John Common and the Blinding Flashes of Light, 1:15 p.m. on the Cougar Stage John Common and the Blinding Flashes of Light didn't let the early hour or the high temperatures derail their sense of decorum.
The band emerged for their early afternoon set decked in suits and dress wear, a touch that added a degree of formality and theatricality to their set. As far as the music, the group delivered a well-honed performance, one marked by the ensemble's trademark blend of soaring vocals, blues and folk structures and rich contours.
Common's vocal approach and powerful guitar work seems designed to fill an amphitheater, but it works just as well in an outdoor, open-air venue. The frontman's philosophical lyrics and novel chord structures find their real power in the work of the ensemble, a group that features bright Moog work, refined cello and clarinet lines and a compelling female vocal complement in the form of backup singer Jess De Nicola.
Its the combination of these elements that make songs like "Go to Hell With Me" more than the sum of their parts.
The bluesy, minor-based plaint expands with the addition of a clarinet, bright keyboard lines and forceful drum accompaniment.
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Indeed, the sound feels downright epic at times, and the effect makes for a forceful and ambitious start of the Mile High Music Festival's second day.
The Knew, 1:30 p.m., in the Bison Tent The crowds are still sparse as the Knew takes the stage at the Bison tent. The venue is filled to perhaps a third of its capacity, and more audience members seem more intent on hacky sack matches or beach ball exchanges than the band's driving tenor vocals or its expansive guitar chords. Still, the group put up an impressive showing, despite the early hour and the slim turnout. Lead singer and guitarist Jacob Hansen kept up an insistence and immediacy throughout the set, and the rest of the quartet matched his energy.
Even though the performance seemed more like a background soundtrack to the early afternoon activities in the tent, the band kept up a steady and straightforward meld of simply stated guitar chords and reverb-tinged melody lines.
The effect seemed more apt for a small club than an outdoor tent, but the Knew managed to keep up an admirable mix of energy and enthusiasm.