Finality is a rather fickle thing. While many are ready for the final day of Riot Fest 2016 to end so they can spend the next week recovering from the heat, booze, dust, and endless music, the realization of another year until the next Riot Fest in Denver, Colorado is a hard pill to swallow. Closing out Sunday, September 4th, many filter into the venue with an almost Zombie impression burned into their face, but it does not take much more than the first set of music to start to liven the fans up. That said, audiences were treated to a remarkable set by Jane’s Addiction, the imaginative minds of Ween, and a hell of a reunion from Thursday in the days prior, however, nothing could prepare anyone for the shows in store for Day 3. Keeping with the spirit of unpredictable sounds, Riot Fest stacked Day 3 with more insanity than the Kardashians without their daily meds. No matter one’s poison, this festival was ready to deliver with the crunching Industrial sounds of 3Teeth, or the mind-blowing energy of Tyler, The Creator, and of course an ending that defied any rules with the reunion of the legendary Misfits. This was going to be one day that no one was going to forget.
With so much ready to unfold, at 12:30 PM, over at the Riot Stage, 3Teeth were ready to begin. Though it can be said that all musical genres are generally suffering from a lack of truly gifted and original artists in this day and age, Industrial would seem to be one that is suffering the most. Well, do not tell that to Los Angeles export 3Teeth, who’s not only refusing to accept defeat, on the contrary, they have come to rescue the genre with their carefully crafted bludgeoning sound. Formed in 2014 and with two albums to date, 2014’s self-titled release and 2017’s forthcoming release, <shutdown.exe>, their sound is a fresh take to a staple sound from the ’90s. For all who worried “who would help carry the torch?” fear not, 3Teeth has arrived, and they are not here to play nice.
While the only negative aspect to 3Teeth’s set was the glaring sun and mid-day set time, the band did not shy away from getting things kicked off with the bombastic sound of their track “Nihil.” While programming and samples brought a very strong residual memory to music by Frontline Assembly and old Ministry, the band carved an essence of their own with the sheer unforgiving shredding of Guitarist Chase Brawner, unrelenting blasting drums of Andrew Means, intricate keyboard work by Xavier Swafford, and of course unique vocals and presence of frontman Alexis Mincolla. If their intoxicating air is not apparent enough, all one had to do was look into a strong crowd that featured several Goth kids and their umbrellas to block that repulsive sun. Rule one of Goth/Industrial music is, if you manage to get the paled skin crowd to your stage in broad daylight, well that band has officially put the scene on notice to check them out. With gritty tracks like “Dust” and “Pearls 2 Swine,” this band will infect any audience’s senses with ease. This is a band to not miss, no matter the time slot they are given.
Juliette Lewis and The Licks
Meanwhile, the Roots Stage was right next to the Riot Stage and offered no better shade from the day’s only climbing heat. Anyone that has caught a taste of the musical ferocity of Juliette Lewis knows the torture was all too worth it. While big name actors/actresses are no strangers to delving into the music industry, most fail to make even a remote impression, and then there is Juliette Lewis, who after one listen shows why she is one of the few who were born to hold down both roles. Since their debut release in 2004, entitled …Like a Bolt of Lightning, Juliette Lewis and The Licks have established themselves as unpredictable and untamable. Only fitting that a band who truly defies the odds would be on one of music’s most unpredictable festivals.
Kicking off her set at 1 PM with the track “American Boy,” the coursing Rock meets Blues feel is enough to draw in the audience like a fever. Juliette Lewis’ voice is something of a rarity. As the late great Janis Joplin was one of the most charismatic and commanding female vocalists to ever grace the stage, a new successor has been found. Lewis’ presence was intense and chock-full of attitude that would give even Johnny Rotten a run for his money. The band’s chemistry and sound only furthered the cause in getting audiences in full-swing, hooked instantly. The short set was only further perfected with covers of Led Zeppelin’s classic “Whole Lotta Love” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s staple song “Proud Mary.” This band establish their sound, but with great ease demonstrate their grounding in the true foundational music of Rock-n-Roll.
Murder by Death
Remaining at the Root Stage, hailing from Bloomington, Indiana, at approximately 2 PM, Murder by Death was a rare treat for the true music fan. While many would be quick to label the band as a Indie Rock band, nothing could be further from the truth. Their sound is a resonant and hypnotic sound unlike any heard anywhere else. From their 2002 debut release, Like The Exorcist, but More Breakdancing, to their 2015 release, Big Dark Love, Murder by Death have been bringing together essences of Rock, Folk, Classical, and overall experimentalism for the masses defying the need to add formula and pigeonholing that so many suffer from.
