French pop quartet Phoenix nearly overstuffed the Bison Tent at Mile High Music Festival on Saturday, performing a rounded, high-energy set that satisfied even the most demanding members of the crowd. Recent Grammy winners for Best Alternative Music Album (2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix), the group performed lively, uplifted pop that was faithfully snug to their studio sound, delighting the many fans that sang along to memorable choruses.
That audience base, to no one’s real surprise, consisted of a lot of high school and college girls who have memorized fragments of the group’s somewhat nonsensical lyrics. The set’s first 15 minutes were essentially a sing-along for the young female audience, one that had no interest in seeing Derek Trucks & the Susan Tedeschi Band or Slightly Stoopid during the same time slot.
Phoenix quickly began their set with “Lisztomania” and opened up a can of tween frenzy. The energy was infectious. I didn’t know the exact words, but tried to sing along with something like this: “Lisztomania… watch how the tears flow… like a ride, like a ride-on?… not easily suspended.” That isn’t quite it, however hilarious those ambiguously S&M lyrics sound. But I sung my version with gusto and vibed with the “I <3 this song!” mentality of the crowd, and it was a lot of fun.
Phoenix followed up with “Lasso,” showing they weren’t about to mess around with the crowd’s expectations — it was all about drawing immediate energy from the crowd, then powering through an inspired but milder middle segment into their top hit, “1901,” followed by a pretty generous encore. (If there was any indication of how young the crowd was, many people left before the encore and then turned on their heel like, “What, they’re gonna play more?!”).
The whole festival was sharply fractured along age demographics such as this: It wasn’t hard to drag your finger in a zigzag down the day schedule and say to yourself, “Here’s where families with little kids will go … Here’s where the locals will go … Here’s where it will be easiest to find marijuana … Everyone over 40 will go here …” So it wasn’t surprising to see the youngest of Phoenix’s crowd pressed to the front, hands waving in the air for the only act to recently top iTunes lately. The crowd wasn’t any less diverse than Steve Miller Band or Cypress Hill. (I take that back, there were a lot of younger people at SMB).
Therefore, understand that it was not Phoenix’s fault that a few orbiting hipsters would complain about the youth of the crowd and lament the passing of Phoenix’s buzz-band era. Phoenix’s set was dynamic, well-executed, and only benefited from the waving hands and screaming masses. Whether you liked the music or not, it was hard to deny the beauty of Thomas Mars leaving the stage to sing to an adoring crowd, knowing that a girl with braces was having the time of her life.
Photo by Ari Beser for Boulder Weekly