Riot Fest Denver 2014…a postmortem.


My Festival Experience Summary:
2 Days / 3 Nights
20 Hrs. 45 Mins.
28 Bands

Albums Witnessed in Entirety:
NOFX – Punk in Drublic
Slayer – Reign in Blood
Weezer – Weezer (The Blue Album)
Descendents – Milo Goes to College
Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes

Cost Breakdown:
3-Day Presale Pass: $98.98
Drinks: $116.00
Bartender Tips: $18.00
Food: $33.00
TOTAL: $265.98


Why Sports Authority Field At Mile High Stadium was better than May Farms:
Proximity to home.

Riot Fest Denver was actually in Denver this year and that made it much more convenient for residents of the metro area. I was able to go straight to the fest from work on Friday and I was able to drive myself home when the weather turned to crap on Sunday. I did not miss the commute to Byers. I usually have to travel to places like Austin or California for quality festivals, so it was nice to attend one so close to home.


Why May Farms was so much better than Sports Authority Field At Mile High Stadium:
The festival grounds.

Byers might be out in Kansas, but you couldn’t ask for a better place for a festival once you were out there. They tried to recreate the ‘farm’ feel at Mile High, but no amount of hay or windmills were going to distract us from reality. We were hanging out in a parking lot…no way around it. A great line-up, a ton of space, multiple bars, a huge food selection and more than enough porta parties made this year’s Riot Fest a pleasurable experience, but there was just something missing — a welcoming feel that I didn’t even realize existed at May Farms until it wasn’t there this year.


Best Entire Album Performance:
NOFX – Punk In Drublic

Sure, Fat Mike is still a dick and Milo Goes to College is the better album, but it only took 24 minutes for the Descendents to blast through their classic album, so we got more punk for our buck with NOFX. Slayer’s Reign in Blood was a highlight of Friday night, but only half the band that recorded that metal masterpiece was on the stage, so it wasn’t the same. I didn’t even realize Violent Femmes were going to perform their 1983 self-titled debut, and it was amazing (especially with a full horn section), but I have to give it up to Weezer for bringing their blue album to life in front of an audience who had just been rocked with punk and metal all day…I think they deserve the #2 spot for placement alone.

The Cure

Best Day of the Fest:

Each day had something for everyone, and Friday night seemed the most crowded, but Saturday was the day that everything came together for me. Perfect weather. No wait for beer. No lines to take a piss. Daytime sets from Dum Dum Girls, Lucero and Clutch all made day drinking that much more fun. Face to Face and Descendents were two of the primary reasons I attended the festival in the first place…and they lived up to my expectations. Saturday also showcased an aging, lazy Social D, but their set gave me a chance to check out a couple bands I hadn’t been familiar with. I was beat by the time The Cure geared up for their marathon 2 1/2 hour set, but they proved they still own the night…almost 40 years into their career.

Face to Face

Personal Sing-Along Set of the Fest:
Face to Face

It’s a good thing Face to Face are an extremely loud band. It was good for those who were standing near me during their set on Saturday. I just can’t help myself from screaming along with tracks like “A-OK”, “Disconnected” and “Ordinary”. Trever Keith still sounds great and he doesn’t have any problem taking jabs at himself for getting old. “20 years ago I’d look out and see kids in the circle pit and blood and guts…now I see people drinking a beer and saying ‘yeah, I like that one’…it’s ok, I don’t go to shows anymore, but when I do, I do the same thing.”

Violent Femmes

Crowd Sing-Along Set of the Fest:
Violent Femmes

Having just moved to Denver, Gordon Gano had to compete with his neighbors to have his voice heard during songs like “Kiss Off”, “Blister in the Sun” and “Add It Up”. It’s a good thing for us that the man still has the pipes to do it. Along with Brian Ritchie and various other musicians, Gano made his first performance as a Colorado resident a memorable one. The set started with a “representation of an artifact called a vinyl album”, before continuing on with classics such as “Jesus Walking On The Water”, “Old Mother Reagan”, “I Held Her In My Arms” and “American Music”.


Most Ironic 24 Minutes of the Fest:
Milo Aukerman singing all the songs from Milo Goes to College

The album is 34 years old. The man is 51 years old. But that didn’t stop the Descendents from performing Milo Goes to College this weekend. Songs like “Parents”, “Suburban Home”, “Marriage”and “Bikeage” were pretty funny coming from men old enough to be grandparents, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have been performed. The songs have always been funny and no amount of irony can take anything away from them. The album is so short that the band was able to perform another 17 songs once it was over…including mature anthems like “Clean Sheets” and “I Don’t Want to Grow Up”. Thanks to guys like Milo, it seems we won’t ever have to.


Biggest Surprise Set of Fest:
Manchester Orchestra

Manchester Orchestra came out of nowhere and rattled the hell out of the dreary Sunday afternoon with one of the loudest sets of the whole weekend. I had never heard of these guys before and they absolutely blew me away. I have listened to some of their stuff today and it doesn’t have the same feel that it did on the May Farms Stage, but if you ever get a chance to see them live, I highly recommend it. The label they wear is ‘indie rock’, but I think ‘post-rock’ is a better descriptor…at least for the stuff they performed yesterday.

Die Antwoord

Most Memorable Set of the Fest:
Die Antwoord

I don’t know what can I say about Ninja, Yo-Ladni and DJ Hi-Tek that will make anyone understand. This rap/rave/zef group from South Africa doesn’t make any sense. Their music isn’t that great. A lot of it is downright offensive. Ninja prides himself on being disgusting (he could barely keep his dick in his pants for the entire set), and to say Yo-Landi is sexy is almost crossing a line (and I’m not even sure it’s a true statement). If someone were to play me their music with nothing visual to accompany it, I wouldn’t listen very long. If someone were to show me photos of their performance, it’s not something I would want to see. But once all the moving parts come together into the spectacle that is Die Antwoord, it is something that cannot be erased from your mind. I’m not sure if that is a good or bad thing, but it’s definitely something I will never forget.


Best Set of the Fest:
TV on the Radio

Every time I see TV on the Radio I am reminded of how good of a band they are. The guys didn’t have an easy time with their 7:45pm slot on Sunday night, but they ended up delivering my favorite set of the weekend. The rain had just started to come down hard. It was dark, wet, getting cold, and everyone was beat from a long weekend, but all that was forgotten as soon as they opened with “Young Liars”. The set was a mix of old, new and upcoming material..and it all killed. They showed concern for the crowd, asking us if we were alright between every song, but it was unnecessary. For that hour of the night, the weather was nothing compared to the sounds of TV on the Radio. As long as Tunde Adebimpe was willing to sing and dance on that stage, we were willing to stand and dance in the rain.

The National

Biggest Disappointment of the Fest:
The National

I doubt the headlining slot on the last night of a 3-day festival is a highly coveted position in the world of indie rock, even in optimal conditions, but throw in a torrential downpour, sound problems, and a diminishing crowd and you’ll know what The National were dealing with last night. Having seen the band countless times, it was immediately obvious that they were not into it. I could have gotten over the weather and sound problems, but witnessing the band physically struggle with being up there made me sad. And after one of the most forced performances of “Abel” (ever!), I started walking to the car. “Slow Show” actually started sounding better the further away I got, but it was too late to turn back. I’m glad I didn’t. Leaving early meant I wasn’t there to see Matt throw his mic at the ground at the end of the set…something that would have been very hard to see. It’s been highly publicized that they were not happy with their set last night, but I’m still not sure who is to blame. Either way, it was a disappointing way to end an amazing weekend of music. But you can’t win ’em all! I give it up to The National for doing their best to power through an unfortunate situation.