If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a hundred times: Don’t sleep on the first day of Riot Fest. Skip school. Quit your job. Bail on that family vacation. Whatever you have to do, it’s always worth it.
The 2016 edition of this annual punk/rock/metal melee was no exception. Day one kicked with some heavy hitters going hard while a lot of people sat in their cubicles.
Planes Mistaken for Stars
Ten years ago, Planes Mistaken for Stars went quiet, leaving a noticeable hole in the local scene. The band came back a couple years ago and people went bananas, which had to feel good. Now the band has recorded a new album, Prey, and it’s every bit as visceral and introspective as anything Planes has ever done. Prey isn’t out for another month, but Planes’ performance on the opening day of Riot Fest is proof that the band is already back in top form.
Planes is a band best seen in a dark, dank club, but seeing them in the bright early-afternoon Denver sun was, at the very least, an interesting juxtaposition. "Sunny" is not the first word anyone would use to describe frontman Gared O’Donnell’s growled lyrics. Still, the band assaulted the stage with its trademark fury – the sun be damned – and ripped out a set of old favorites and new tunes most people hadn’t yet heard. It was a much-anticipated homecoming that went on into the night as Planes split to go play the Marquis with Against Me!. Welcome home boys.
It’s hard to imagine a band more energetic and all-around joyful than Toronto’s Fucked Up. For the uninitiated, Fucked Up i s a true anomaly. The band has released more hard-to-find singles than you’ve had hot breakfasts, is at times punker than dirt, but also isn’t afraid to get weird. Fucked Up has released songs with something like seventy tracks, recorded a rock opera and endeavored to create elaborate concept albums. The band recorded two versions of its album Glass Boys, each with an entirely different drum track.
Through it all, despite its more creative offerings, Fucked Up has remained true to its roots. As evidence, take singer Pink Eyes’ performance at Riot Fest on Friday. The bald, bearded and clearly high singer wasted no time exiting the stage, leaping first to the large speakers in front of the stage, then to the crowd barrier and beyond. There he remained for much of the band’s thirty-minute slot. He lay among the gathered fans, sharing the microphone with the crowd. Then, complaining that his shiny head was getting burned in the Colorado sun, Pink Eyes got a gift from a fan: a can of spray-on sunblock, which he sprayed on eagerly. Fucked Up’s performance was the perfect example of a band bringing a small-room feel to an enormous festival.
Melodic hardcore is a well-trod style, but every few years a band comes along that perks up the scene’s ears and reignites the genre. In 2009, that band was Touché Amoré. Young, spunky but dead serious about its music, the band burst seemingly out of nowhere, first on the 6131 label, then to hardcore stalwarts Deathwish Inc., then finally onto the genre’s version of a major, Epitaph.
Touché Amoré’s fourth record, Stage Four (due September 16), shows the band trying some new things like the addition of beatific singing to the usual screamed vocals. But Friday’s set at Riot Fest was, for the most part, a sampler of the Touché Amoré everyone knows and loves. Despite what seemed like long tuning breaks between songs, the band kept the crowd’s attention effortlessly. It’s not an easy thing to do in blistering heat, early in the day. Singer Jeremy Bolm stayed energetic, despite the altitude, running the width of the stage nonstop while the crowd sang along. He’s no baby, but it is nice to see younger bands draw a crowd at Riot Fest, which showcases a lot of legacy acts.
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Speaking of legacy acts, there aren’t many bands more rooted in the punk scene than Suicidal Tendencies. This is a band that has been doing its thing for nearly forty years now. That’s crazy when you think about it. Most of the people gathered to see the band’s Riot Fest set on Friday weren’t even born when singer Mike Muir first lamented his inability to get just one Pepsi.
And though he’s clearly had a few sodas (and plenty of junk food, as well), Muir still stalks the stage like a twenty-year-old. The entire band, in fact, has stayed nimble over the decades. It would be easy to dismiss the members of Suicidal Tendencies as aging has-beens, but the truth is that people love them, and they clearly love playing to their fans. Yes, they did all their most-famous songs and didn’t really dig into their more obscure numbers, but that’s not really why you show up for a Suicidal Tendencies show, is it?
Check back here for more Riot Fest coverage as the weekend continues.