Monday, July 27, 2009

Mile High Music Festival review

Mile High Music Festival
by Katie Flannery

The day dawned bright and sunny and the last minute plans to head to Commerce City for the Mile High Music Festival were coalescing nicely. Lindsay called and expressed her desire to “not be in the sun all day” and I readily agreed: me in the hot sun for several hours would result in me being “that guy” passed out on the grass due to heat exhaustion. We decided to jump in the car around 3pm and as John, Lindsay and I were on our way we made some observations on our less than enthusiastic attitudes. “It doesn’t seem as though we’re on our way to a festival…let alone getting ready to hear Panic play until 2am,” I said as I turned around to talk to Lindsay in the backseat. “I know,” she said. “I think it’s because we haven’t been planning for this – we decided to go last minute.” It looked like everyone else decided to attend the festival last minute as well. After absolutely no traffic on the way to the festival grounds at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park we found our way to the media/VIP parking lot and made our way to the main box office so Lindsay and John could purchase tickets and I could pick up my media pass. A very long line awaited us and more people were pouring in behind us. The weather wasn’t as hot as last year, but standing on the pavement in the hot sun was too much for some to handle as I offered my water bottle to a girl who passed out in the grass.

Picking up my wristband was fast and easy and I walked back to stand in line with Lindsay and John. After about fifteen minutes the people ahead of us started running towards the entrance to the stadium and a moment of hopeful confusion passed over me. “What’s going on? Are they letting people in…for free…? Nah….” We heard shouts as we got closer: “This is a cash only line!” That was good for us since cash is what we had. As our wait got shorter we heard someone yell: “It’s $110 for a one day pass!” I couldn’t believe it – after checking the festival website, calling the information number and sending an email I was informed that the day of show ticket price would not be more than the $105.50 price that included all service fees and charges. After inquiring about the price to a woman who was telling everyone how much the ticket was I was told that I could “get back in the other line if I didn’t like the $110 price.” After all was said and done, John and Lindsay did not overpay for their tickets.

We arrived inside just in time to hear Big Head Todd and the Monsters perform a cover of “Rosalita” (I detest Bruce Springsteen - send all condemning emails to the above address). We made our way to the water fountain station to fill water bottles and take a look around before we headed to meet friends. Compared to last year, there were more water stations, the placement of the stages were different and placed closer together, the food vendors were more centralized and recycling stations were never far away. I had never heard Paolo Nutini and was pleased with what I heard. The crowd was large and obviously enjoying the Scottish soul singer’s performance. A group of us wandered over to hear G. Love & Special Sauce and found some shade near the back of the tent. I know quite a few people that enjoy G. Love’s Philly style of blues-hip hop but I can only take it in small doses. I wasn’t near the front of the stage where most of the enthusiastic crowd was gathered but the majority of the people in the middle and back of the tent were obviously there to get out of the sun – with large numbers laying down and sleeping. After twenty minutes I decided to head over and hear one of my favorite bands: The Greyboy Allstars. This band never disappoints. Saxophonist Karl Denson consistently blew solid solos and added to the overall tone color of the band by also playing auxiliary percussion. Robert Walter on keys is a wonder to behold, and my friend Doug pointed out that “even in this heat, he’s still wearing his suit jacket!” At this point we decided that food was in order and we enjoyed an early dinner on the shaded soccer turf. The rubberized turf became a critical element of preventing sore feet and knees by the end of the night. Hungry no longer, we made our way to hear The Black Keys and my insides were soon vibrating with the incredibly loud kick drum. The sun was on its way down behind the mountains and I decided that beer was now in order. The power duo put on an impressive blues-rock show that left a lot of us wanting more.

I was anxious to see Tool and as we walked over to the stage area the anticipation in the air was palpable. Throughout the day it was evident there were thousands of Tool fans in attendance – just judging from the amount of Tool t-shirts that were proudly displayed. My friends and I were set up quite far back from the stage and the sound was being whipped around by the strong winds that picked up during the performance. This diminished the overall enjoyment of the music but being farther away gave us a good view of the laser light show. No matter what happened with the overall sound, the band was impressive with their skill and Maynard’s remarkable voice pierced through the night. I missed the last fifteen minutes of the show to make my way over to the other main stage to meet with friends for the last band of the night: Widespread Panic.

Panic closed out the night with a set that began around 10:50 pm. The band experienced some technical difficulty when guitarist Jimmy Herring’s amplifier starting smoking during the opening song “Goin’ Out West.” The problem was quickly remedied and the band played for three straight hours. The exceedingly large crowd was kept dancing and grooving until 2 am. I was energized from the experience and tired from the hot sun and three hours of dancing. As we made our way out of the festival grounds and back to the car we agreed that the Panic show was top-notch and the overall experience at the festival was a good one. I hope the event will continue to improve in the years to come.

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