Riot Fest stopped over in Denver last weekend. The traveling music festival, which started in 2005 in Chicago, typically books artists decades into their career as headliners. The 2015 Denver roster featured punk legend Iggy Pop, rappers Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube and '80s alt-rockers Pixies.
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But many newer and less established artists filled out the middle of the bill. Among these young bands were political punk rockers Desaparecidos, Welsh trio The Joy Formidable and Massachusetts indie rockers Speedy Ortiz. These three played afternoon sets in 90-degree heat to smaller crowds of listeners who may have been unfamiliar with them.
So we asked them: Is it important for young bands to win over new fans at a festival where the big draws are veteran performers?
"Whether it's right or wrong, I'm spending more time thinking about playing well in front of the other bands that I’ve idolized," Denver Dalley, the lead guitarist of punk rock group Desaparecidos said.
Dalley did not seem concerned about winning over new fans in the general admission audience. Rather, he was anxious about some of his musical heroes seeing their set.
"I guess I kinda think about the audience last, which is probably not the best way to be. But if I’m being honest I’m kind of caught up in, like, [gasp] The Pixies!"
The three members of The Joy Formidable didn’t care to distinguish between new and old bands on the Riot Fest bill. If a band plays a great set the audience responds positively regardless of the age or status of the performers, they said.
"It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been around," Rhydian Davis, the band's bassist, said. "It’s all about if you’re doing something soulful and if you’re good musically. That’s what’s important, right?"
Meanwhile, Massachusetts indie band Speedy Ortiz took Riot Fest as an opportunity to play for core fans watching their set, rather than win over the people who came for the other artists.
"I kinda don’t care," singer Sadie Dupuis said. "I guess I’d rather play for the people who really want to come see us than the people who are just like drunk by the end of the day seeing whoever is there."
Hear more from each of these artists by listening to the audio link above.