We enlisted photographer Jordan Altergott to assist us with some coverage from Riot Fest in Denver this year. Check out her photos and what she had to say about her experience at the festival below!
In the months and weeks leading up to Riot Fest, there was a lot of hype, but plenty of people writing off the festival as just a “grown up Warped Tour”. With acts like Ice Cube, Modest Mouse, and Snoop Dogg ending each night, Riot Fest had much more to offer than many gave it credit for. Not only was the lineup engaging and diverse, but it seems that the festival finally chose the perfect location. While the heat and dust made the afternoons a little brutal, The National Western Complex provided the perfect rodeo-like atmosphere while maintaining a close proximity to Denver.
Even though Friday was a shorter day at the festival, the lineup catered to nearly everyone. One of the most engaging acts of the evening was hip hop group, Death Grips. Frontman MC Ride put on an energetic performance that kept the audience engaged with their hip hop and industrial sound. While I was skeptical of Death Grips prior to seeing them live, I immediately understood the excitement surrounding the group.
Later in the evening, I made a point to catch The Hotelier’s set. Being that they were playing indoors many people stumbled upon their set while seeking refuge from the beating sun. Listening to Christian Holden croon the words to “Your Deep Rest” early on in the set grabbed the crowd’s attention and tugged at their heart strings with the melancholy lyrics. For the rest of their performance, all eyes were on them.
The next emotionally charged performance of the day was The Airborne Toxic Event. They opened their set with “All I Ever Wanted” which immediately got the crowd singing along. The Airborne Toxic Event is known for their orchestral influences but there was something truly magical about hearing Anna Bulbrook on viola while the sun created a warm glow on the stage as it began to set.
Unfortunately Motörhead cancelled their set on Friday due to concerns regarding altitude sickness, making the final set I watched that evening was none other than Ice Cube. With the recent release of Straight Outta Compton, Ice Cube’s set was highly anticipated and on the mind of festival-goers throughout the day. Once Ice Cube took the stage, a large screen behind him played scenes from his film to accompany his performance. The energy of the audience was contagious and truly something special.
Saturday was an equally lovely day. Even with a lineup less geared towards hip hop fans, the atmosphere kept vibes of excitement and unity between all the music scenes being represented. One of the first sets I had the pleasure of watching was Bayside. Anthony Raneri is truly something special. His voice sounds nearly identical live making their performance a treat. It was no surprise that they began their set with “Pigsty”, off their 2014 album Cult. This first song definitely set the tone for the entire performance. With countless sing-alongs in the 90-degree heat, the band maintained a very interactive and lively stage presence.
Following Bayside, I was fortunate enough to watch Less Than Jake, GWAR, Cloud Cult, and The Joy Formidable. All of those artists brought something different to the stage, but seeing Joyce Manor in the evening was, without a doubt, a highlight of the day. Joyce Manor played on the smallest of the stages, the Radical Stage, but from what I witnessed, they seemed to draw the biggest crowd to that stage all weekend. Barry Johnson provided plenty of banter about Riot Fest being “their first rodeo” and reminisced about seeing Rancid as a teenager. Their set was a well-balanced group of both new and old songs. They, of course, closed with “Constant Headache” which got even the few people who weren’t singing along yet to join in.
After seeing a few more bands on the larger stages and making a much needed visit to the food trucks, I decided to watch Pixies. When the band walked onto the foggy stage, golden and red lights beamed behind them alerting the crowd that they would be in for a for a magical experience. With the stage only being lit from the back, the set had a mysterious feel to it, perfect for the band. Their iconic music and dreamy light transported everyone into another dimension.
Closing out the night was Modest Mouse. The nine-piece indie-rock band opened with “The World At Large” and prolonged the Pixies’ dreamlike atmosphere with blue and green lights. Four songs into their set, they played the grammy nominated hit, “Float On”. The sound of the crowd singing along to the chorus was audible from the Riot Stage to the ferris wheel. Modest Mouse finished the evening on a very positive note.
Sunday was another hot and dusty day and even though the festival was nearing the end, the crowd seemed very excited and energized. Yelawolf’s performance was definitely energizing, complete with bass strong enough to rock the entire venue and steal the air from your lungs. Even while struggling with delirium tremens, Yelawolf was still able to engage with the crowd and give all he could to his performance. The crowd was very receptive to Yelawolf’s passion and reciprocated the effort.
The most positive performance was that of Andrew W.K. The self proclaimed “Real-Life Party God” performed a light hearted and positive set with a large emphasis of party. It was very evident that Andrew strived to give the audience the greatest escape that he could. Not only was his performance incredibly positive, but he and his live band were lively and captivating. Crowders made there way to the barricade in handfuls as they embraced the party atmosphere that Andrew W.K. creates.
The final act of the very long weekend was Snoop Dogg. The rapper was nearly 20 minutes late to his performance but not even a wait could kill the crowd’s hype. Once he finally stepped on stage, he opened with “Gin and Juice” from his debut album. After that he played various covers and more songs from Doggystyle. He wrapped up a fun weekend full of incredible with artists with none other than “Young, Wild & Free”.
Words and photos by Jordan Altergott.