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Mile High Dilemma

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Each winter I anxiously anticipate the release of my favorite music festival lineups in Colorado.

On Wednesday though, some major festival information was announced -- and it had nothing to do with a concert roster.

The Mile High Music Festival is moving its third annual festival to Aug. 14 and 15 from the usual mid-July slot of the first two years. The new slot just happens to be the same weekend as the 20th annual Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in Lyons, Colo.

My first thought upon reading this news? "Boy, I hope this year's Mile High lineup is as awful as last year's lineup, so I don't have to make the tough decision between the two." And I'm willing to bet I'm not the only music lover on the Front Range who might face the same dilemma.

MHMF's promoter explained the move to the Denver Post on Wednesday.

"It won't be as hot in August," [Chuck] Morris, president of AEG Live Rocky Mountains, predicted. "And we're also a week after Lollapalooza, which will help with the routing of some of these bands."

Good call Chuck, it is very hot in mid-July, but you couldn't have done it any other weekend? The weekend before Lollapalooza? Or a week later? Artists and booking agents have always managed to work around the different major music festivals all over the country the entire summer.

Brian Eyster, the marketing director for Planet Bluegrass, the company that produces Folks,
said the people at Planet Bluegrass are disappointed on behalf of Colorado music fans that the "two festivals couldn't be spread out to different weekends."

He also said:

Fortunately, Coloradans have a choice between two fundamentally different events. Folks Fest is a small, music connoisseur, community-minded, family-friendly festival held on 20 wooded acres along the St. Vrain River in the small town of Lyons.  Mile High Music Festival, with its location in Commerce City and much larger crowds, is a very different experience that will appeal to a different type of festival-goer.

Planet Bluegrass produces the festival along with the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Rockygrass Festival. Both of these festivals have been around for over 30 years, and would have no problem up against the monolith of Mile High Music Festival because the genres are very different.

Unfortunately, Folks Fest is the kid sibling at Planet Bluegrass -- the one that continually produces amazing shows, but can't quite sell as well as Telluride or Rockygrass. Plus, Folks Fest's lineup in past and present years have some of the same artists as Mile High, which poses a difficult decision for this concert junkie who loves all sorts of genres.

This year's Folks Festival lineup features Ani DiFranco (who played last year at MHMF) and The Swell Season (who came to the area thanks to MHMF's parent company, AEG Live Rocky Mountains, this last December). Other impressive artists are The Waifs, Jenny Lewis (of Rilo Kiley -- at least I know Rilo Kiley won't be playing at MHMF!), Mark Cohn, Greg Brown and Richard Thompson.

Past Folks Festival lineups have also included Amos Lee, Ray LaMontagne, KT Tunstall, and Martin Sexton, along with Brett Dennen, Josh Ritter and Stephen Kellogg and the S6ers (all bands that played that first year in Commerce City). I would not be surprised to see Lee, LaMontagne or Tunstall on future MHMF lineup.

Craig Ferguson, Planet Bluegrass' president and festival director, said he isn't concerned that the two events will conflict.

"For our 20th anniversary this year, we've really loaded up with great musicians, many of whom have grown with us throughout the years. Some even played the first Folk Festival."

He said in an email statement:

The folks that produce Mile High Music Festival called us up when they realized that the weekend that worked the best for them was the same weekend as Folks Festival. I think most people underestimate the amount of respect that each of us that produce these festivals in Colorado have for each other.

I attended the first Mile High Music Festival in 2008 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, and my goodness, it was hot! It was a record breaking weekend with temperatures reaching the 90s -- and those soccer fields in Commerce City don't have much shade, or decent tap water. Cell phone service was horrible and you couldn't ignore the constant noise of air traffic coming in and out of Denver International Airport.

Watching such artists as Rodrigo y Gabriella, Citizen Cope, Dave Matthews Band and John Mayer was amazing, but difficult with 80,000 other sweaty, drunk and rude attendees. At the time, it was worth it because I got to see these amazing acts -- but 2009's lineup failed to impress me. Tool and Widespread Panic two nights in a row? No, thanks. I'd already watched all the smaller acts I would have liked to see in smaller venues or on one of Planet Bluegrass' stages.

Mile High Music Festival doesn't announce its lineup for another month or so, and unless the festival offers someone I couldn't see anywhere else -- like Radiohead or Jack Johnson -- I will surely be heading to Lyons in mid-August.

You will probably be able to find me with my feet dipped in the St. Vrain River drinking a New Belgium Skinny Dip beer (which is only $4, compared to MHMF's $8 Budweiser) enjoying the likes of Ani, Jenny and Mark, with a few thousand of my closest friends.