This past weekend Riot Fest 2015 made its stop to Denver’s Western Complex and put on one hell of an event from August 28th, 2015 through August 30th, 2015. From the moment you walk in you are greeted with a prop of a huge devil head and handed a map of the sprawling 5 stage festival grounds. Stage names included the Roots Stage, Riot Stage, Rebel Stage, Rock Stage, and the only indoor venue called the Radicals Stage. Along with all of the options for music, the event is also a full-size carnival complete with a Ferris wheel, carnival games, and a circus sideshow called Hellzapoppin that plays three shows a day. The sideshow takes place in a small tent guarded by another huge devil head whose mouth you must walk in to see the show. Hellzapoppin consist of an assortment of talented and bizarre human abilities, performed by only the weirdest and most entertaining acts in the world. The cast is assembled of The legless Short E. Dangerously, the sword swallowing Dai Andrews and the fire breathing, among many other things, Tess Lacoil. Many festival attendees chose to bring bandanas or masks to cover their face from the dust clouds. No matter the fact festival goers were full of excitement on all three days and the party raged on from event open to event close. The all ages event had a crowd of all races and ages due to the large variety of musical acts throughout the weekend, and they came together to create a fun and safe event experience, highlighted by the strong lineup of music headlined by System of A Down, Snoop Dogg, and Modest Mouse.
Friday’s concert schedule consisted of some huge names on the headliner as well as some great shows throughout the day. Acts like De la Soul, Iggy Pop, Anthrax, Death Grips, Cypress Hill, and Coheed and Cambria rocked the stages throughout the day in preparation for the awesome headliners like System of a Down and Ice Cube. Death Grips set on the Roots stage had a decent amount of fans and even got some of the crowd in the middle to start moshing a bit. Their distorted and loud sound matched with the powerful vocals of lead singer MC ride made for a fun and rowdy 45-minute set. Later on Cypress Hill returned to the Roots stage with a large gathering eagerly awaiting to hear some of their hits. The Response for songs like ” Hits From the Bong” and “I Wanna Get High” were huge, and as B-Real shouted out for Denver to blaze up, in which the crowd happily accepted and filled the air with smoke. Over on the Riot Stage, Coheed and Cambria lead a large crowd in a set that seemed to have an unlimited amount of energy. The aggressive and loud 4 person band gave a great performance and the crowd responded with an energetic vibe. As a final token to the hip-hop fans in the crowd, the Roots Stage brought out one final act of Ice Cube and he brought along some very special guests. The rapper brought out the legendary members of NWA, MC Ren and Dj Yella, as well as both of Cube’s sons, O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Darrell Jackson. O’Shea Jackson recently starred in the widely successful hit movie Straight Outta Compton which came out in theaters earlier this month. The hour long set was amazing, while tributes to Cube and NWA’s legendary career were being displayed on the backdrop of the stage, Cube delivered a solid performance proving to all doubters that even in his older age he can still rock the stage. An assortment of songs were played, anywhere from Cube’s solo records, NWA records, and even Westside Connection songs, making the set a walk down memory lane for those who have followed his career. The crowd went wild for classics like NWA’s “Dope Man” and Ice Cubes “Go to Church”, leaving Gangsta rap fans especially happy on night 1. Another huge name on the lineup was Motorhead, however; sad news for fans, they canceled the show due to altitude sickness affecting Lemmy. To end the night with a bang, the Riot Stage presented the headlining act of System of A Down for a fantastic hour and 15-minute set. The set was full of energy and excitement and the crowd responded on the same frequency with every song getting wilder and wilder. As lead Singer Serj Tankin screamed out his breathtakingly versatile vocals the crowd’s energy fed off of his voice with every note. When hit singles like “Chop Suey” and “Aerials” came on the crowd screamed out with excitement as the opening basslines started. Raging in the middle was almost constant and it was easy to see both the crowd and the band having an amazing time. As the final act of Friday System Of A Down ended the night perfectly leaving it all out on the stage and delivering a truly breathtaking performance.
