The Mile High City gets high on punk, pop, metal and just plain weird-ass rock ‘n’ roll. Our correspondent Dr. Hinely somehow lives to tell about it. Meanwhile, ace shutterbug Greg Kelly documented the scene of the crime through a non-rose-tinted lens.
TEXT BY TIM HINELY / PHOTOS BY GREG KELLY
Returning to Denver for its 2nd year (and Toronto for its 3rd) Chicago’s long-running punk fest came this time to the Mile High city for three days worth of music (last year was two) and some bigger names. There was a bit of a snafu in the proceedings as the festival was originally supposed to take place in the same spot as last year, May’s Farm in Byers, CO (about an hour east of Denver) but the corn fried locals said no so the Riot Fest organizers had to scramble to find a venue at the last minute. As it turned out the Denver Broncos were more than amenable and allowed them to use the parking lot of Mile High Stadium (actually called Sports Authority Field at Mile High) and we were back on. No camping but the carnival-like atmosphere prevailed with plenty of rides and the like.
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 19, 2014
Got there in time to catch THE ORWELLS, some young cats from Chicago who cranked out some purty good garage rock. I then headed over to the Byers Country Feed Stage to catch ALL, a band I had not seen since the late 80’s (when Dave Smalley was their vocalist). Tonight it was the bearded Chad Price on vocals (and the Descendents behind him) and they put in a decent set but nothing mind-blowing. No, that was saved for THE BUZZCOCKS who played a greatest hits set but really brought the fire. Well done gents. FAILURE had a small but enthusiastic crowd digging their wired n’ weird, proto metal. The generic punk (if you could call it that) of NEW FOUND GLORY had all the kids (way younger than me) doing the bounce while South Africa’s DIE ANTWOORD brought out the freaks en masse with their blend of electronic and hip hop (does that chick have any eyebrows??). I was kinda psyched for GOGOL BORDELLO and while they did bring lots of energy, the songs bored me. NOFX, playing all of Punk in Drublic, were definitely not boring, but not doing anything groundbreaking either (Leader Fat Mike said to the folks in wheelchairs in the front, “Hey, we’re not gonna play tonight until all of you stand up.” (I laughed). Then over at the May Farms Stage with the huge crowd was THE FLAMING LIPS who had a real live rainbow on stage. Another band I hadn’t seen since the 80’s (seriously) but they brought the noise righteously and on stage is leader Wayne Coyne and all 350 of his cousins. I began sleepwalking home so I missed PRIMUS (never liked that band), SLAYER (eh) and WEEZER doing the blue album, made it home on two feet though.
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 20, 2014
Really wanted to get there in time to catch the DUM DUM GIRLS who went on at 3 PM but alas, was not able to make it (got into a fist fight with the light rail operator but the DDG’s they’ll be here later this month anyway). I did walk in on CLUTCH who everyone seemed to love…but me. I hated this wanky boogie rock. But hey, it was ok; I popped my earplugs in and walked over to catch a superb set from the mighty LUCERO who brought the noise most righteously. FACE TO FACE sounded pretty generic to these ears but again I did an about face to the stage directly behind it to catch San Diego’s HOT SNAKES (which includes members of Rocket from the Crypt who stole the show at last year’s Riot Fest Denver) who ground out righteous chunks of guitar mess until my ear plus were reduced to…..nothing. It was then time for THE DESCENDENTS (yup, you got it…another band I had not seen since the ‘80s… 87 to be exact). They played all of MILO GOES TO COLLEGE and a generous dose of other hits (i.e.: “Silly Girl,” “Clean Sheets,” “Get the Time” etc.). Wow……..it was the proverbial cherry on top of the sundae that I was already eating. Wanted to catch at least one song by THE USED by my ears said no…a force was dragging me away back to the Byers General Store Stage to catch SOCIAL DISTORTION who brought out the greaser bros (as always) but hey, I like Social D, they always put on a good set and tonight was no exception. I think I ever heard Mike Ness blurt out “Hinely, you forget your pomade?” in between songs. Oh man, that’s soooo Mike to say that (and gulp, I did). Headliner tonight was THE CURE who I missed but my wife and sister both assured me put on a great set (a two and a half hour one). I ever tell you that Robert Smith stole that hairstyle from me?
SUNDAY- SEPTEMBER 21, 2014
Hit it at 2 PM today (after sleeping until noon and drinking Bosco for breakfast) and caught Philly’s MENZINGERS who were real good in a pop punk sort of way (had not heard them before) and then saw BOB MOULD and company (Jon Wurster and Jason Narducy) crank out a blazing set complete with a handful of Husker Du songs (“Celebrated Summer,” “I Apologize”, etc.). I then wandered over (blindfolded) to the stage where BOUNCING SOULS were playing and while I wanted to like my New Jersey brethren it was not to be and not my cuppa tea so I had to flee. Back over to the May Farms Stage the VIOLENT FEMMES took the stage at 4:15 sharp and Gordon Gano (apparently now Denver resident), Brian Ritchie and the rest o’ the gang played all of the classic first album and then some (including a 7-piece horn section for some songs). They were a blast and I was glad they were on the Riot Fest bill this year. ME FIRST AND THE GIMME GIMMES were on a dinner time and I eschewed the corn dog for a set of punky, spunky covers and if I ever get married again (doubtful) I’ll hire them (hey, they need the work). MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA sound too much like Mahavishnu Orchestra so I blew ‘em off on principle alone (did I make the right choice?) while are 6:45 PM I staggered over to see the DROPKICK MURPHYS (the guys from Boston or something?) who raised folks spirits as high as the Green Monster at Fenway.. I can only go by what pals say of headlining sets by TV ON THE RADIO, RISE AGAINST, THE NATIONAL (yawn) and WU TANG CLAN but by all accounts no one fell asleep, got hurt or passed out.
So Riot Fest 2014 was a success. Hey, I got to do an arm-in-arm stage dive with Peyton Manning during the Descendents set and ate my first ever banana dipped in fake butterscotch (jealous?). I lost all of my clothes and got two black eyes but if Riot Fest comes back to Denver in 2015 (and if I still like music by then) I’ll be there.
PICTURED BELOW: Die Antwoord, Gogol Bordello, NOFX, Flaming Lips, Weezer, Descendents, Social Distortion, The Cure, Violent Femmes, Me First & the Gimme Gimmes, Manchester Orchestra, TV On The Radio, Rise Against and The National.