There's a riot going on in the sleepy little town of Byers, and it's all Riot Fest's fault.
Now in its second year with a lineup that includes the Flaming Lips, Wu Tang Clan, Die Antwoord and The Cure, the festival is pitting neighbor against neighbor as a portion of Byers' 1,160 residents rise up against the September 19-21 event.
"RIOT FEST, STOP IT NOW!" urges a local newspaper ad. "OPPONENTS OF THE EVENT MUST VOICE THEIR OPINIONS NOW OR BYERS MIGHT BECOME THE WRONG KIND OF TOWN FOR FAMILIES AND FARMERS!"
Toward that end, concerned citizens were encouraged to attend a public hearing at the Byers American Legion Hall scheduled for July 1 — the same day this issue went to press — and make their voices heard by the Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners. (Coincidentally enough, it was 35 years ago this month that a zoning board in Walkill, a town in upstate New York, banned a three-day festival that would subsequently move to Woodstock.)
The board of commissioners has already pointed out that no actual decision will be made at the meeting. But it's also clear that Byers, which is located some 40 miles to the east of Denver, can still pull the plug on the festival, even though tickets have been on sale since May.
Before we continue, I should mention that I grew up in a town of 910 people, where the biggest annual event was the Staatsburg Community Day celebration in which volunteer firemen would parade down Mulford Avenue while carnival rides creaked eerily and local bands played "Stairway to Heaven" for envious schoolmates. The idea of a real rock festival coming within 100 miles of us was inconceivable.
All of which is to say that I can empathize with the people of Byers. I can understand why locals wouldn't necessarily appreciate traffic nightmares, or cars being abandoned in the mud for days, or Die Antwoord songs that compare drinking Dom Perignon to angels peeing in their mouths.
I can also understand that, apart from corrupting their kids, Riot Fest doesn't provide Byers residents much in the way of benefits.
"Even some of the business owners who want it to come back didn't fare very well by it last year," explains Steven Vetter, managing editor of the I-70 Scout & Eastern Colorado News, noting that most of the traffic was directed to nearby Strasburg (pop. 2,447). "The actual economic benefit for a lot of businesses was pretty minimal."
So if someone actually were to stop by downtown Byers, to what kind of businesses would they be able to avail themselves?
"Well, there is a liquor store," says Vetter. "The Byers General Store, which has a full-service deli and full-service grocery store and pharmacy. There's two gas stations — one in particular, the Byers Sinclair, is a popular spot and it's got a lot of the snacks and drinks and that kind of stuff. But overall, it's a very small town."
Count on Reverb to keep you up-to-date on the Battle of Byers as the drama continues to unfold. You can also find a complete schedule of acts, broken down by day, on the festival's Facebook page.
Meanwhile, back in Colorado Springs (population 431,834), family-friendly grindcore band Tree of Woe will be celebrating its full-length debut, Buried Inside Old Bones, with a free show Saturday at the Triple Nickel. The show will also feature sets by Denver powerviolence band It's for a Cop, Pueblo stone doom/dirt rock band Burns Like Hell and Colorado Springs zombie-thrash band Night of the Living Shred.
And, yes, I did get all those adjectives from Tree of Woe frontman Chris Forsythe. And because grindcore vocals, at 250 words per minute aren't always easy to decipher, the band also sent us a lyric sheet:
"Masses controlled by pharmaceutical masters
Rational thought is ignored
Synthetic euphoria, force fed
Pushing and pulling and turning away
Embrace a corporate future
Identity and personal choice is lost
The war is over
Drugs fucking won"
Not sure how that would go over with folks in Byers, but it makes sense to me.