Why You Should Have Left Work Early to Get to Riot Fest

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Sure, it’s probably smart to pace yourself when staring down the barrel of a three-day festival that goes until the wee hours. But Riot Fest gets going early, and people showing up late to see System of  Down or Ice Cube missed a lot of the fantastic day-one sets. Here are five of the great acts that latecomers missed out on.
American Nightmare
The last time I saw American Nightmare in Colorado was in 2001, at Tulagi on the Hill in Boulder. Anybody who was there will never forget this show, and not because it featured Converge, the Hope Conspiracy and Colorado’s own Planes Mistaken for Stars. About halfway through the show, a riot broke out on the Hill and police let loose the tear gas. It seeped into the building and started burning everyone’s eyes and throats. This time around, AN played to a small, early-day crowd, but the air was as crisp and clear as it gets at the National Western Complex. Despite the low turnout, AN played with the ferocity it’s known for. We just hope it’s not a decade and a half before they make it back next time.
Benjamin Booker
If you think it takes six guys and a truckload of equipment to get things moving at Riot Fest, then you haven’t seen Benjamin Booker. The blues/boogie guitarist and singer, with the aid of a drummer, makes as much noise as most bands triple his size. And to think he wanted to be a music journalist when he was in college. You made the right choice, Benjamin. If you ever want to trade jobs for a while, let me know.
De La Soul
If you’d told me back in 1989 that I’d one day be standing in a nearly empty parking lot waiting for De La Soul to play in ten minutes, I would have said you were crazy. It’s hard to overstate how absolutely huge the group’s debut album 3 Feet High and Rising was when it came out. No one had heard rap music delivered with such eloquence and style (it was named one of the 100 best rap albums of all time by The Source in 1998). Riot Fast early comers were treated to a fun, casual but beautiful set by the seminal hip-hop group Friday. It was certainly worth missing work for. So where were you?
The Get Up Kids
Right about the time pop-punk and emo were becoming household names back in the ‘90s the Get Up Kids had the foresight to jam the two genres together to make something very few people could resist bopping their head to. It’s not especially cerebral or heartachey, just the perfect mix of both. The people who got to Riot Fest got a nice pre-dinner show in the sunshine.
I know what you’re thinking: Testament? Yeah idiot, fucking Testament! You haven’t been in a pit until you’ve been in these guys’ pit. Hell, they wrote a song about moshing (“Into the Pit”) before most of you were born. They’re not the youngest guys on the Riot Fest bill by a long shot, but Testament put on one of the most blazing sets of the day Friday, with a mosh pit so big and ferocious it raised a thick cloud of dust over the scene. 

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.