A Weekend at Riot Fest


Sam Bulkley

Editor’s note: KCSU does not support Iggy Pop, their label or their actions.

This previous weekend I spent my time away from RamFest and traveled down to a different type of “country” theme. Instead of listening to country music singer, Lee Brice, I decided to see bands ranging from System of a Down, Modest Mouse, Pixies, The Vandals, Tenacious D, Snoop Dogg, and so many more. Denver’s Riot Fest and Rodeo featured the best and largest lineup the festival has ever offered in Colorado. The expanding festival, in just three years, has gone to crazy lengths to offer a mix of old school music (mainly punk and hip-hop) with some amazing new talents poking their heads into the field. This year was a crazy ride so let’s get started.

Day 1

Radicals Stage Mention:

The festival was split off into 5 stages with two pairs of them interchanging acts smoothly to have a constant performance. The Radicals Stage was located in the middle of the coliseum and welcomed smaller acts. The mention of Day 1 goes the the band Prayers. They impressed me with the unique synth setup and vocal performance along with a “Bono-esque” persona.

Most regrettable moments:

3.) N.W.A.’s really outstanding performance and semi-reunion being just a promotion for their new movie. They played the commercial for the movie in the middle of the set… Like, come on guys.

2.) The fact that the event took place at the National Western Complex meant that the crowd was standing on dirt. This meant that when mosh pits ensued (which they did, of course) it got harder to breathe. For some that may be fun, but for others with allergies, not so much.

1.) Iggy Pop taking off his jacket and dancing around like his entire body was going to fall apart at any second.  Yelling at the audience that he’s going to drop dead any day now and, “I really need this,” didn’t help it either. But his performance was still basically flawless even with the high altitude that kept Motörhead away from the show.

Top 3 Moments:

3.) Watching De La Soul as the group ended up splitting the audience in half to see who had better crowd participation. The rappers call and response tactics ended up in each side of the crowd flipping the other off and screaming, “Fuck that side!”

2.) Seeing Coheed & Cambria live for the first time and witnessing their intricate style of progressive rock.

1.) The entire set of System of a Down. The whole thing. From the very beginning when at least one hundred people tried to push their way to the front (successfully). To the endless mosh pit that only stopped during “Lonely Day”. But most importantly creating an enormous circle pit during “Bounce” that kicked up so much dirt that you could barely see the stage anymore and kept it going into “Sugar.” It was worth having to cough up a pound of dirt the next morning to continue the antics.

Day 2

Radicals Stage Mention:

Joyce Manor brought in a large crowd of kids to listen to the punk/emo set. Their song, “Leather Jacket” led to the audience packing  shoulder to shoulder to get as closer as they could to the band.

Most regrettable moments:

1.) My only regrettable moment of the day was not being close enough to Gwar to get a nice colorful cool down from the liquid one of the creatures soaked the fans with (some say it was blood of mortals). You could tell who was in the crowd because they walked around with a  red and blue tinted skin pigment for the rest of the weekend.

Top 3 Moments:

3.) The Dead Milkmen introducing “Bitchin’ Camaro” by asking how they would get all the way over to The Vandals set on the other side of the National Western Complex. With a Bitchin Camaro of course.

2.) Alkaline Trio ending their set with “Radio” which the crowd was ecstatic about. Having upwards of a thousand people singing out, “I’ve got a big fat fuckin’ bone to pick with you my darling,” at the end of the song really brought the entire set together.

1.) Modest Mouse and the creatively large performance they manage to coordinate. There are at least 8 members that tour with Modest Mouse now and just seeing the combination of every single instrument in use. They played songs from their whole discography and absolutely killed it with every song they played. Isaac Brock’s between song rants were very entertaining. Such as his thoughts on fans not liking the way he changes his songs for live performances, or, “It’s the same song, just thinking about it twice,” as Brock put it.

Day 3

Radicals Stage Mention:

I hadn’t actually heard PUP until the week before Riot Fest. But the Canadian punk rock band must have had the largest crowd inside the stadium out of the whole weekend. Closing with their hit, “Reservoir”, the band had an enthusiastic set that was the most impressive one on the Radicals Stage.

Most regrettable moments:

2.) Yelawolf getting upset for going over his set time and kept the crowd singing over the set of Explosions in the Sky. He also ended up flipping off the sound guy for cutting the sound even though they started the set late. The entire performance was great but it wasn’t necessary for him to get mad that he ran out of time.

1.) The last day was a rough one for the people who had gone all three days. It was by far the hottest and was difficult to keep up the energy throughout each bands performance for a lot of fans (including myself).

Top 3 Moments:

3.) Flogging Molly playing a brand new song that is to be on their upcoming album and announcing that they didn’t know when they would come to Denver next, but they would have the new album out when they did.

2.) Explosions in the Sky played an explosive and passionate set right as the sun was setting. It was a very magical moment when you heard their instrumentals and looked out across the crowd to the mountains.

1.) When Tenacious D played “Jazz” and used up a good five minutes by Jack Black scat singing and Kyle Gass playing a recorder and flute at the same time. Also, the guitarist got possessed by Satan unexpectedly to transition into “Beezleboss” and have and epic guitar showdown. They also got to play an encore song because Snoop Dogg was late to his set.

The weekend was long, but well worth the exhaustion of having to get up for class on Monday. If Riot Fest keeps growing the way the have in the last couple years, it may be one of the biggest festivals that Denver hosts. Now all we have to do is wait another nine months for next year’s lineup.