When Perry Farrell conceived the idea of Lollapalooza, he was trying to replicate what he had seen at European festivals, albeit a touring version. Fast-forward 24 years, and Denver Riot Fest is a five-stage affair with that overwhelming combo-smell of sweat, grease and portaloo in the air.
Meanwhile, all five stages are jammed with incredible bands and choosing between missing someone entirely or watching fifteen-minute snippets dictates the day’s timetable. Sound familiar?
Take the opening day: Coheed And Cambria are on at exactly the same time as Iggy Pop, so a little bit of prog-metal and a whole lot of Iggy seems appropriate. Iggy is in fine form too, phasing back into a solo career with vigour and gusto after years with the Stooges, following the passing of both Ron and Scott Asheton. Mind, he still plays a lot of Stooges tunes alongside solo faves like Real Wild Child and, of course, Lust For Life.
Prior to that, Anthrax tear things up with a typical combination of humour, heart and driving riffs. Madhouse, Indians, Caught In A Mosh, Got The Time, Antisocial – it’s a career-defining set-list (Joey Belladonna-era only) from the big-four thrashers. Over to the day’s headliners, and it’s apparent that one’s attitude towards **System Of A Down **is at least partially dependent on age. To many, it seems like yesterday that they were touring the first album, playing at London’s Astoria. Conversely, for a large percentage of the crowd at Riot Fest, this is a rare chance to see a veteran metal band in fine form. This business can age you really fast.
The Vandals are closely followed by The Damned and this punk double-whammy couldn’t be better scheduled. While the British band have a good few years on their Cali-counterparts, The Vandals are no spring chickens and share a certain gleeful nonsense with Sensible, Vanian and the boys.
Run DMC (yes, they play Walk This Way) clash with the Pixies, and that means partials again. Frank Black’s influential crew sound inspired here (they can be a bit hit-and-miss), and songs like Debaser see an enthusiastic Rocky Mountain crowd bowing at their old feet. That leaves Rancid to finish the second day, and the fact the band are performing their …And Out Come The Wolves album from start-to-finish means this was never going to be an ordinary set. Lars, Tim and the boys attack Maxwell Murder, Roots Radical, *Time Bomb and Ruby Soho* like it’s 1995 and their mohawks are newly spiked.
Sunday features the reunited riot grrl double-shot of Babes In Toyland and L7. Lead Babe Kat Bjelland’s lost none of her apparently unhinged fury, while L7 are simply magnificent, sounding and looking like they’ve never been away. Shitlist, Everglade, Fuel My Fire, Pretend We’re Dead… it’s pretty much the dream set-list.
That leaves Prodigy to close the festival. The Essex boys are on fire – Maxim Reality and Keith Flint cover every inch of the stage prior to the conclusion of opener Breathe. Weirdly, especially for some of us who remember the band’s awesome festival performances from the early- to mid-90s, the crowd aren’t totally into it. We’re anticipating a sweaty, heaving mass of people that never materialises.
Maxim tries his best to battle the apathy with regular cries of, “Is this fuckin’ Denver?” and “Where my Prodigy people at?” but there aren’t many here, apparently. Even in the face of abject complacency, though, the strictly-not-for-export Prodge deliver in spades. “This is how we do it in the UK,” he shouts, but reality bites back desperately…
Hmm. It seems that some UK festival essential elements will always work better in Reading.