The Riot Fest staff brought the city of Byers to Denver and in a display of immense gratitude to the May Farms family, they lit up the parking lot of the Sports Authority Field @ Mile High with an endearing rural flare.

Body photos by Miles Chrisinger and Andrew Lopez. Words and cover photo by Brian Frederick.

The music festival craze of the past half-decade has been unparalleled in human development and has shown to have little penchant for slowing down in the near future. There are EDM fests, bluegrass hootenannies, indie-rock galas and an abundance of others. What gives?

Money is what gives, most likely. We wouldn’t see very many of these multi-million dollar jubilees if there weren’t some beautiful kickbacks in the pants of every promoter salivating at the opportunity to throw the next big thing.

But Riot Fest has always seemed different to us in that regard. They’re turning pennies, sure, but that’s never appeared to be the main motivation behind founder Mike Petryshyn and his team’s labor of love. Even after the festival was shunned by the city of Byers and the Arapahoe County regime and not allowed to take place inside of its hallowed walls of perpetual corn, the camp never backed down and even turned the unfortunate series of events into the main theme of the festival.

Riot Mike and his staff brought Byers to Denver. In a display of unfounded gratitude to the May Farms family for their hospitality last year, the team brought the parking lot of the Sports Authority Field @ Mile High to life with a rural flare. From importing the finest of synthetic turfs and inspired hay bales to the fitting stage names and barn-door entrances, the second coming of the Riot Fest & Sideshow was an outright achievement.

First day fashions to last day distractions

To the entertaining carousers: You all looked fantastic the first day, but dang it if the self-absorbed fashion sense didn’t dwindle by the last. Good! It means you went hard on a weekend (as you should, you deserve it), and became less concerned with visual style and more concerned with enjoying the haggard-friendly event.

It’s what happens at festivals. The choice outfits are on proud display the first day, but by day two a little less so… and by day three it’s as if everyone goes out like an Alaskan newscaster and says, “Fuck it, I quit!”

Go on with it though, and try not to let word-wasting blogs implore fedoras aren’t a thing and insist on telling people what to wear. As a responsible and glistening tax-paying adult with a beautiful smile, you sport whatever the fuck you very well please.

Liberate the libations!

At an event of this magnitude in one of the thirstiest cities in the nation, the booze game has to be locked down tight or there will be always be unfavorable issues. It’s all relative to social sciences, which is still science, so, “Yeah science, bitch!

It’s not to say that the downfalls of the drink were all that disastrous, but labeling every working signage above the bars with “$7” and then not accepting any sort of monetary elements, well, the details were frustrating. Everything provided – aside from the private vendor booths – had to be bought and paid for with orange raffle tickets. It wouldn’t have been that unpleasant to manage if we had known before we stood in the long lines.

By day three we got in the groove of things though – and so did the venue – but how much Strongbow and Tecate Light can one imbibe in a weekend before kidneys start wallowing away in distress?

About that though…

It would be interesting to see a promoter put on this type of event with an all-inclusive ticket. If the prices were bumped to, say, double or triple of what they’d normally be, and parking, drinks and food is available for no hard-earned ducats (that’s free) inside the venue, then the stresses of finding ATMs or bringing cash before showing up would be nullified. Just a thought on a whim.

Space Management 101

Aside from our overly dramatic faultfinding over booze and lines, we couldn’t help but appreciate the primo use of the available space. Instead of being locked shoulder to shoulder with angsty tweens trying to maneuver through a thousand shitty merch booths – à la Warped Tour – the setup for the Riot Fest was comfortable and accommodating.

The festival’s team provided plenty of turfed out, shaded areas to rest in and the stage areas never felt like a Chinese residential conflict zone. Our Pumas weren’t even scuffed from a too-close encounter, and we love it when our Pumas don’t get scuffed.

To touch, or not to touch

The touching rule is always a strange thing to witness at live shows. There is always an abnormal amount of people so gung ho about being there, right there, at the front of the stage. So much so that they’ll stand in a particular spot for hours waiting for the band to go on.

By all means, suit your damn selves, but it’s never been our bag. That said, the sound from afar was plenty better than it was closer to each stage. It may have been the engineers calculated doing, but we found that a good 50 yards or so was the optimum listening point. It was an even better area than by the sound stage, where it’s normally the most pristine. That dynamic was swell, just swell.

Sir, you’re bleeding from that dope-ass gash, you ok?

Shout out to “probably-a-sweetheart-when-he’s-sober” guy that had the top of his eye ripped open during what we can only assume was an earlier bout of turnt up moshing. Walking around in public with a blood facial is punk rock, even if security didn’t seem to think so. We salute your efforts.

By far the scariest thing in the world is…

Yep, we’ve experienced it and we’re going to say that we wouldn’t wish it on our worst enemy, or James Franco, who happens to be our worst enemy.

Those drink shelves in the port-o-potties, they’re great, and good on the manufacturer for thinking of the little people in design.

What the frightening part about those though is putting a $7 (we mean 7 ticket) beer on said shelf, going about pertinent business, finishing, and then seeing the same. exact. beer. on the shelf next to it without recollection of which is which – thereby throwing the thread of current existence into a confusing mass of abhorrent circumstance. We went for it though, because 50 percent odds still isn’t not horrible.

Do you even rain dance, bro?

Robert Plant sings in Led Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song” that “This is the mystery of the quotient / Upon us all a little rain must fall” He may not have attended the Riot Fest in Denver this time around, but he was certainly there in spirit when the clouds opened up and half-assedly drenched everyone in attendance on Sunday afternoonish. But by then it was a welcomed sprinkle and from what we saw, didn’t detract anyone away from any of the stages or festival grounds.

This is the second year in a row that the sky-splashing descended on the masses at the tail end of the event, but this time around it was much more manageable without the debilitating mud and torrential, life-affirming mess that it was last year. Yearly sprinkle fest with entertaining live music? We’ll take it.

Oh, right, there was music there too

There’s enough commentary about the state of youth culture out on the unending web of internets to last an Aldabra Tortoise’s lifetime, so we’ll spare everyone ours for now; but did anyone else feel like the heart of the crowds were a little underwhelmed by most of the performances? We had a chance to see greats like New Found Glory, Slayer and NOFX play iconic albums as part of the Riot Fest’s 10 Year Anniversary setlistings, but that may have been to the atmosphere’s detriment.

The crowd barely knew what was going on, and most everyone looked like they were only awaiting the hits, and when few came and went, the mood had a hard time adjusting accordingly. It definitely wasn’t as nutso as past punk rock shows we’ve been to before.

The band with the ‘best set’ honors of the whole ordeal is undeniably The Flaming Lips. Wayne Coyne and company delivered a psych-rock experience that began with as much freestyled confetti than it ended with, and also threw in the most unbelievable cover of The Beatles’ “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” that will ever exist.

To their credit Rise Against, Weezer, The Used and even locals My Body Sings Electric all rose above arm-crossing spectators and each delivered frenetic sets enough that their respected crowds pulsed with aggressive energy. Maybe punk’s not dead yet, it’s just getting old.

Click on this pretty link to see our Photo Pit Slideshows of the Riot Fest