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Riot Fest Denver 2014 was a blast


Ahhh, the big, national music festival. There was a time when I would have been the first guy to the front of the crowd for something like this, bouncing like a loon. True story number one: in 1996 I took an elbow to the ribs during a Sex Pistols reunion show that made my whole side turn purple, and I wore it like a badge of honor. True story number two: I sprained my ankle something horrible during a Stooges set at an All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Minehead, UK. I was crowd surfing, and the last dude didn’t hold on. These are the scars of youth. At 39, with a toddler and wife attached, I spent Riot Fest chilling in the relative calm of the VIP area, turning my head from left to right as bands played on the various stages. Honestly, it was just as much fun.

I’ll get to the music soon. There was fun to be seen everywhere though – from the olde timey circus sideshow to the many merch stands (the one selling t-shirts proclaiming “I love vagina” was proving very popular). Carnival rides and games, mini golf – Riot Fest has it all. Of course, this being a festival, the food was over-priced and varied greatly in quality. I suspect that my gyro combo platter contained pieces of forgotten emo bands.

But all of that is by the by, because we were all there for the music and, by God, there was a ton of great bands to be seen. Work kept me away on Friday, but my Saturday highlights included Detroit’s We Came As Romans (hard, heavy though very contemporary), Clutch (stoner vets still kick ass), the Descendents (the old punks played the Milo Goes to College album in its entirety), Social Distortion (so many great songs), and The Cure (phenomenal performance from the old goths – Robert Smith has never sounded better).

Sunday saw former Husker Du man Bob Mould roll back the years, the Bouncing Souls quite literally bounce, the Violent Femmes play a crowd-pleasing set filled with oldies, and Me First & the Gimme Gimmes plays a ton of funny punk covers including Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” and John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” I’m told that the Wu-Tang Clan were superb that night, and they could be heard all over Denver.

And that was that. The weather stayed idillic until late Sunday night, and the crowd was great. I didn’t se any idiotic behavior until I left the festival and saw some dudes racing trucks. Can’t wait until next year.


Brett Calwood
Brett Callwood is an English journalist, copy writer, editor and author, currently living and working in Los Angeles. He is the music editor with the LA Weekly. He was previously a reporter at the Longmont Times-Call and Daily Camera, the music editor at the Detroit Metro Times and editor-in-chief at Yellow Scene magazine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brett_Callwood

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