Project Pabst Denver 2017 rolled into town this past weekend for a full day of music and PBR-fueled fun. The RiNo District was alive with the sound of music, lots of people in red, white, and blue Pabst regalia, and a giant unicorn stood in mighty glory at the heart of it all. Festival-goers held PBRs in hand for a full day of music as they strolled the streets for good times and stopped by the two outdoor main stages and the local venues on the block, including Larimer Lounge, Meadowlark (which hosted shows in the kitchen and bar areas), Cold Crush, and Nocturne.
The beer started flowing when the festival gates opened around 1PM as Project Pabst-goers meandered around and gathered near the Laser Horse Stage to catch the first band of the day, Chicago’s Twin Peaks. These boys were a rowdy, rockin’ start to kick off festmode. Headbanging and epic guitar jumps were commonplace throughout their set. Needless to say, the TP dudes started the fest off with killer energy.
Deap Vally were the next touring act to take an outdoor stage over at the Captain Pabst Stage on the opposite side of the festival grounds. The rock’n’roll lady duo christened listeners with deep guitar cuts and barefoot, drum-stomping beats. They had the crowd foot-stomping along to hits like “End of The World” and at one point gave a shout-out to Denver’s The Velveteers, who toured Europe with them at the end of last year.
The next touring act was supposed to be Chicago’s Noname, who played Denver’s Lost Lake not too long ago. Unfortunately for festheads, she actually pulled out of the show last-minute (and several other tour dates). She was replaced with Denver’s math rock outfit Montoneros, who stirred the crowd with their post-punk sounds and kept the afternoon grooving on.
STRFKR took things up a notch mid-day when they unleashed astronaut dancers who crowdsurfed on inflatables and launched confetti into the crowd. By this point in the afternoon, RiNo was abuzz as the crowd continued to grow and fill in the festival streets. Festivalists stopped at the food truck circle near the Captain Pabst Stage for eats, checked out artwork by Denver’s So Gnar, and explored local acts like All Chiefs, Dave Devine Quartet, Kinky Fingers, Other Black, and Whole Milk.
Outside, Danny Brown took the energy STRFKR unleashed and ran with it. His set was straight fire as he jumped around the stage and stopped mid-phrase to let the audience prove their fandom by filling in the missing words to his tunes. Like his music, Brown’s entire energy was playful and unpredictable, which kept the audience awaiting his every move.
Kurt Vile slowed things down as the sun started to dip lower into that late-afternoon warmness outdoors. His incredible and unhurried songwriting skills allowed for a much needed break in the day before the shenanigans of the night took over. He kept the crowd smiling with quick quips and played tunes across his catalogue, including his well known “Pretty Pimpin,’” announcing before he started the song’s iconic guitar line, “I’m going to play you my favorite song.”
Vile’s set was followed by Phantogram’s sunset show on the Laser Horse stage. By this time, the streets were packed to the brim with showgoers. Phantogram, as per usual, gave their audience an amazing performance with sweet beats, synth sounds, and their duality of strong vocals.
Ice Cube closed the outdoor part of the festival, opening his set with a mashup of several N.W.A. hits. Shortly thereafter, he yelled, “F*ck this show!” and ran offstage, to which his hypeman announced, “If you paid too much money for Ice Cube to play three songs and leave the show, say this with me, ‘F*ck you Ice Cube!’” It wasn’t long before the crowd began this chant, which Ice Cube apparently loved, as he re-entered with a smile and proceeded to run around the stage crushing his catalogue. At one point, a giant painting of Ice Cube was passed from the back of the crowd to the front, where fans held it up and continued to cheer throughout his set. From the crowded barriers that made it nearly impossible to exit the photo pit to the thousands of fans singing along every word to “Straight Outta Compton,” one thing was clear: Denver loves the Cube.
At the end of the night, festival attendees left with unicorn koozies in hand, bellies full of tasty food truck eats, and memories of rad musical performances. Missed this year’s Pabst Project Denver? It never too early to start planning for next year Colorado…
All photos per the authors. Gallery One per Sierra Voss. Gallery Two per Hannah Oreskovich. All videos and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.