While 3Teeth and Juliette Lewis and The Licks proceeded to kick their audience’s asses with more fast-paced/in-your-face approach, Murder by Death took the risk and slowed things down a bit with their set. Their Rock influences bled through with conviction while the addition of a cello only served to grab the crowd and throw them into an instant trance with little to no resistance. Unlike so many bands on the festival’s roster, Murder by Death did not spend too much time making spoken statements. Rather, they let their own music do all the talking for them. While many from the Metal and Punk genres may have not heard of this five piece band, it was apparent they made new fans with no resistance.
Moving back over to the Riot Stage, just before the 3 PM hour, Hatebreed was ready to pulverize. Since 1994, Jamey Jasta has been leading his band Hatebreed into a role of Metal titans. While Pantera may be a memory, Metallica and Slayer riding towards a final curtain call, Hatebreed would appear to only be getting started in writing their history in the pantheons of Metal history. Since their 1997 debut album, Satisfaction is the Death of Desire, Jasta and company have garnered not only a steady legion of loyal fans, but also the utmost respect of every band in the industry. Having toured with bands like Slayer and Five Finger Death Punch, as well as Jasta’s own stunt of hosting one of Metal’s best shows, Headbanger’s Ball, Hatebreed has laid stake to being a true torchbearer in its genre.
While many were reeling from the heat and hunger, Hatebreed made all in attendance forget quickly their gripes and get ready to mosh with a mission. Granted a 45 minute set, Hatebreed got to work fast, sending their fans into an all-out frenzy. As far as the eye could see, there was nothing but an ocean of banging heads and full-on circle pits. If Murder by Death was there to sooth the beast in the crowd, Hatebreed was there not only to awaken it, but feed the fuck out of it with a dose of unrelenting brutality. Armed with not only material from their first album to get their old school fans riled into a frenzy, the real treat came with tracks from their newest release, 2016’s The Concrete Confessional. Granted the 2016 release is one of their best to date, seeing the material live only solidifies it as one of this year’s best albums.
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
Not all bands on this year’s bill are of the serious variety as Me First and the Gimme Gimmes hit the Riot Stage around 4:30 PM, bringing a fun set. Formed in 1995, it should be no surprise that one of Punk’s most light-hearted artists helped bring it together, Fat Mike of NOFX. The band’s core members are no freshmen to the Punk scene, featuring veterans Spike Slawson (vocals), Joey Cape (guitar), Dave Raun (drums), and Jackson (guitar). Their spin on covers from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s offer not only a refreshing take on classics, but a comical stage show of insults and sarcasm unmatched by many.
One would ask, “How the hell does a group of Punks take a chance on playing John Denver covers?” The answer is actually rather simple, because they can and because they do not need to explain themselves. Play John Denver is exactly what they did as they kicked off their set with “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” For once, it was not about mosh pits, political messages, or even Horror imagery, but just about having a damn good time. By the reactions from crowd-surfers and audience alike, the mission was accomplished. The highlight, however, came when the band started playing the Barry Mann 1961 hit “Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp).” Not only was the band out of their mind, but the audience’s attempt to keep up with fast-paced track would serve as a treasured memory for all. If someone is searching for the ultimate party band who never take themselves too seriously, search no further as Me First and the Gimme Gimmes will deliver.
Hawaii; known for beautiful beaches, Hula dancers, and damn-good mixed drinks, also has brought another unique export, Funk-infused Rock band Pepper. Hitting the Roots Stage at around 5:30 PM, Pepper has been putting their own spin on a blend of Reggae, Ska, and Dub since 1996. Unlike so many in the industry, they did not need a band of almost 10 members, they only needed three. Their fan base grew quickly within three years, pushing the band to sign with Volcom Entertainment and putting together one of the funkiest debut albums, entitled Give’n It. That was all it took as the band quickly followed with a apot on Warp Tour in 2001. Ever since that moment, the band became a force with endless touring and six more releases under their belt.
It did not take long for the audience to get into a full-blown party mode with Pepper’s infectious grooves. Kaleo Wassman’s energetic and coursing guitar work was on full display, while Bret Bollinger’s sharp and groove-filled bass lines got everyone’s hips moving, topped off with the unrelenting drum beats of Yesod Williams on drums. No matter if some listeners are more into Reggae or Ska, this is a band not to be missed as they will quickly earn the title of the soundtrack to the most outrageous parties.
