Photos by Michael McGrath, story by Amy McGrath
What happens when a big music festival is sponsored by a major beer manufacturer in a city that’s become one of the international hubs of legal marijuana? In the case of Denver’s Project Pabst, beer culture wins.
The security screening for this festival was the most stringent of any in recent memory. If security is on the hunt for guns and weapons to protect festival-goers, that’s certainly appreciated. But I stood near the entrance on Saturday and watched countless patrons be turned back at the gates for having marijuana in their bags. Later, during Twin Peaks stoney and super-fun set, the band encouraged the audience to light up in their honor…. but few seemed to have weed to light, and if they did light up, security pounced quickly, even deep into the crowd. At least when Project Pabst is in town, it appears that beer culture still beats weed culture.
Project Pabst brought a strong lineup to its Larimer Street/RiNo street party for the second year in a row, including festival headliner Ice-Cube. Twin Peaks, Phantogram, Danny Brown and Kurt Vile all contributed strong sets to the diverse lineup. We were looking forward to catching a mid-afternoon main stage set from Chicago hip-hop poet No Name but were disappointed to find out she had pulled out of the lineup shortly before the festival, replaced by Denver math-rock outfit Montoneros.
Though the main stage lineup was strong (especially Vile’s dreamy sunset vibes), our favorite sets of the day were found in more intimate environs, on the lovely, sun and art drenched Meadowlark patio, and inside the dark, beer drenched Larimer Lounge. Young Denver trumpet/funk master Wesley Watkins led his project Other Black through a beaming, effervescent set of funked up soul to a joyous crowd at the mid-afternoon Meadowlark.
Kurt Ottaway, longtime powerhouse on the Denver music scene (Overcasters, Tarmints, Twice Wilted) prowled the tiny Larimer Lounge stage out front the excellent Emerald Siam in their pumped-up set of darkly sonic pysch-rock. And providing an interesting sonic counterpoint to the Ice Cube mainstage festival set happening just outside, Denver’s Flaural lit up the Larimer with their substantial but sunny psychedelia.
The diverse lineup and inside/outside offerings meant even older Denver music fans, aghast at how the once gritty side of Larimer street has become a highly decorated, homogenous hipster playground, could find something to love at Denver’s Project Pabst- even if they still couldn’t find the weed.