Mile High Music Fest, Day 1: Deserves a bow
By Laurie Scavo
The Denver Post - July 20, 2008

It was a fine debut for the Mile High Music Festival, which opened Saturday on the outer grounds of Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City.

The music was varied, the festival experience was pleasant, the weather was hot and the things that are usually the most trying experiences at a music festival — parking, entrance lines and finding your way around — were (for the most part) painless.

The first-year festival, which wraps up tonight with Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer and others, is Colorado's entry to a world that has been dominated by the Europeans and the savvy promoters behind Coachella and Bonnaroo. And with a crowd of more than 40,000 on Saturday alone, things got a big bang of a start.

Tom Petty shows haven't varied much over the past five years — an oddly active time for Petty, who turns 58 this year. He and his Heartbreakers are as tight as they've ever been, and fans don't mind that their shows are made up of a revolving roster of light-rock songs that have ruled jukeboxes for three decades.

"I Won't Back Down" and "Free Falling" came early in the set, with Petty — wearing an embroidered jacket with skull and cross patches on his shoulder — leading his group through the sing-along choruses. The massive crowd joined in, and for a few hours at the end of a very long and hot day, Petty was their messiah — looking the part, even with long, straight hair, a bushy beard and a serious countenance.

The first part of Petty's set was strong, but the day's brightest star was Josh Ritter, a rising singer-songwriter who captivated a quarter-full tent in the early afternoon with his intense lyricism and undeniable melodies.

Drawing heavily from his latest, "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter," the artist looked like a young Wayne Coyne — dressed in a sharp suit with long, curly hair surrounding his big smile. He and his four-piece band opened with "Mind's Eye" and moved quickly to his own.