Riot Fest Denver 2013 day one (photos, review)By Ricardo Baca | September 22nd, 2013 | No Comments »
When you think of the individuals alone who occupied Riot Fest Denver stages on Saturday, itâs a tidal wave of personality.
Iggy Pop. Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson. John Reis. Robert Pollard. Laura Jane Grace (formerly Thomas James Gabel). Mac McCaughan. Davey Havok. Jake Snider.
The music at Riot Fest Denverâs much-anticipated debut was top-notch on Saturday. The above names, with the help of their respective bands, provided a diverse collection of music that had its many central themes, the most obvious of which would be punk rock.
Yes, punk is alive and well in Byers, the site (an hour east of downtown Denver) of the traveling festivalâs first Colorado stop. The festival continues on Sept. 22 with headliners blink-182, AWOLNATION and Rancid and tastemakers DeVotchKa, Naked Raygun and Public Enemy.
Regardless of how you look at the festival, Saturday was for the old punks. The most-used word on the festival grounds: âReplacements.â The influential college rock band from the Midwest had reunited for three shows at Riot Fest Toronto, Riot Fest Chicago and Riot Fest Denver, and the bandâs surprisingly faithful, seemingly sober takes on its decades-old songs were both fun and nostalgic.
As they wound down their set, making way to a climactic closing that had the iconic âCanât Hardly Waitâ leading into the rebel yell of âBastards of Young,â Westerberg, Stinson and their replacement Replacements had the fans whipped into a glassy-eyed frenzy. That said, it wasnât the moment many âMats fans had hoped for. Sure, itâs a check off the life list, but it wasnât all it couldâve been.
Weâre giving the Replacement their own full-length review here, so check that out as we recount a few of our other favorite Riot Fest Denver moments from Saturday.
The Freak: Overheard seconds before the Stooges hit the stage: âI wonder if heâs going to come out without a shirt.â Of course he did, looking as sinewy and lizard-like as youâd expect. The 66-year-old proto-punk ran across the stage with the energy of someone one-third his age, and the Stooges (or whatâs left of the band, which lost Ron Asheton in 2009) were his anchored rock. âI Wanna Be Your Dogâ and âThe Passengerâ made for good sing-along fun, but the stage lighting didnât help the audience feel Popâs presence. As he creeped along the stageâs apron, an unlit area, it was increasingly frustrating to not be able to see the punk and garage legend.
The Surprise: Music festivals should always be a place of discovery, right? This is where I go on the record as a new Brand New fan. Iâd heard the bandâs records and dismissed them before. But seeing them live â from atop a Ferris wheel, no less â gave me a new respect for the band. They have a fun, lively grasp on pop music, and it really translates live. When we got off the festival’s Ferris wheel, we bum-rushed the stage to catch more.
The Unsung Legend: Itâs always a treat to see John Reis and his best-known project Rocket From the Crypt, especially when they come back from the dead with âStraight American Slaveâ on their setlist. The Rocket reunion wasnât as big as the Replacements reunion, but both bands deserve props for unflinchingly carrying the torch of unabashed rock. Rocket drew a large crowd at their sunset spot in the schedule â which made for the dayâs best Instagrams â and they didnât disappoint. The man behind Rocket, Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes and the Night Marchers took the stage with a confidence and style that has become his trademark, and their loud set was one of the dayâs best.
The Sun-In-My-Eyes Blues: Iâm sure the organizers at Riot Fest Denver had tens of necessary reasons for positioning all three stages on the western border of the imprint, against the sunâs long decline. And to their credit, the set-up of the festival area is great: Very walkable and with not a lot of bleed from stage to stage. But from Superchunk and the Dismemberment Plan to Guided By Voices and Against Me!, it got old looking into the sun for every afternoon band, without a break. As GBV played against a very bright, very hot afternoon (better than the alternative, yes), it was certainly reminiscent of Coachellaâs hottest daytime sets and how sometimes that very heated weather isnât always ideal for seeing live music.
The Surprisingly Melodic Respite: We chose AFI over the Airborne Toxic Event for the third-to-last slot of the night. It ended up being a nice bridge from the dayâs intense sunshine and loud rock to the nightâs more mature finish. (And yeah, I just called Iggy Pop âmature.â) As AFI frontman Havok and his band moved confidently from âGirlâs Not Greyâ to âLove Like Winterâ to a new song or two from âBurials,â out next month, the fans went with them. And when Havok shouted out, âIâd like to say that it is such an honor to share the stage with the fucking Replacementsâ and jumped into a spot-on cover of the Cureâs âJust Like Heaven,â it made for a beautiful festival moment.
Seth A. McConnell is a staff photographer for the YourHub section of the Denver Post and is a regular contributor to Reverb.