Originally scheduled to take place at May Farms in Byers, Colorado, this year’s Riot Fest moved its location to the Mile High City. Last year’s Riot Fest brought over 13,000 fans to the rural town of Byers in Arapahoe County. After the permit was revoked earlier this year, the event organizers quickly booked the parking lot of Sports Authority Field at Mile High to hold the 2014 Riot Fest in Denver, Colorado. Each of the three main stages was named after the rural town of Byers, reminiscent of the previous festivals. The festival was filled with popular carnival attractions, including rides, food trucks and games. Hay stacks and grass patches were scattered throughout the festival to provide farm-style seating and lounging.
This year marked a big change for New Found Glory after their lead guitarist, Steve Klein, left the band last December. As the sun went down on the first night of Riot Fest, the band began their set with their pop punk hit, “Catalyst.” New Found Glory also played a brand new track titled “Selfless” which will debut next month on their upcoming album, “Resurrection.”
NOFX attracted a very large and diverse crowd to the Byers Country Feed Stage. As per their usual antics, NOFX wasted no time poking fun at other bands performing at the festival — suggesting that New Found Glory’s giant banner was over-compensating in comparison to their own small, crooked NOFX banner. The band played a variety of songs from its impressive thirty-year discography, including their newest album, “Self Entitled”.
The Flaming Lips put on an amazing visual performance at the May Farms Stage which created an ominous feeling in the atmosphere. Half way through the set, as the crowd watching the end of NOFX migrated over, one of the vocalists walked across the hands of the crowd in a giant plastic bubble creating an impressive silhouette of the singer inside. The powerful mood of this set was enhanced when the crowd sang along in harmony to their number one hit, “Do You Realize??”
As the evening progressed, hundreds of rock fists could be seen pounding the stars to the fast-tempo beat of Slayer’s thrash metal. One die-hard fan raised his crutches high above the crowd in support of the band’s hour-long performance. While the band may have drew a larger crowd if Primus hadn’t been scheduled for the same time slot, lead singer and bassist, Tom Araya, pleased the audience with his iconic guitar licks and violent lyrics.
Starting promptly at 10:45pm, Weezer was certainly the most anticipated band of the evening. Shortly after Weezer performed their newest song, “Back to the Shack,” Rivers Cuomo — lead singer and guitarist — announced that the band would spend the rest of the evening playing their debut album from 1994, known as “The Blue Album”. Weezer finished off the first night of Riot Fest with an outstanding performance leaving the crowd wanting more.
Saturday marked the second day of Riot Fest 2014 in Denver, Colorado bringing with it an incredible lineup of artists, food vendors and carnival attractions. With over 28 different bands performing, the twelve-hour event offered a variety of music spanning across several decades of rock. While the majority of fans gathered around the main stages, the top of the carnival’s ferris wheel certainly offered the best view of the festival.
A few mosh pits formed throughout the sea of fans during Taking Back Sunday’s 45 minute set on Saturday evening. The band played many of their earlier hits, as well as newer songs such as “Flicker, Fade” from their 2014 album, Happiness Is. The performance was not without its share of lead singer Adam Lazzara’s iconic microphone moves — including swinging the mic chord around his neck like a noose. Taking Back Sunday has seen many of its members come and go since its formation in 1999, however; the group’s classic hardcore rock sounds combined with elements of pop remained flawless during the show.
Just after dark, dozens of stacked, broken television screens lit up the Byers Country Feed Stage announcing the start of The Used’s set. The group’s rock music could be classified under a variety of sub-genres, most commonly considered to be alternative post-hardcore rock with screamo components. The Used played some songs from their fifth album, “Vulnerable,” which was influenced by hip-hop with minor drum and bass sounds while showing off a track from their newest album, Imaginary Enemy.”
Pioneers for the 1980’s punk rock movement in Orange County, California; Social Distortion’s influential music graced the ears of thousands of fans at Saturday night’s Riot Fest. Social Distortion’s lead singer and guitarist, Mike Ness, kept his energy flowing throughout the set while the audience rocked on in appreciation. The band played many classic songs including one of their most widely known, “Story of My Life,” featuring Ness’s distinctive rockabilly lyrics.
