Riot Fest Unforgettable Opening Day Denver, CO 9-2-16

Riot Fest Unforgettable Opening Day Denver, CO 9-2-16

In life, there is a plethora of “annual” events which most of the public mark on their calendars. Birthdays, anniversaries, and even annual checkups come to mind for most. However, for those who attend Riot Fest in either Denver, Colorado or Chicago, Illinois, the event holds a more exciting and unpredictable presence on the calendar.With birthdays, there are the tedious dangers of overspending and getting the wrong gift, leading to a year in the dog house. Anniversaries hold the same dangers and generally the same repercussions. This leaves annual checkups, which has an individual having their “no no” zones poked and prodded with no dinner, soft sensual music, or mood lighting to quell the anxiety.

Luckily for the fortunate attendees of the yearly festival, Riot Fest brings out a series of diverse artists, historical band reunions, more food and booze than even Andre the Giant could handle, and an overall experience no other festival in the US can compare to. Every year brings a more thrilling festival than the year before; 2016 being no exception with the revelation of legendary Punk outfit The Misfits reuniting.

Hell may have very well frozen over with the confirmation that Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein, Jerry Only, and Glenn Danzig would share the stage for the first time in 33 years. In traditional fashion, Riot Fest offered one of the most diverse lineups one can find in a festival in Denver the weekend of Friday, September 2nd; Saturday the 3rd; and Sunday the 4th. Everything from the Industrial overtones of 3 Teeth, the Blues/Rock edge of Juliette Lewis, the unquestioned brutality of Hatebreed, Alternative cornerstone Jane’s Addiction, and even the influential Hip Hop of NAS, Riot Fest was serving notice to all three days of musical history.

With nearly eighty acts scheduled to perform, it merely solidifies that those annual calendar markers previously mentioned can usually be solved with a simple three day pass to Riot Fest. Well, except the annual checkup; unfortunately, not much can make that any less awkward. Nonetheless, Riot Fest’s opening day was the perfect antidote for a Labor Day weekend celebration of music.


A band that surely needs no introduction would be Riot Fest veterans NOFX, who hit Nicole Hoffman Stage at 6:30 PM. Hailing from Los Angeles, NOFX has helped usher Punk Rock into the “slime” light since 1983 with their brash, sarcastic, and fast-paced/light-hearted brand. For those fortunate enough to have caught them at Riot Fest in 2014, they had the privilege of watching the band course through 1994’s landmark album, Punk in Drublic, only helping to build anticipation to the band’s appearance in 2016.

NOFX strutted and danced their way onto the stage, in a fashion that they could only pull off, to the theme of Rocky Horror Picture Show’s “Time Warp,” already working their fan base into an utter frenzy. Kicking off their set, NOFX continued the pandemonium with the track “60%,” from their 2006 release, Wolves in Wolves Clothing. The crowd was completely in sync with Fat Mike on vocals and bass, while coursing to the soundtrack laid by El Hefe (guitar), Eric Melvin (guitar), and blasting drums of Erik Sandin to tracks such as “Fuck the Kids,” “Linoleum,” and “Idiots are Taking Over.” As the band coursed through their musical history, a sentiment comes to mind that one simply cannot have a Punk festival without NOFX.


Meanwhile, at approximately 7 PM, Riot Fest spectators were getting ready for Thursday over at the Rock Stage. Few bands impacted the Post Hardcore scene like New Jersey export Thursday. Since their freshman release of 1999’s Waiting, it was evident the only thing more diverse than their influences (i.e. Van Morrison, Tom Waits, and Genesis) would be their fresh sound. Sadly, after almost a ten year reign with albums such as 2001’s Full Collapse, 2006’s A City by the Light Divided, and 2011’s No Devolucion, the band called it quits. Fast forward to 2016 and one simple photo on Twitter managed to spark a frenzy amongst fans that the band was returning. For those in attendance in Denver, the rumors bore fruit with the band playing their first show together in about five years.

Getting the nostalgia started properly, the band began the set with their crushing first song from 2003’s War All the Time, entitled “For the Workforce, Drowning,” a fitting closing to the work week for many. From there, it did not take long for Singer Geoff Rickly to make his presence known, jumping towards the crowd to sing in unison with them to 2001’s “A Hole in the World.” Of course, other long-time favorites such as “Cross Out the Eyes,” “Counting 5-4-3-2-1,” as well as “Understanding in a Car Crash” dressed the band’s epic return. For fans of Thursday, this was a monumental appearance, and one can only hope that this will bring new material from a band long missed.

