Midway through Weezer’s set at the Mile High Festival in Colorado Sunday, Rivers Cuomo threw on a long blond wig and launched into a cover of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face,” hoisting his mic stand as he sang the lyric, “I won’t tell you that I love you/Kiss and hug you/ ‘Cause I’m bluffin’ with my muffin.” It was, surprisingly, an exhilarating rather than cheesy moment in the group’s raucous, career-spanning set, which included early favorites like “Buddy Holly,” “Say It Ain’t So” and “My Name Is Jonas,” as well as tunes from Weezer’s forthcoming album, Hurley. Cuomo, wearing a green shirt with a bright orange collar under an old-school track jacket, was riding high: more than once, he jumped into the frenzied crowd to fist pump and slap high-fives. The wacky energy was mutual: Weezer’s cover of MGMT’s “Kids” inspired a some male fans to pour Bud Lite into each other’s mouths.
The beautiful setting, near Colorado’s Rockies, and pleasant temperatures at night have made Mile High one of the most picturesque, easy-going festivals in the country. The performances — including Phoenix, Steve Miller Band, Jimmy Cliff, and more, spread out over five stages — benefited as a result. Jack Johnson’s Saturday evening set seemed tailor made for the scenic location. His breezy, reggae-steeped song, especially hits like “Flake” and “Bubble Toes,” washed gently over the massive festival crowd. Johnson seems like a quiet rock star, but he was in a chatty mood during his set, bantering with fans (“She said she wants to have my babies — but I’m keeping ’em,” he said at one point) and recalling how he wrote portions of “Gone” during a tour stop years ago in nearby Boulder.
“This day is pure magic, pure heaven,” said My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, who looked every bit the mountain man with his bushy beard and disheveled hair, during the band’s Sunday evening set. “Thanks for wrapping us in your warm embrace.” MMJ upped the energy, inspiring shout-alongs to “Smokin’ From the Shootin’,” “Golden,” and “I’m Amazed.” Towards the end of their set, all the crowd’s hands were in the air for a jubilant version of “Off the Record.” The most frenetic set of the night, however, belonged to headliners Dave Matthews Band, who took the stage amidst shouts for them to “play the hits!” And they did, churning out favorites like “#41,” “Two Step” and “What Would You Say,” during which Matthews offered up his trademark mash potato moves. “Hope you’re just as high as you wanna be,” the frontman called out after “Lie in Our Graves,” which segued into a cover of Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight.” Matthews also took the opportunity to remember the band’s late saxophonist LeRoi Moore, who died in 2008. (DMB has since welcomed a new saxophonist, Jeff Coffin.) “This is a very favorite song of LeRoi’s,” he said, kicking into a pumped-up version of “Why I Am,” off the band’s latest album Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King. Throughout the set, Matthews let his band shine, lending the spotlight for extended sax, fiddle, trumpet and drum solos. But he reclaimed center stage for the encore, a bare-bones version of “Some Devil” from his 2003 solo LP, and an acoustic “Jimi Thing,” which stretched past 10 minutes as Matthews scatted and chanted “sexy motherfucker, shakin’ that ass.”
Reporting by Steve Knopper.