With what may have been the loudest set of the evening, A Day to Remember was a hard show to miss. The band’s songs blasted the crowd with metalcore and pop punk musical styles most commonly described by fans as ‘pop mosh’. A Day to Remember’s post-hardcore music inspired the crowd to mosh and thrash around to the beat. The pop punk sounds were prominently heard in Jeremy McKinnon’s vocals during the chorus of most songs.
The Cure captivated the largest audience so far at this year’s Riot Fest. The group’s performance was also much longer than most bands at the festival with a scheduled set lasting two hours and thirty minutes.. A large number of The Cure’s songs contained musical elements best classified as Gothic rock, however; Robert Smith, lead guitarist, vocalist and bassist, has commonly rejected this classification. The band pulled together a memorable show that contained greatest hits and fan favorites including “Pictures of You,” “Fascination Street,” “In Between Days,” “Close to You” and “Lullaby” that held even the most casual fans interest. For the few left un-charmed, it served as an early getaway to escape the exit rush, the band kept the festival bumping all the way up to its midnight curfew.
The year’s final day of Riot Fest 2014 was jam-packed with must-see acts from a variety of artists. The warm weather stuck around for most of the afternoon until just after dark when the rain began to come down. Fortunately, a little bit of rain couldn’t stop this festival from going out with a bang.
3OH!3’s set on the Byers Country Feed Stage was certainly one of the more entertaining performances at this year’s Riot Fest. The electronic music and rap duo is named after the 303 area code of Boulder, Colorado where both members were born and raised. Sean Foreman and Nathaniel Motte, known for their humorous lyrics, racy jokes and live concerts, gave a very powerful performance on Sunday evening. The duo really connected to the audience keeping everyone engaged with their songs and antics throughout the entire set. The crowd bounced around in appreciation of 30H!3’s hits, including “DONTTRUSTME,” “My First Kiss” and their newest single from 2013, “Back to Life.”
While Manchester Orchestra’s original bassist, Jonathan Corley, left the band last year, his replacement, Andy Prince, seemed to fill his shoes rather well at Sunday’s show. The indie rock band, led by Andy Hull, delighted the audience with their musical ensemble, including drums, keyboard, guitar, percussion and vocals. The group’s distinctive head bangs throughout their performance inspired the audience to bob along in support of the group’s musical talent. Manchester Orchestra squeezed a couple songs into the set from their newest album, “Cope.”
The sounds of Celtic folk and hardcore punk could be heard throughout the festival as the Dropkick Murphys played their hearts out on the Byers General Store Stage. The sounds created by lead singer and bassist, Ken Casey, were influenced by old Irish music that the group was exposed to while growing up in Boston, Massachusetts. The band played a wide-variety of songs from their impressive discography, as well as a couple songs from their 2013 album, SIGNED and SEALED in BLOOD.
A thin cloud of herbal smoke hovered above the heads of the crowd at Byers Country Feed Stage during Sublime with Rome’s hour-long set. Raindrops began to fall through the hazy gathering as the ska punk and alternative rock sounds of Sublime with Rome filled the ears of the audience. While the lineup only consists of one original Sublime member, Eric Wilson, the group managed to recreate the classic sounds of Sublime. Vocalist and guitarist, Rome Ramirez, performed the most popular Sublime hits, such as “Badfish,” “Santeria” and “What I Got.” The group also played hits from their newest Yours Truly album, including “Take It Or Leave It.”
Rise Against gave Riot Fest 2014 an unforgettable performance. The rain was already pouring by the time the group started their set — but this didn’t discourage the fans from jumping to the music. Lead singer and guitarist, Tim Mcllarth, complemented the Denver audience for not being scared by a little rain. The group blasted their hardcore punk rock beats to the enjoyment of the rain-soaked crowd. The band’s 2004 hit, “Swing Life Away,” received the largest positive response as the audience sang along to every lyric.
Wu-Tang Clan held the last concert of the festival at the same time as The National. Many fans were making their way out of festival as the rain continued to pour down. The soothing hip-hop beats of Wu-Tang’s most popular song, “C.R.E.A.M.,” brought warmth to the shivering audience as the final hour of Riot Fest 2014 came to an end.
Photos by Todd Radunsky