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Mile High Music Festival, day one: Cypress Hill, Keane and Phoenix

It's more than likely that people came out to see Cypress Hill to hear the old hits, and B-Real and Sen Dog did not fail to deliver, keeping them copious and starting in with them early in the set; they were doing "Dr. Greenthumb" when I walked up, and my colleague Aaron Thackeray told me they had already blown through "Insane in the Brain" earlier in the set. They saved the Tom Morello-produced "Rise Up," the single from this year's album of the same name, for a little later in the set, and Morello's guitar work added to the vaguely political, not so weed-related lyrics made it sound pretty much like a Rage Against the Machine song -- which was not exactly unwelcome. Somewhat surprisingly, they went with nü-metal chestnut "(Rock) Superstar" for a closer -- some of their more dated material, in my, ahem, expert opinion. Again, though, not a bad song.

Keane was next, and the band reminded me a lot of perennial hometown lite-rock favorites like The Fray and Meese, with a healthy helping of the band's English brethren Coldplay. Like that band, Keane trafficked in piano-heavy ballads that generally started out soft and built to epic finishes. Frontman Tom Chaplin's voice, though, was flawlessly smooth and honed -- he never missed a note. The music itself didn't strike me as particularly interesting, but the band got the crowd moving and clapping, the musicianship was accomplished and, ultimately, the band proved pleasant enough to listen to -- though I lost interest before the end of the set.

If I'd admired Keane's tight musicianship, though, Phoenix absolutely blew that band out of the water -- easily the best band I've seen yet (as I write this, Jack Johnson has yet to come, but unless Johnson's written some incredibly angular, interesting shit since I last took a listen, I expect Phoenix to remain the winner). Drummer Thomas Hedlund provided the tom-heavy foundation for Phoenix's angular dance rock, which was about half Q and not U and about half U2; what the band probably does best is the kind of shimmering, delay-sprinkled guitar tone The Edge has always been so good at. If there was any fault in the set, it was that it was too long -- over an hour, with no less than four encores before I went my way, having soaked in as much of the band as I could take.

On my way back to the elitist media compound, I walked by what must have been Slightly Stoopid's 10th encore (they had already been playing when I was walking over to see Phoenix, who hadn't even started at that point), and it may... God, this is too easy... it may have made me stoopider.

I went there.

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