Video: Anne Knapke | Words: Brenna Swanston
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The line started at SLO Brewing Co., trailed along Garden Street, wrapped around the corner and continued down Higuera Street this past Friday night. Concertgoers buzzed about the upcoming show, flexing their music trivia muscles, bragging about all the live bands they had seen and exchanging stories of their craziest concert experiences.
Passers-by occasionally stopped to ask those in line what the excitement was about. Their answers were all the same: Night Riots.
At 7:30 p.m., SLO Brewing Co.’s doors finally opened. The waiting fans flooded inside and globbed around the stage where a group of young musicians was setting up and sound-checking its equipment.
Approximately 45 minutes later, the first opening band, Breach the Summit, kicked off the night.
Its sound drew on that of catchy alternative bands, such as Walk the Moon and Young the Giant, but with an original flare. Drummer Olen Kittelsen took charge of lead vocals while bassist Kody Buxton chimed in on drums. Toward the end of the band’s final song, “You Don’t Know,” Buxton put down his bass, took up the mic and rapped.
Kittelsen said Night Riots had discovered Breach the Summit through the KROQ Locals Only playlist.
“They heard our music and they liked it, so they asked if we could jump on the show,” Kittelsen said.
The Orange County band was new to San Luis Obispo, he said.
“We were surprised at how awesome everyone was toward us,” Kittelsen said. “We were new, so I’m sure they’d never heard of us. It was really cool playing for such a receptive crowd. We had a ton of fun up there and we hope everyone else did, too.”
Breach the Summit then passed the baton to Colorado band The Epilogues, who added a synthesizer and a couple Nike windbreakers to the mix.
Lead vocalist Chris Heckman opened The Epilogues’ set with a shout-out to the headlining band.
“We’ve been touring with Night Riots for two weeks now,” Heckman said. “We’re so glad they brought us to their hometown because you guys are magnificent.”
Within the first few seconds of the band’s opening song, The Epilogues had transformed the show’s vibe. They head-banged on stage before frantic, flashing lights while the crowd screamed, jumped and moshed.
As the first song came to a close, keyboardist Nate Hammond commended the audience on its energy.
“Holy shit, San Luis Obispo,” he said. “You guys are having a great time. This might be the sexiest show we’ve ever played.”
The “great time” continued through the rest of The Epilogues’ set, during which the crowd only got wilder.
Before the band’s final song, Heckman threatened to stage dive.
“It’s up to you rugged-ass gentlemen to catch me when I jump,” he said.
When the moment came, Heckman set down his guitar, unzipped his windbreaker, removed his earpiece, unwound his microphone from its stand and jumped into the waiting crowd just as the refrain dropped.
With that, The Epilogues left the audience amped up for Night Riots’ appearance.
After the stage changed hands, it was time for the Templeton locals to meet their waiting fans.
As the five-man band made its way onstage, smoke filled the room, veiling everything on stage except the piercing blue stage lights. Fans recalled Night Riots’s previous band name with chants of “PK.” The house was packed, with people pushing and squishing, leaving not a square inch of free space.
When the smoke had somewhat lifted, Night Riots began its set. The crowd felt the beat, moshing and singing along to every word. Crowd surfers took over the audience by the second song, during which lead singer Travis Hawley dove into the mob of fans.
Night Riots played new, alternative material — to which the crowd paused its shenanigans to listen attentively — as well as its oldest punky PK songs, which inspired screams of recognition and further “PK” chants from the audience.
Hawley jokingly reiterated the band’s year-old name change.
“I don’t know if you guys know,” he said. “But we’re called Night Riots, not PK.”
Paso Robles native Eric Young has known the members of Night Riots since their PK days.
“They put so much energy into the crowd,” he said. “I’ve seen them light up an entire stage at the Mid State Fair with their energy.”
Night Riots’ distinguishing characteristic as a band is their passion, Young said.
“Their music has so much emotion,” he said. “They play their hearts out.”