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Steve Miller Band, Phoenix, Slightly Stoopid and Jack Johnson: Mile High Music Festival day one travelogue

The Steve Miller Band took the main stage and immediately kicked into "Jet Airliner," followed by "Take the Money and Run" and "Mercury Blues." The applause seemed more polite than enthusiastic. They packed song after song into the set, hitting "Swingtown," "Ooh Poo Pah Doo" off the latest album (Bingo), "The Stake," "True Fine Love," "Shu Ba Da Da Ma Ma Ma," "Abracadabra," "Let the Good Times Roll," "Serenade from the Stars" and more. Their set was well-executed and they showed good energy; it just seemed a bit bland, especially in comparison to what came next.

On the way to see Phoenix in the Bison tent, Slightly Stoopid was playing "Baby I Like It Raw" with special guest Ian Neville. I find Slightly Stoopid's studio work more compelling than its live performances, but the energy was high and they were doing a decent enough job. Phoenix, though, was completely rocking its brand of indie music, and the crowd clapped along spontaneously with "Where Would You Go," "Armistice," "Big Sun" and more, the climbing guitar lines and steady, powerful drums describing upbeat and charming tunes.

There's a pureness to Phoenix's sound, a simplicity and ability to meld seemingly disparate elements, that makes them fascinating to watch, and the crowd was certainly mesmerized. I thought the group easily put on the strongest performance of the night.

Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi were unleashing loose jams over on the Cougar stage, and although I'm not a fan of such sounds, Trucks's admirable guitar shredding kept the whole thing from falling apart. They went through "Don't Give Up" and meandered into a long bass jam -- and before too long, their set was over and Jack Johnson took the main stage.

I've seen Jack Johnson perform several times, and I do find him a compelling, happy, dreamy and enjoyable musician. That said, I don't think he has much range to his style, and I seemed to enjoy his earlier concerts more simply because his catalog was thinner. Now that he's been around for a while, he's got a ridiculous number of songs that all sound nearly identical to one another. I heard "You and Your Heart," "If I Had Eyes," "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing," and a few more, before bringing Donovan Frankenreiter out on stage for a collaboration. That was a decent enough dose of Johnson for the evening for me, and I took my cue to head out and get some rest for tomorrow's lineup.

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