Riot Fest Denver was very well put together. The good things far outweighed the bad. In fact, any complaints we might have are incidental and barely worth mentioning, or they're inherent to the location or simply beyond organizers control. The lineup was obviously the best thing about Riot Fest Denver, but there was plenty else to love. Continue on for the best of Riot Fest Denver.
THE SETUP Completely easy to navigate with vendors on the north end of the grounds and a trio of stages set up parallel to each other on the south end, divided by carnival rides and games sprinkled throughout, it was surprisingly easy to make your way around Riot Fest.
THE SOUND Outdoor mixes are hit or miss, mostly miss. Sound is often marred by phasing generated by wind gusts or the mix just isn't very satisfying; the lows are too low, or the guitars are thin, or the mixes are muddy. While the mix was a little shrill and piercing during Airborne Toxic Event's set on the Rock Stage and there was some slapback happening here and there, to our ears, the sound was otherwise pretty solid, better than a lot of outdoor shows of this scale that we've seen. Word has it that organizers trucked in their own gear from Chicago, and if true, the added expense was worth it.
THE FREE WATER Being cognizant of the dangers of dehydration, particularly among countless consumers imbibing, the first-aid tent took active steps to mitigate cases of heat exhaustion by handing out free bottles of water. Although the supply ran out sometime around five or six o'clock, the gesture in itself was noteworthy and appreciated.
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THE LOCAL LOVE FROM STAGE From the Dear Hunter giving props to KTCL for being the first station to play them ("I never thought I'd be saying this, but this next song you might've heard on the radio"), to the Dismemberment Plan talking about the time it played the Climax Lounge, to the Replacements talking about buying their shirts at Rockmont to then taking a poke at a perennially popular local jam-band ("My time here...I hope I get some quality time with the String Cheese Incident"), Riot Fest Denver didn't feel like just another tour stop.
THE VARIETY OF FOOD OPTIONS While there was no shortage of greasy, stomach-taunting carnival cuisine to be had, there was also a large variety of options available, for both carnivores and non-carnivores alike, from an array of local vendors, and it was all fairly reasonably priced.
THE CHEAP SMOKES Say what you will about smoking. While some find the habit loathsome, there's just as many for whom it is a necessity. That said, as any smoker can tell you the most sought-after, scarce and thus coveted item at an all-day, outdoor fiesta like this is cigarettes. As the day wears on, invariably the supply runs out, and there's generally no place to replenish it. So everybody resorts to bumming them (or offering to buy them) off of each other. No need here, thanks to Marlboro Black Lounge, which after signing over the rights to your first-born child, you could purchase a pack of smokes for one dollar.
THE ENDLESS DISTRACTIONS The carnival rides and games proved to be great time-killers in between bands or if you got bored. Ditto the high-flying lucha libre dudes, who were totally fun to watch -- though, truth be told, they weren't nearly as entertaining as watching random people from the crowd sneak up when ring was unattended to try their hand at body-slamming one another. "Girls are weak," said one shirtless hombre to a young lass with a wink in his voice just before being flung to the ground -- by a girl. Add to that a freakshow in which a dude lays on the blades of a machete while a lady friend stands on top of him, and it just doesn't get much better.
THE STUFFED-ANIMAL SIGHTINGS Speaking of carnival distractions, it would pretty humorous seeing people walking around with the oversized stuffed-animals they'd won, be it giant Gizmos, the little yellow dudes from Despicable Me, or gianormous giraffes. Favorite instance: Seeing a gal walking and carrying a stuffed raccoon on her shoulders, while saying to her friends, "I feel like a gangster."
THE UNCONDITIONAL LOVE Last year, the singer formerly known as Tom Gabel began identifying publicly as Laura Jane Grace. After making a name and earning a legion of fans fronting Against Me!, Grace decided it was time to be true to herself and live the life she felt she was always meant to. And while this decision might've seem controversial to some people, none of those people seemed to be at Riot Fest. Refreshingly, Grace and company were met with the same warm enthusiasm they've always received. The appearance is slightly different, but the voice is exactly the same, and it's as powerful as ever.
THE KODAK-WORTHY MOMENTS There were some memorable snapshots. During Against Me!'s set, for instance, a dude made his way through the crowd completely unencumbered wearing a shirt that read, "Fuck Your Tattoos" -- in a crowd full of inked up people. Nobody batted an eye. During that same set, a dad was seen holding up his son, a lad almost as big as him, so he could a better look at the band. Hearts were warmed.