Project Pabst Denver was a wild success.
Our Lyft came to a slow stop on Larimer Street in the heart of Denver, as the shape of the giant stage formed in front of us. Doors cracked open and the sweat began to make itself visible; it’s a hot one. Between the streets of 27th and 28th on Larimer this weekend lived the Pabst Project Denver: a forty-band music festival put on by PBR, the token drink of hipsters and cheap beer lovers everywhere. Long associated with music, PBR entered the festival circuit in 2014 in Portland, Oregon. This year, the fest branched out across three cities, with Denver being the first of the concert tour.
Walking around the closed-down streets, the scene was flooded with people bookended by two enormous stages: The Captain Pabst stage on 28th and The Laser Horse stage on 27th. Nearly everyone around me held a tall boy, walking between stages and multiple tents.
Back out in the sea of tank tops and sundresses Fidlar started on The Laser Horse Stage, demanding attention through the walls of the Meadowlark. The indie rock outfit played a heavy set, inciting a mosh-pit and lots of PBR spillage. Their cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” drew the loudest reaction from the crowd.
After another PBR and some much needed time in the shade, we ventured to see Charles Bradley, who brought his brand of soul and funk to the party. The 66-year-old singer moved around with ease, and sang through his vast catalog to cheers from the crowd. Bradley moved with grace and ease, even pulling the falling mic-pull move, and taking a small break for a wardrobe change. Bradley was quite possibly the classiest act of the day.
With little time to spare, we raced across the swelling crowds to the Captain Pabst Stage, where the Violent Femmes were just beginning. The 90’s band drew one of the biggest crowds of the day, playing their hits to a more than enthusiastic crowd. The band took an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude, starting off with their biggest hit first (“Blister in the Sun”). With giant horns and xylophone solos, they proved why after so many years, they still deserve to be a headliner.
Beating the crowds back to The Laser Horse Stage, we were prepared for Best Coast, the act that replaced Courtney Barnett because she had to go and play Saturday Night Live (catch that here). But Best Coast were a great addition, and their first show in months had the female-fronted band bringing a sonically impressive, and yet very personal mix of tunes. They played until the sun set.
As darkness enveloped the block, the masses silhouetted by street lights flocked to see hometown heroes Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. Clad in an all white denim getup, Rateliff took the stage like a warrior returning from long travels. The crowd of more than 2,000 danced on command, and hung on to every note from the veteran performer. The band played through their current self-titled release, forcing many beer cans to be crushed under tapping toes. One of the highlights of their set was their announcement of a new EP set to be released sometime this fall, followed by the debut of a new track. The experience was not lost on the group themselves, as Nathaniel more than once extolled the greatness of the Denver music scene, and the band’s gratitude for the city.
Finally, the night capped off right where it had started that afternoon: at the Larimer Lounge. A. Tom Collins played to a raucous late night crowd, with an ample horn section, and plenty of onstage antics. Drunken dance abounded, as the crews outside began to clean up what amounted to be a giant, beer-fueled block party of great music. Let’s do it again soon Denver.