Riot Fest Denver is certainly not intended for the faint hearted. This three day music festival shed some major light on new up and coming artists but also allowed one to bask in the walk down memory lane with bands that we grew up on and shaped our youth. Riot Fest had a lot of similarities to the Vans Warped Tour as far as talent but differed from it with a more diverse crowd. From punk legends Strung Out, Metal Gods Slayer, to hip-hop artists Wu Tang who ain’t nothing to mess with, it was a perfect recipe for an amazing crowd and an incredible music festival.
The first day was all about acclimating and finding my bearings. If anyone is familiar with Sports Authority Field they know that it is huge and can be a tad overwhelming to navigate yourself around. I decided to let the crowd take me to my first destination. Which luckily for me was NOFX and the beer stand. I bought my beer tickets and got in line to get a drink. Did you know you could get a entire bottle of wine and they put it in a thermos for you?! Well, I was going to have a beer until they told me that! This is where the fun started. It was incredible seeing NOFX for the first time in what feels like forever. Up front was a sea of music hungry punks with multicolored mohawks and it really brought me back. Where I was standing in the back were all the old schoolers who still can’t get enough of that heavenly punk rock but turned in their hair dye and studded jackets years ago. After their set ended I headed over to the Flaming Lips show which would have been a medical nightmare for anyone with epilepsy. The stage was draped with a curtain of dangling rainbow colored flashing lights. An explosion of strobes and giant Super Mario Brother mushroom props bouncing around and being thrown from the stage to the crowd. It made for some truly epic photos and an even more epic musical performance. They defiantly have some pretty incredible stage presence and pumped up the crowd for the following bands.
As 9:30 pm approached the crowd separated into two groups everyone had to make the hard decision, head to Slayer or to make their way over to Primus since both were set to play at the same time. I have always wanted to take photos of Primus and remember my dad listening to them when I was little. It was a tough decision. How am I to decide between two legendary bands? I stuck with my gut and ended up at Primus. It was nice to be there to support and send good vibes for Tim “Herb” Alexander the drummer of Primus. A few weeks back Herb had a minor heart attack and is out for recovery from a recent triple bypass surgery. Tool drummer Danny Carey took his place for Riot Fest Chicago and Denver. It was an incredible show and Im sure Tim “Herb” Alexander was very excited to know they rocked everyone’s faces off with lots of hopeful thoughts for a speedy recovery!
Day two couldn’t come sooner. I was so pumped from the day before and now knowing my way around I couldn’t wait to get down there. I had a few bands on my must see list. Clutch, Face to Face, Taking Back Sunday, Decendents, the list went on and on However, the highlight of day two was seeing Strung Out. Jason Cruz lead vocalist and guitar player has a voice and a style that is like no other artist I have ever seen in the punk rock department. They have been with Fat Wreck Cords for over 20 years and have produced seven albums through them. They talked about their new album coming out mid February that will be a tribute to their loyal fans. Speaking of loyal fans, Strung Out’s following is incredible! Looking around at all the screaming, singing fans and talking to two die hard Strung Out fans that I met, Steve St. James and Todd Daigle, it’s clear to see how much this band has acquired some truly loyal fans over the years who will follow them to the end! The last song for their set was Matchbook and I have to say good choice! Thanks a lot guys for making me tear up in public! Very excited to hear their new album is coming out soon!
I decided to take a break from the crowds and grab a bite to eat and possibly ride some carnival rides. I gathered some fellow photographers that I had met the day before and we all turned into a bunch of 6 year olds playing silly carnival games. They had Moby Dick, farris wheels, ball in the cup and almost every carnival game you could imagine. I even managed to win a big ass stuffed animal and by big ass stuffed animal i mean I won a small yellow flimsy stuffed monkey. Something that you would find in a claw machine… This festival really does have a lot to offer! Great music, awesome food trucks of all flavors, beer gardens, hundreds of merch stands and carnival games. I will tell ya one thing, there was never a dull moment and the people watching was ridiculous.
Sunday finally came and I was a bit bummed because I didn’t want it to end! I had met so many cool people and had witnessed so many awesome shows. I wanted to make my last day at Riot Fest feel like it would never end. I decided to go visit one of my friends for a quick beer before I headed out to go see Rise Against. To my surprise he greeted me with a cold brew and a artist wristband which allows me backstage access. Perfect timing since I grew up loving Rise Against and would love to go backstage! Everyday had been so beautiful and sunny until the clouds rolled in on Sunday. It started raining but that didn’t stop anyone from keeping the party rolling. The rain combined with the light shows and intensified the experience ten fold! Heading backstage for Rise Against and to seek shelter for my camera equipment I ran into one of Brandon Barnes (the drummer from Rise Against) best childhood friends who told me amazing stories from their childhood and growing up together. Seeing the show from the back of the stage looking forward was such a surreal feeling. I knew it would be a memory I will always look back on for years to come. After meeting some other family members and sharing stories I had to go check out the final act of the night, Wu Tang. I stayed backstage to avoid the wild crowd until I heard the uproar of the screaming fans chanting “Wu Tang ain’t nothin to mess with!” At this point I knew I needed to join the fun and see them from the fans perspective! It was probably one of the craziest crowds I have ever been in! Almost positive I got a contact high off of the crowd. After all, we are in Colorado! After Wu Tang finished up you could tell everyone didn’t want to go. It was hard to come to terms with the fact that Riot Fest was over. I caught wind of a few after parties but I was ready to get home and start editing some photos!
To sum it all up this festival is a must see. I highly suggest going all three days to get the full experience. I feel like this experience has impacted me in ways I can’t even begin to describe but I tried my best through this review. I met people that I will have in my circle for years to come, shared stories with members of the bands friends and family, took pictures of artists I idolize and had my mind blown visually and musically with some of the most amazing musical performances I have ever had the pleasure to see! Riot Fest I will see you next year for more kick ass times! Swisher out!
Jenn Swisher Staff Writer FestPop