Music mania on the Front Range
DENVER Bonnaroo. Wakarusa. 10,000 Lakes. Rothbury. Cochella. For music lovers, mention of these banner festivals inspires a sense of longing. A desire to be part of a summertime musical tradition.But, alas. The time off work the travel to faraway campgrounds the budget gas prices. Sigh. Maybe next year.Well, chin up. The mourning period is over. Saturday marks the kickoff of the inaugural Mile High Music Festival. Practically in our backyard, this festival boasts more than 48 hours of live music by 46 performers on an impressive concert campus 10 miles from downtown Denver. Tickets are still available for the event, too. Its about time for our region to be graced with a big-bill summer music festival. The thriving music scene in Denver sets the stage for it and diverse, hungry music fans demand it.
Denver has long been a music-rich city. Home to Red Rocks, one of the most stunning venues in the nation, in addition to the Pepsi Center, the Fillmore Auditorium and the Fox Theater in Boulder (to name a few), the Front Range music scene is bursting at the seams. But Chuck Morris, longtime Denver/Boulder music producer and president/CEO of AEG Live Rocky Mountain Region, saw that something was missing. Ive had this idea for a number of years, Morris said. Ive watched festivals across the country grow in success. I knew that there was one gem missing here. Following in the mold of other urban music festivals like Austin City Limits and the New Orleans Jazz Festival, Morris and his support at AEG produced the Mile High Music Festival. Each day is more than 12 hours of continuous music, Morris said. Add to that the venue, 50 of Denvers best restaurants serving food, incredible art displays, a water feature in the middle of the setup this is the real deal.
The greatest draw of the festival is its impressive lineup. Dodging the bullet of being pigeonholed as a hippie or jam band session, the Mile High bill offers up a little bit of everything. The headliners need no introduction. Pick your poison: American rock idols Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers; beloved pop jam musicians the Dave Matthews Band; longtime American rock sweetheart Steve Winwood; or fresh-faced singer/songwriter/Hollywood-gossip-fodder John Mayer. More than with the big names, the true bang for your buck is in the local, up-and-coming and lesser-known musicians gracing the festivals five stages. We offer a little of everything: rock, funk, R&B, alternative, hippie, folk, Morris said. We focused on booking acts that have played in this region and sold well in the region, but we also aimed to cater to a broad audience. From Steve Winwood and Tom Petty to acts like Spoon and Colbie Caillat, well attract everyone from ages 15 to 60 and beyond.
The festival experience isnt just unique for the audience its unique for musicians. Or, so say the artists scheduled to perform this weekend at Mile High. Each has their own take on being part of the festivals thriving pulse.Its absolutely totally different, said acclaimed Canadian singer/songwriter Serena Ryder about playing a festival versus a concert. I like spending a whole weekend at a festival. You get to hang out with your peers. As a touring musician, your life is pretty insular. We travel around playing our music, giving interviews about ourselves, posing for photo shoots featuring us. Festivals are great, we really get to hang out with other people who are doing the same thing.Cody Dickinson, mastermind of the Hill Country Revue, agreed.Theres a really cool sense of camaraderie other artists that I wouldnt usually spend the afternoon with, all sharing an area and a crowd, he said. Its such a great way for bands to showcase what theyve been working on in the dark, dingy clubs all winter long. You know, fine-tuning their machines its a way for everyone to stretch out a little bit.Ask the artists why people shouldnt skip their show and youll get answers as diverse as the performers themselves.Hill Country Revues sound is a concentrated, powerful, real focused energy we bring the heat, Dickinson said with an audible grin. Its like blues music on Viagra. Were going to make the asses shake!Local band Rose Hill Drive a band on Rolling Stones Top Ten to Watch list offer similar sentiment. We think its great that theres an event this big in Denver, said lead guitarist Daniel Sproul. Id say our sound is just rock n roll high intensity and lots of fun.Ryder, whos been recognized with a Juno Award and been compared to Janis Joplin for her deep, bluesy voice (and, incidentally, plays the Vilar Center on Monday night), offers a different reason to watch her set.Its intimate. Just me and my guitar player. Its a very intimate, honest, chilled out show, she said.Another festival draw is the Rebel Alliance late night jam sessions. Kicking off at 11:30 p.m. each night, after the headliners perform, the jams will feature artists from the festivals broad spectrum playing together. Producers wouldnt confirm the lineup but the tantalizing possibilities are well worth sticking around late-night to investigate. E-mail comments about this story to email@example.com.
What: Mile High Music FestivalWhen: Saturday and Sunday, events begin at 11:15 a.m.Where: Dicks Sporting Goods Park, 10 miles from downtown Denver in Commerce City.Tickets: $85 per day or $150 for the weekend; weekend VIP passes are $495.More information: For a full schedule or to purchase tickets, visit http://milehighmusicfestival.com.