One Punk group that needs no introduction should be none other than pioneers Bad Religion. Coming to the Riot Stage at 6:30 PM, Bad Religion formed in 1979. This band has been churning out Punk classics and raising hell since before a lot of the audience at Riot Fest were even born. Their first major release, 1982’s How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, offered a fresh perspective that in large part helped keep the underground Punk scene alive. While Post-Punk was on the rise, Bad Religion was quietly influencing a whole new generation of Punks, including one small band called Nirvana. While so many bands out there get to a point in their career where they slow down, Bad Religion has long since made it clear they have no interest in that trend as they have released sixteen albums to date, last one being 2013’s True North. Many say Punk is the fountain of youth, and Bad Religion obviously has it on tap.
The band launched into their first song, “Generator,” with a fast-paced and uncompromising style. It was clear from that moment their legion of fans were not just your everyday fan, but rather almost a cult. Sticking with their more ’90s catalogue, the band played the title track from 1994’s Stranger than Fiction as the crowd belted every word to a degree that it can be assumed registered on the Richter scale. As the band churned through their vast catalogue, oceans of people began to crowd-surf, desperately trying to get the band’s attention, maybe to point out they could sing every word just as well. The band closed out with a song, that in this day and age of war and fucked politics, all should take to heart; a song that while it does point out the insanity of the times, it offers a plea for all to do better. The song of course is “Sorrow,” from 2002’s The Process of Belief. Those who have not seen Bad Religion before better hurry before the Punk brigade comes for your freak license.
Tyler , The Creator
Moving along, at 7 PM, it was time for Tyler, The Creator over at the Rock Stage. A jack of all trades is one way to describe the talents of one Tyler, The Creator. Hailing from the West Coast, Tyler, The Creator has not taken long in making his name known. While Tyler branched out on his own, it was clear simply from his work with the Hip Hop juggernaut known as Odd Future. While he helped found the group, he also took on the role of designing the group’s clothing and merch. In 2011, Tyler made a new name for himself as he unleashed his debut, Goblin, making his own individual talents known. While Goblin served as Tyler’s announcement of arrival, his second release in 2013, called Wolf, only solidified his place in music.
As Tyler hit the stage with some of the most intense energy seen on the festival so far, he was not impressed with the crowd’s reaction. Calling out the audience for essentially not doing anything, he exited stage right and challenging the fans to get “stupid” with him when he got back on the stage. Get stupid is exactly what the crowd did as Tyler again launched himself on the stage with more energy than Tony Montana in the ending scenes of Scarface, well, minus the violence. He had the audience in sheer hysterics with arms in the air and bodies leaving the ground. It does not matter if one is into the Hip Hop scene or not. Just for the sheer energy Tyler offered, this is one act, if given a chance, one must see.
With the night wearing on, at around 7:30 PM, everyone headed over to the Roots Stage for the one and only Gogol Bordello. Punk and Gypsy are two words that should pretty much be considered synonymous of each other. If one needs a perfect example of how this is possible, they would just need to listen to the music of Gogol Bordello. Their blend of fast-paced Eastern European Gypsy styling, Punk attitude, and pure unadulterated humor, Gogol Bordello has made themselves known to be the band you never miss live. Since their 1999 debut album, Viola Intruder, the band has proven to be an entity of their own. While even the Irish Punk scene is completely overrun with different acts from The Pogues to Dropkick Murphys, Gogol Bordello has always been, and most likely will be, the only ones with enough class to pull of their unique style of Punk. Their notoriety has grown to an insane level, having garnered the attention of bands such as Primus and even touring with Faith No More on their latest North American Reunion tour. That said, buckle in, this is one unforgettable ride.
While Gogol Bordello have played Riot Fest before in 2014, they outdid themselves, bringing in more members, which only leads to more insanity on stage. While their crowd was rowdy, yet large in 2014, it had nearly tripled in 2016, and the band was more than happy to return the favor with their set. This band was more wired than a coke-head at a rave, using every inch of the stage to deliver a show full of antics and comedy. One unique aspect that can be said for Gogol Bordello is while founder Eugene Hutz is the frontman, every band member, in one shape or another, took center stage and rallied fans to get louder and more wild. Simply put, this is one band that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
All in all a fantastic and diverse closing day of music at Riot Fest 2016 in Denver, there was no doubt everyone was anticipating the unforeseen reunion of The Misfits with Glenn Danzig. Thankfully, this did not overshadow any of the other acts performing that day, but was merely an icing on an oh-so-sweet cake of musical mayhem.