Monolith 2008 :: Recap, Day One

The Monolith Festival: I was intrigued by the lineup for multiple reasons - this was certainly the most 'indie' looking festival I'd seen in awhile - more in tune with Pitchfork than Lollapalooza. The headliners went from Devotchka, Silversun Pickups and Atmosphere to Justice, TV on the Radio and CSS. Those names alone tell you something different is going on and the litany of bands on the underbilling reinforced that idea.

But first a bit about our host - Red Rocks Amphitheater is, seriously, the most beautiful outdoor concert area I've ever seen. Situated in the town of Morrison, just outside of Denver, it's a model in development that works with the environment rather than bending it to development's will. Denver is, however, 5,280 feet above sea level and this raises problems when it comes to, you know, breathing. Less oxygen makes a good stair climb, of which there are many at Red Rocks (approximately 230 steps from the bottom of the amphitheater to the top), a much more tiring task.

Both days at Monolith proposed similar problems - namely too many good bands jammed together. Especially during the early part of day one. Luckily, the festival crowd didn't pick up until nearly 4 o'clock. This left plenty of room to move to catch bands up close.

With five stages to choose from, there was a lot of cycling in style and space. Austin, Texas' Erin Ivey opened the day with a beautiful, low-key performance on the acoustic stage, a great place to catch some quieter, more subtle performances throughout the day. Rock Plaza Central would also give a good show on this stage later in the afternoon, sampling new songs from their forthcoming new album and from last year's Are We Not Horses?

The rest of the stages would demand more energy and decibels. Oxford, Mississippi's Colour Revolt was a high point of the early performances, firing off some truly inspired work from their latest, Plunder, Beg and Curse. The Veils brought their peculiar mix of snark and pathos and wordplay and succeeded despite tech problems. Cut Copy scored the first genuine over-the-top audience reaction of the day on the main stage and Port O'Brien turned an early crowd into a genuine party by inviting the audience up onto the stage, with pots and pans no less, to accentuate a closing performance of their song "I Woke Up Today."

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