Riot Fest Denver | Sports Authority Field at Mile High | September 19-21

The Riot Fest crowd catching 3OH3! (Photo Credit: Robert Castro)

Ahh, Riot Fest. A weekend filled with punk mutants, vomiting girls, carnies and "under-butt". For those of you that don’t follow us on Instagram and Twitter, "under butt" is what happens when girls wear high wasted shorts and half their butt hangs out. Why do we mention this? we love it. With asses and beer galore, we were able to sit back, relax (with Slayer blaring) and take in yet another beautiful Riot Fest. This weekend officially marked the end of festival season for the year, and we certainly made the most of our final hours with funnel cake and turkey legs.

This was Denver's second year hosting Chicago's rowdy punk festival, and despite the change of scenery, some may argue that this year got it right. 

Radkey one of the days surprise sets. (Photo Credit: Robert Castro)

The biggest change to the festival this year was the location. After a bout of petitions and protests from a few unhappy members of the Byers community, the city voted to not allow the punk rock festival back within county boundaries. Riot Mike and the rest of the festival's team decided to take this the only way they know how, with salt on the rim, and fire in their loins. Determined to win back the heart of Byers, Riot Fest themed this year's festival around the little country town. Offering discounted tickets to the residents of Byers, filling the venue with tractors and hay bails, and naming all the stages after Byers city landmarks (Country Feed Store, May Farms, etc), it was apparent the festival wished it was out east at its inaugural location instead. 

Matt Berninger of The National closing out the final night of a cold, rainy Riot Fest (Photo Credit: Matt Smith)

Despite the forced change of scenery, we were pleasantly surprised by the use of Mile High's parking lot. Denver is used to seeing this as the Warped Tour venue, so it was hard imaging the layout being able to differ greatly, but what a pleasant surprise this weekend was. The venue's traffic flow was fantastic, the lines for bathrooms nominal, and bands promptly started one after another, avoiding the much dreaded festival "lag time" all have come to expect. There is something magical about being out in a corn field miles from civilization, but the layout at Mile High just....worked. The decision is up to Riot Fest (after they win in court against Arapahoe County), but we're very curious to see what venue is used in 2015. 

We’ve summed the entire weekend up into a few different categories:

Riot Fest 2014 (Photo Credit: Robert Castro)

The Crowd:
From air fisting cowboys to cape-wearing WuTang super fans and green mohawks, the crowd at Riot Fest did not disappoint. We believe that people watching at Riot Fest should be considered as an Olympic sport. Is there a way to vote that into existence? When we weren’t busy ogling our childhood heroes, we were taking in the wonderful scenery. We saw a woman eat a sword, a man dance around on his torso, and a girl barf something bright red all over the grass and then proceed to lay in it. It was perfect. 

TV on The Radio (Photo Credit: Robert Castro)

Our Favorite Acts:
City and Colour, TV On The Radio, Weezer, NFG, Taking Back Sunday, In The Whale, Manchester Orchestra, 3OH3!, Radkey, Dum Dum Girls, Descendants, Me First and The Gimme Gimme's.

By the Numbers:
$1 - the amount of money made at the “Watch This Video for a Dollar Truck!” - Somethings you can’t unsee. 
4 - the number of times we watched someone puke after The Zipper Ride
6 - trench coats
2 - nours amount of time Robert cried at The Cure
12 - the number of people we saw get dropped after crowd surfing
1 - the amount that the Broncos lost to the Seahawks :(
24 - cans of Red Bull we drank collectively as a team
1.1 Miles - the length that you would have to walk around Mile High if you missed the entrance and proceeded to walk aimlessly around Invesco

Check out our Riot Fest photos courtesy of Matthew Smith and Robert Castro

Snowball Music Festival | Review and Photo Essay | Day 1

This weekend was made for music lovers of all sorts in the Mile High City. With an abundance of local shows all around town and The Snowball Music Festival taking place at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver music lovers had no excuse to get their music fix. We managed to head out to Snowball this year and came away with some awesome photos and long lasting memories of some great performances. Check out our day by day recap of all the festivities below:

Friday Day 1:

Ethan Bryce and Alex Anderson of Rose Quartz (Photo Credit: Robert Castro)

