Big Gig fit it’s title this weekend thanks to some huge performances from the bill’s seven different main stage acts. KTCL’s annual summer show packed Fiddler’s Green to the gills for sets from The Unlikely Candidates, Vinyl Theatre Misterwives, Young The Giant, X Ambassadors and Cage The Elephant.
Kicking off the day were performances on the Locals stage out in Marjorie Park, located just north of the main gates. Fans arrived in droves and put the park at it’s capacity within an hours after doors opening - something we’ve never seen before, but certainly appreciated. POPFILTER, One Flew West, Cody Qualls, and Almost, Maine kept fans dancing while enjoying $2 beers that disappeared quick. Locals Midnight Club were honored with the opening slot on the main stage, a perfect slot thanks to the big crowds so early in the day. Denver is showing more and more appreciation for our local groups, and KTCL’s dedication to supporting them certainly has not gone unnoticed.
Once the locals were done, national acts The Unlikely Candidates and Vinyl Theatre kicked off an afternoon of fun for fans. The Fueled By Ramen trio’s quick set was a perfect peak into their album for anyone unfamiliar. Ending their set with radio single “Breaking Up My Bones”, Keegan Calmes’ voice sounded so on point, we could have easily mistaken his live performance for a recording.
Next to stage were Ultra5280 favorites Misterwives. While we haven’t seen the dynamic sextet in nearly a year, Mandy Lee and her band of brothers haven’t missed a step. Rocking high-top Vans and pom-pom shorts, the peppy New York native commanded the stage with infectious joy. Amidst celebrating her birthday with bandmates (in Denver for the second year in a row!), Lee took a moment to remind the crowd that “we are all one,” mentioning how heavy her heart has felt over the recent ongoings in America before slipping into a beautiful rendition of “Oceans.”
The heart-wrenching actions of the last week weighed heavy on the artists on Saturday. Lee was followed by sentiments from Sam Harris of X Ambassadors, and Sameer Gadhia of Young The Giant - all urging fans to use their voice to stand up and support one another, condemning violence and hatred. It was timely, respectful, and incredibly important for these artists used their platforms to speak to the massive crowd. So many attendees at radio shows are young and look up to the performers, we’re thankful these artists recognize their ability to involve the youth, and chose to be vocal while others may stray fearing controversy.
X Ambassadors set was more than just politics. After hearing rumors of frontman Sam Harris feeling under the weather, we were astonished to see him charge on stage with a unexpected ferocity. Leading their set with tracks like “Jungle”, the all-too-quick performance from this explosive quartet was amazing. The energy from the band on stage translated to the crowd, with fans all the way back to the grass waving their hands, dancing along. Catching a full set from these “Renegades” has quickly moved up the list as one of our “must sees” before the year is out.
Fan favorites Young The Giant’s set felt quick, but gave fans an exciting taste of their new album, Home of the Strange, set to debut in August. Their new radio single “Something to Believe In” had fans dancing, and the introspective piece “Amerika” was fitting for the political undertones of the evening.
As for Cage the Elephant….words escape us. Photographer Maddie Casey is quoted saying “photographing (them) felt like having an enjoyable seizure...if that even makes sense.” Jumping into the crowd, dancing across stage, catapulting off drum risers, Cage The Elephant certainly lived up to the stories we’ve heard of shows past. Vocalist Matthew Shultz is a stage personality unlike anything we’ve seen before. Their set list full of radio singles and familiar hits spoke for itself, showcasing a deep, evolving discography. Even the most passive fans found themselves singing along to more songs than not - a tribute to the astounding success the band has garnered over the last nine years. A jam-packed set and crowd-surfing antics from Shultz during the group’s last song ensured that fans left feeling like they got more than their money's worth.