By Ricardo Baca
It’s an unarguable point: Music festivals are about the discovery of new bands. While Dave Matthews and his band likely sold the majority of tickets for this year’s Mile High Music Festival, which came to a close Sunday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, the festival’s most exciting moments came via new artists.
While San Francisco DJ/producer Bassnectar was destroying the Bison tent in his headlining slot on Sunday night, the crowd was a sea of sway, an undulating ocean of bodies absorbing the DJ’s titular love of bass. When he dropped a Fugees remix in the middle of his rumbling set, the crowd reacted with love. When he dropped a brand new track later in the night — “This is the first time I’ve played this one,” he said — the masses responded with love. And dancing. Lots of dancing.
Day 2 Slideshows:
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Trevor Hall and his band played a convincing and sometimes-courageous afternoon set at the Cougar tent. He was charming and affable, suiting the Mile High crowd just fine — especially since all the big players at this weekend’s festival could be described the same way.
Mash-up king Z-Trip, a DJ known for his original reinterpretations of pop and hip-hop hits, was a festival hero via his fearless sunset party. Not only did he throw down a perverted, tweaked-out remix of the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” — one that included a cherry-picked Eminem vocal from “Forgot About Dre” — but he also followed that up with a little Tupac, some “California Love” updated with a well-placed “Colorado” audio clip.
Day two of Mile High was clearly the bigger day — in terms of attendance and talent. The throngs came out to revisit their pal Matthews, and the result was an all-day party in the sun with some talented, if occasionally bland, artists.
Matthews’ headlining set was triumphant and meandering, as expected. He covered old-school favorites, including the sing-along hit “What Would You Say,” as well as some songs from his latest LP, “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King.”
“We had a good time here a couple years ago,” Matthews told the adoring crowd early in the set, a small nod to his last Colorado play — which was the 2008 Mile High, the festival’s debut.
Matthews’ set was sprawling, melodic and almost majestic. This band is tight, and they know it — and so they’re not afraid to play around with the form a little. His mid-set take on Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” was a warm and lived-in moment that wrapped up the Mile High aesthetic. A breeze cruised the festival grounds outside the Commerce City soccer stadium, and the jam went on.
Other big sets from Sunday included Weezer, Atmosphere and My Morning Jacket. Weezer’s wacky antics and old-school focus made for a tremendous live experience. “Hash Pipe” and “Undone – The Sweater Song” came early, and “Say It Ain’t So” was translucent — a feel-good sing-along like no other. “El Scorcho” was loose and messy, and singer Rivers Cuomo spent all of “My Name Is Jonas” and “Beverly Hills” in the audience.
Atmosphere’s set was a big party with the hip-hop group’s MC, Slug, as the evening’s talky host. Slug shouted out to all his favorite Colorado cities — and he also gave some awkward props to Pueblo.
My Morning Jacket’s wandering set started out on the mellow side, but when frontman Jim James picked up a Flying V for the fan favorite “Highly Suspicious,” things picked up considerably.
Mile High’s third year was its best, no question. And with the overall improved experience, it’s easy to look forward to next summer’s festival — with hope that promoter AEG Live will be a little more adventurous with its booking in 2011. – Ricardo Baca
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