As we arrived on day one there was no shortage of Black Milk leggings, faux fur hoodies and your traditional rave scene wardrobes. The late afternoon setting played host to some amazing performances from MiMosa, who had the Groove Tent in all out rage mode with his distinct style of showmanship and musical savvy. With bass pounding transitions and sing-along favorites, it was one performance that may have benefitted on the larger main stage. Other notable performances were from local Holy Underground Record Label mates Rose Quartz and Real Magic who played back to back sets on The Ballroom Stage. The duo of Ethan Bryce and Alex Anderson of Rose Quartz had a few in the crowd dancing to their electro-pop bag of goodies. The surprise of the night came courtesy of a band called Escort. Described as "disco-orchestra", the band which usually involves 17 members had to deal with the smaller stage and improvised with a smaller group, yet managed to give Denver something to groove to. With a lead singer who channels her inner Hendrix on guitar and belts out vocal like Donna Summer, we highly recommend giving this band a listen. The late evening garnered the attention to the Main Stage as Earl Sweatshirt played a rather boring set (in comparison to his recent Cervantes show a few weeks ago). It seemed like he was lacking the energy often associated with an act off the odd Future crew. Knife Party who has become a "legend" in Colorado played an ok set, by no means was it monumental as his recent sets at Red Rocks. While the EDM crowd gathered around his performance Warpaint took the stage across the way. In all honestly i felt a bit disappointed with their set, immense fog and hard to hear vocals may have been drowned out by the bass pounding electro set Knife Party was throwing down.

Day 1 Highlights:

Hits: Rose Quartz, Real Magic, MiMOSA, Option4, Escort, Henry Fong

Misses: Earl Sweatshirt, Warpaint, Knife Party

Fad of the day: Colorful leggings, Sierra Nevada "Happy Hour", Face paint.

In The Whale | "Nate" EP Release Shows | 4/4 and 4/5

 We've said it many times here at Ultra5280 over the years, but it is our team's firm belief that In The Whale SUCKS...well, at least that's what they want us to tell you. In all reality, I haven't been this continually excited to watch a Denver band's live shows since the early years of Air Dubai. Every show brings more and more energy, and more and more fans. Long gone are the days of me watching them lose their minds in the musky basement of an office building surrounded by 50 people (Ultra5280's first birthday party, anyone?), and although I'll miss seeing them in those outrageous settings, I couldn't be happier for this band to finally be receiving the attention they deserve. Nate Valdez and Eric Riley, Denver's dynamic duo, were back at it again this weekend rallying the rowdiest of Coloradans to celebrate the release of their new "Nate" EP. The band's back-to-back sold out shows at the Hi-Dive this past weekend are sure to go down as some of the best shows of 2014, and we were lucky enough to be there for both of them. 

Dan Aid of Wiredogs (Photo Credit: Matt Smith)

The weekend's performances were a mix of local and national talent, a welcomed surprise for a EP release. Friday night was opened by The Wiredogs, Saturday by The Photo Atlas, but on both nights Denver was treated to Austin-based Residual Kid as the main support. All 3 members may be between the ages 13-16, but don't let their youth fool you, these boys know how to throw down. Making waves last year at UMS 2013, and playing a slew of shows at SXSW 2014, it's only a matter of time before this band takes over the rock scene. Full of angst and talent beyond their years, Residual Kid's music is eerily reminiscent of early Nirvana, pertinent especially during this weekend, which marks the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death. It feels as though this trio has found a second home here in Denver, and we're pleased to have them. A perfect sonic paring for this weekend, fans were blown away and  singing along to songs like "Friend" and "Faces" by the end of the set. 

Nate Valdez of In The Whale (Photo Credit: Matt Smith)

Denver was ready when In The Whale hit the stage. It's been nearly six months since we last saw this band play Denver, and boy were we ready to have them back. Throughout the evening I spotted familiar faces from nearly every local band, radio station, and media outlet in the crowd: A huge show of support from the scene proving that Denver's got their backs. Playing new songs off both the "Nate" and "Eric" EPs, as well as fan favorites like "Heels" "Girlfriend", "34-28-32" and more, the Hi-Dive was buzzing with energy and full of mosh pits. To help celebrate the memory of the legendary Kurt Cobain, the band treated fans on night two (4/5) to a few Nirvana covers. Calling Residual Kid's bassist Max Redman up to join them on stage for the encore, the band played well done covers of "In Bloom" and "On A Plain", both off the cult-classic album "Nevermind". Nate Valdez's voice lent itself well to Cobain's style, and the addition of a bassist with the band was something I'd never seen before, but certainly did not mind. 

If you weren't at one of these shows, saying you missed out would be the understatement of the year. This weekend felt like the start of a new chapter for In The Whale. Denver is full of acts who know how to promote and work hard to succeed; it's embedded into the DNA of our local scene, and is something which I'm incredibly proud of. Let it be known though that this band is composed of two of the hardest working musicians I've ever met. Dedicating themselves to promotion and performance, and surviving the struggles of touring as a two-man act, this band deserves every ounce of attention they get. 

Just like everything else in this world, music is cyclical. We've seen disco, folk, soul and country all rear their heads as the supreme "comeback" genre over the past few years, and the only thing left to return is good ol' fashioned rock and roll. It's coming back with a vengeance, and I would not be the least bit surprised to see In The Whale help usher in this new era. I can't wait.

-Maddie Casey (Photos: Matt Smith)