Death Cab for Cutie

Keeping the excitement high among four stages of Riot Fest, at around 7:35 PM, Death Cab for Cutie took over the Roots Stage. While being labeled as Indie Rock or Indie Pop for most of their career, Death Cab For Cutie has continuously strung together a sound which may have traces of such categories, yet has been far more diverse then credited. Their influence and genius has been on full display since their 1997 demo tape, You Can Play These Songs With Chords, which, till this day, surprises the most brilliant music aficionados that all the work done on the album was that of founder Ben Gibbard. From that moment till last year’s Kintsugi release, Gibbard and company have constantly defied the “industry” standards and forged their own path with only two constants; evolution and musical genius.

Death Cab for Cutie instantly had the audience in a daze to thick layers of musical waves with a track from their 2003 groundbreaking album, Transatlanticism, entitled “New Year.” The hypnotic connection was on full display as the crowd belted the lyrics in unison, flowing with every chord. Often times, bands fall into a pitfall of initiating their set with a song that engulfs their fans’ senses, only to follow with a track so out of place it breaks the connection, Death Cab for Cutie made no such mistake, following with their almost Beatles-esque “Crooked Teeth,” from 2005’s Plans. As they closed out their set with their reflective track “Bixby Canyon Bridge,” from 2008’s Narrow Stairs, fans showed a mass appreciate as they began shuffling with their schedules, deciding who to see next.


Keeping with the Punk Rock attitude, at approximately 8 PM, Descendents were ready to go on the Nicole Hoffman Stage. Like NOFX, Punk legends Descendents saw their return in 2016 to the Riot Fest stage after an unforgettable 2014 set, playing their 1982 debut album, Milo Goes to College, in its entirety. Bursting out of the late ’70s West Coast Punk scene, Descendents were a band that, like NOFX, helped bring Punk recognition through the ’80s and ’90s, and did it their way. Their diehard fanbase had apparently not gotten enough in 2014 as they packed the hall, flaring up the heat, and ready to go berserk for the Punk heavyweights.

After a comedic introduction by Singer Milo Aukerman, the band wasted no time getting things going in a flurry of fast-paced chords to the tune of “Everything Sux.” While a few of the bands on Riot Fest reunited, few have followed through with a new album. The Descendents, however, wasted no time hitting the studio and, in July of 2016, released their seventh studio album, Hypercaffium Spazzinate. The band then jumped into the track “Victim of Me,” which was welcomed by the crowd knowing every word. As stated about NOFX, one cannot simply have a Punk festival without the Descendents.

Jane’s Addiction

One of Riot Fest’s headliners, performing at approximately 8:40 PM on the Riot Stage, opposite Deftones at the Rock Stage at 8:45 PM, was the one and only Jane’s Addiction. If someone needs a historical itinerary of Jane’s Addiction, that is the person who needs their “music lover” license revoked and cast to a realm where they are forced to watch the Partridge Family episodes on repeat. Since the mid ’80s, Jane’s Addiction has been a force to be reckoned with, and they made it known with their debut release of 1988’s Nothing’s Shocking.

While their history is coupled with substance abuse and insanity, their musical influence was undeniable. However, their influence does not just stem from musical releases, in the ’90s, Singer Perry Farrell gave birth to one of the most legendary and diverse tours, Lollapalooza, which without any doubt influenced future festivals like Riot Fest. That in mind, one of Jane’s Addiction’s greatest releases sadly was one of their last before a split came rumbling down, 1990’s Ritual de lo Habitual ; a masterpiece that only cemented the band’s legacy as one of the best. Fast forward twenty-six years, Jane’s Addiction brought quite the treat to Riot Fest as they played Ritual de lo Habitual in its entirety.

Without further ado, the band took the stage with a group of lovely stage performers to help bring the experience to life. As they kicked off with the fast-paced memorable track “Stop!,” the crowd was ready to let their inner teenager loose, rehashing memories of the album. That said, it is an album which many can label a cornerstone of the times, which is still just as incredible almost thirty years later. Easily one of the most entertaining sets Riot Fest has ever witnessed, how could it not be with tracks like “Ain’t No Right,” “Been Caught Stealing,” and “Mountain Song,” just to name a few. But rest must be had as the festival continued for the next two days, and, unforgettable memories already laid forth, it only served to make one wonder what was next.

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Rafi Shlosman
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