Saturday continued the trend of awesome shows and this time with a little more rock emphasis. The only treat for hip-hop fans was Run DMC, however, rock fans had a great schedule lined up. It started on the rock stage with an insane set from GWAR in which they doused members of the crowd with fake blood during their edgy and hardcore performance. To kick off the evening shows on the Riot Stage The Joy Formidable delivered a stellar 45-minute set. The European trio kept the crowd live and engaged while they jammed out to some of their latest work. Switching gears into a little bit calmer genre, the Hawaiian reggae band, Iration delivered a solid hour long set on the Rebel Stage. Drive Like Jehu and Alkaline Trio provided their signature sounds and killed it with some amazing performances. Saturday was capped off by Run DMC on the Rebel Stage and Rancid on the Rock Stage while Modest Mouse tore it down on the Riot Stage. Run DMC got some great crowd response from hit songs like “It’s Tricky” and ended the show with a bang, playing “Walk This Way” one of the first songs to bridge the gap between the two worlds of hip-hop and rock. Other Songs in the set included “It’s Tricky” and ” My Adidas”. Rancid delivered their highly anticipated Hour and 15-minute set and the crowd went absolutely insane as they played songs from their breakthrough album …..And out Come the Wolves. To end the night, Modest Mouse brought the entire jam band including the horns section and put on an incredible set that proved why they were awesome enough to headline night two of this epic festival. Their set was filled with a mix of old hits like “Float On” and new singles like ” The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box”
On Sunday, the heat was turned up a bit as temperatures soared into the mid 90’s making the dusty grounds blazing hot. Andrew W.K kicked off their Roots stage set at 3:30 in the midst of the blaring sun, and still turned the crowd into rabid partying maniacs. The entire set was filled with people crowd surfing through the middle and a huge mosh circle formed in honor of the king of partying. Directly following Andrew W.K was a highly anticipated performance from Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA on the Riot Stage. The crowd responded well as they all threw their W’s up in Honor of Wu-Tang Clan and GZA entered the stage. As another treat for the hip-hop fans, Yelawolf rocked the Riot stage for a 45-minute set that blended rock, country, and hip-hop all into one digestible set for the rambunctious Riot Fest crowd. Songs in the set included “Till its Gone”, “Pop the Trunk”, and a great live rendition of “Heartbreak”. Switching gears to a lesson in funk, Bootsy Collins and his Rubber Band performed an hour long set on the Riot Stage. Entering the stage in orange astronaut suits, the Rubber Band made sure to keep it just weird and groovy enough to be related to Parliament Funkadelic as they layed down a great cover of ” We got the Funk”. To end the night, there were 3 headliners on 3 different stages. Tenacious D on the Roots stage, The Prodigy on the rock stage, and Snoop Dogg on the Riot Stage. The crowd went wild for Tenacious D and as they played ” Tribute” the crowd sang along to every word without skipping a beat. Other songs in the setlist included “Roadie” and “Rize of the Fenix” While the D rocked on for their hour long set, Snoop must have forgotten to his set time because Jack Black announced he would be arriving late and so Tenacious D’s delivered a bonus song. No matter the fact, the 15 minute wait was well worth it as Snoop put on a memorable show. Special guests like Daz Dillinger and Kurupt made it a gangsta rap reunion and another blast from the past from this already legendary weekend. Songs from the set included ” Gangsta party, “Lodi Dodi”, and “Drop it like its Hot”. Snoop even shouted out the late greats, Tupac and Biggie Smalls when he dropped their two respective songs “California Love” and “Hypnotize”.
As the weekend came to a close you could see the energy drained from the people who held 3-day passes. It was a weekend of raging and excitement that will not be forgotten for many years to come. For some, it will possibly go down as the last time they will ever see System of A Down again and for others it will be the amazing weekend in which NWA reunited for a concert in 2015. Either way the festival managed to have something special for everyone, which is a very hard task to do for festival goers in these times where it seems like there’s a festival every weekend. Riot Fest will be hitting Chicago Sept. 11th, 2015 through September 13th, 2015 and Toronto September 19th, 2015 through September 20th, 2015. Don’t miss out on a couple epic weekends and make sure you purchase your tickets and check out the next stops lineup.