I can’t think of many other things that are cooler than being able to go around with “Riot Mike” on your business card. OK, being the man behind one of this year’s most talked-about music events is pretty awesome too. His full name is Michael A. Petryshyn, and he has been Riot Fest’s main organizer since its inception in 2005. If you’ve been following the @RiotFest Twitter feed, you know he’s witty, he definitely knows his punk rock (with bonus points for the Canadian references), and he may be slightly obsessed with John Stamos. I didn’t hold that against him though while picking his brain before Toronto braces itself for Riot Fest on August 24th and 25th at Fort York. Single-day admissions are still available via http://riotfest.org/toronto-tickets/, or you can win your way in with Music Emissions here!
Gilles LeBlanc: This may not be a fair question to begin with, but can you try to summarize how Riot Fest has gone from just another weekend in Chicago to having a lineup that is the envy of festivals all over the world?
Riot Mike: Whoa… I’m not 100% certain of that. There are plenty of fests around the globe and North America that, at least in my opinion, are pretty darn impressive and deliver lineups every year that we drool over here in the office. But, I think the thing that people appreciate about Riot is that we have grown organically over the past 9 fests. We used to be club based and when the clubs became too small, we moved it to a park (Humboldt Park in Chicago) that no one wanted to take a chance on. Plus, we are still independent… and that makes a huge difference.
GL: What was it about Toronto that made you want to expand Riot Fest here, as well as return for a second straight year? (The only city with that honour!)
RM: I grew up in Buffalo, NY, so Ontario was always a second home to me. Even my lovely sister lives in Ontario now. But with that said, the city of Toronto is amazing. It’s vibrant, the people are great and it’s one of the most multicultural cities I’ve ever been too. Plus, growing up listening to Toronto bands like The Viletones, Diodes, Teenage Head and so forth, has always led me to have an affinity towards the Toronto music scene…even later in my teenage years with Lowest of the Low. I grew up going to shows there, so at least, personally, it means a lot that Riot has grown up enough that it can cross the Peace Bridge, like I used to.
GL: I’m more than a little disappointed there won’t be any wrestling at Riot Fest Toronto – Who on any of the Riot Fest lineups, past or present, would you NOT want to step into the ring with for a no holds barred Texas Death match?
RM: Easy. Glenn Danzig. He’d maul my ass and probably my entire staff in the ring in 666 milliseconds flat.
GL: Who would be the band or artist you’re most proud of “discovering” or giving a significant platform to through Riot Fest?
RM: That one is kind of difficult actually… seeing Imagine Dragons explode this year internationally has been cool. They played last year and opened a stage for us, and now they are bona-fide stars. But, the band I’m keeping a close eye on right now has to Radkey. They’re playing in Chicago this year, and I have a good feeling that they might springboard a little in the coming year. Jesse and The Rippers is another one…just ask Jimmy Fallon.
GL: How much higher can Riot Fest hope to get now that you can brag that you’ve reunited The Replacements? If I were to give you access to a time machine – or, more specifically, the WABAC machine from the old Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons – who’s the one person, band or event you wish you could experience?
RM: I’ve actually thought about that question, and it’s The Clash. Never saw them perform live or Joe Strummer for that matter. I had one opportunity to see The Mescaleros, and I, of course, blew it. Still regret it to this day.
GL: Is there another festival whose fans you’d like to “kidnap” or trade with to have them see what Riot Fest is all about?
RM: Yeah, any electronic-based fest. Would like to see their fans implode in neon-wearing agony.
GL: Best carnival game ever. Go!
RM: The BB Gun Rifle Game. I have never seen anyone win that beautifully rigged game. But, there’s always one dude who thinks he’s a sniper and will blow $100 to win an unlicensed, life-sized Japanese Winnie The Pooh for his girl, who could probably care less about carrying the thing around for 5 hours. It’s a thing of immense beauty to capitalize on testosterone and manly pride.
GL: We all know there will eventually be a zombie apocalypse – If you only had enough battery life left on your music player to enjoy ONE album in full before your brains get eaten, what would it be?
RM: Naked Raygun – All Rise
GL: Any thoughts on the upcoming CBGB movie? Who would you pick to play Riot Mike if you had carte blanche casting power?
RM: No, not really. But, I’m pretty damn curious to see how accurate it is though. John Stamos should be cast as Riot Mike though. Why you ask? Just because it’s Stamos. Ask Fallon that too.
GL: What’s the one thing you hope attendees “take away” from Riot Fest 2013?
RM: I hope they get the sense that we’re no different than they are…seriously, as cheesy as that may sound. We’re all just a bunch of gals and guys who love music, putting on shows and not taking ourselves too seriously. If that ever ends, the fest would become something else. But to this day, we work our asses off year-in and year-out. And, if there’s a bunch of smiling faces walking out when the show’s over, we feel pretty satisfied. That’s enough for us to start game planning for the following year.