what we have in store.” I’m a fan of the festival, as well as an employee. I just want the fans to feel that. It’s really exciting. We’re doing this for you guys, too.
When Riot Fest actually rolls around, what’s your weekend going to be like?
It’s going to be long. Obviously, there will be a lot more questions, concerns, comments, things happening at the fest — so [I’m] basically living on Twitter. When people say, “Hey, I lost my ticket,” or, “Hey, my girlfriend left me, and I’m stranded at the park,” I’m kind of a concierge for Riot Fest. Someone gets stranded or they lost their wallet or they need $2 to get on the bus because their friends left them — just making sure everyone is taken care of as best as possible — which is going to be hard with 30,000 people. That’s why I get paid the big bucks [laughs].
Why does Mr. Riot have such a deep love for John Stamos?
We tweet a lot. There’s just shit that I find funny that maybe just gets a retweet or a funny comment back. That was another one like that where I was just like, “I wonder what Jesse And The Rippers are up to?” Tweeted about it, like a lot of things we do, and the next day I looked back and there were 100 retweets. Maybe there’s something to this? Plus, we don’t want the super A-list celebrities. John Stamos seems like a guy you could hang out with. I could see myself having a beer with him.