Flogging Molly was the surprise act of the weekend. The Irish punk-rock ensemble garnered the largest audience of the day‚ save the Dave Matthews Band. There was head banging‚ dust clouds erupting from the mosh pit‚ Guinness held high and sweat pouring as the group bounced into "Whistles the Wind" and "Selfish Man" amid their massive catalog of sound.
"This heat is making my Guinness miserable‚" lead singer Dave King said. "I guess I better drink it quickly."
"Speaking of a selfish man‚ here's one about a British man!" he shouted before grinding out "Tobacco Island."
I set back towards the other tents as the only scheduling conflict of the evening fell upon me. It seemed Leftover Salmon would be playing at the same time‚ in stages right next to each other‚ as Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.
It was a tough call seeing as both groups have organs‚ guitar mastery‚ strong vocals‚ a second-to-none stage presence‚ etc‚ but my loyalty always goes to the girl in the Go-Go boots.
I did‚ however‚ catch a few tunes from Salmon‚ which is always hard to walk away from with frontman Vince Herman's magnetic charisma and foot-stompin' numbers.
"It's always fun to get back on the bus and take it for a spin‚" Herman said afterwards. "I've been touring with Great American Taxi and Moonalice the last few months‚ which has been a great experience for me. But‚ I'm glad to be playing with the old boys again."
Adorned in a zebra-striped‚ thigh-high dress and cowgirl boots‚ Potter immediately jumped behind the Hammond B-3.
"How do you do?" she softly spoke before diving into their latest sultry little ditty‚ "Sugar."
It's amazing how far this band has come in so short of a time. The look is chic and not casual‚ the sound is tainted and no longer innocent. She sports a bleach-blonde look with a vocal range and confidence we knew she had all along while she seems to have adopted this Superwoman persona. Guitarist Scott Tournet (who‚ like wine and whiskey‚ will only get better with age) blazes through "Stop The Bus" or "Ah Mary" as the melodies seem darker (a tease of "Paint It Black" found its way into the set)‚ elongated and transitional into the next tune instead of the stop-and-start method of the past.
Though they only had an hour to prove themselves‚ the group did just that as fans cheered and whistled while the curious stood there wondering why they never heard of the foursome before.
The Nocturnals have grown up. But one wonders where the band will be in the coming years if this show was any indication of what the beloved children of the Green Mountain State have become‚ for good or ill (but mainly good).
Going onstage a half-hour earlier than billed‚ guitar virtuoso John Mayer played every radio hit he had alongside a few tunes that signaled his frustration of transitioning into a true blues legend. Granted‚ songs like "No Such Thing" or "Why Georgia" seemed to be obviously played in an effort to appeal to the DMB crowd brewing in front of the stage. But‚ I'm just tired of waiting for this guitarist‚ supposedly the future of blues‚ to get off the pop genre and into his true calling. A cover of "Crossroads" provided me with some faith but the closer‚ "Panama" by Van Halen‚ left me on the fence as Mayer ripped off his shirt and immersed himself into his best Eddie Van Halen impersonation. Regardless of the performance‚ my fingers are still crossed for Mr. Mayer with his unlimited talent and guitar abilities.
I split the next hour or so before DMB between The Roots and The Black Crowes.
Entering the sardine-can tent‚ The Roots were setting minds and the stage on fire with their baby-making tempos and indisputable lyrical flow. ?uestlove mashed his drum kit as a thunderous version of "Immigrant Song" by Led Zeppelin had the ground rumbling as the group threw the musical grenade into the crowd‚ exploding the pit as bodies soared‚ heads wobbled and arms thrashed for the entire hour-and-a-half set.
The Black Crowes provided the ambiance as the sun set on the last day of the inaugural Mile High. With guitarist Luther Dickinson onboard‚ the band sounds better than ever with imposing solos and a sense of camaraderie that makes us all sleep a little better at night. A blend of old ("Remedy") and new ("Oh Josephine") seemed to be the method they were intending for as Chris Robinson snaked around the stage‚ radiating pure emotion as the evening sky went from yellow‚ to orange‚ to red and eventually pitch-black. Although I was only able to stay a short time‚ the Crowes definitely renewed my devotion to them after years of losing interest.
The Dave Matthews Band immediately began the final performance of the festival just as the Crowes were concluding theirs.
Out of the almost ten DMB concerts I've attended‚ Mile High may have been the worst in energy and enthusiasm. Like Mayer‚ Dave seemed to be playing only the hits ("Don't Drink The Water‚" "Satellite‚" "Ants Marching") for the demanding crowd with a few notables sprinkled in (a nicely done cover of Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer"). Again‚ I understand why‚ but what remains is a talented band succumbing to what the audience wants. I know there is more in there than what was seen or heard‚ especially in stretching out the melodies. I thought Tim Reynolds would save the day with his marathon guitar solos‚ but he just sat back most of the show and seemed to clash against the free-flowing tunes. The show was just on par at best‚ but with such a touring machine as DMB‚ one wonders if Matthews is burnt out or just doesn't care to expand anymore in his original project. I hold out hope.
And thus‚ the first Mile High Music Festival came to a close. There were some highs‚ there were some lows‚ there were definitely some suggestions (maybe a friendlier audience demographic‚ perhaps a better venue or camping?)‚ but all in all it was a memorable time. The evolution of the festival has come leaps and bounds in the last decade‚ but there is still a long way to go before promoters finally get it right (Rothbury seems to be at the forefront). Once again‚ I hold out hope.