Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Virgin Music Fest

On Saturday, my friends Reshma, Shayan, Faheem and myself drove up to Pimlico field outside Baltimore, Maryland to attend the 1st annual Virgin Music Fest. We met up with another cohort upon arrival, Seema, who came in from New York, and made our way to the event. The venue was divided into three areas with the well-known acts happening at the Grandstand stage at one end and lesser known acts appearing at the Clubhouse stage on the other side of the track. A large tent called the Darkhouse Dance tent played host to various DJs while a smaller tent called the Freaklounge had a running show of sideshow-esque acts throughout the day.

Lead singer of WolfmotherOur first event was Wolfmother which came on the Grandstand stage at 1pm. I'd heard their song Woman a number of times on Octane but not much else. They were actually quite good and their hard rocking chords evoked a late 70s, perhaps early 80s metal sound. But we couldn't stay too long as Reshma wanted to go check out The New Pornographers on the Clubhouse stage. A fairly large band at eight members, they put on a great show and definitely got me intrigued in their particular style.

Cee-Lo in a metal breastplateThe next two acts we saw were the Raconteurs and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, both on opposite stages. I honestly lost count of how many times we went back and forth. It seemed that near the end of every show there was a great exodus to the other side of the field, followed by a reversal not long after. Anyways, the next band to come on the Grandstand stage was Gnarls Barkley and they were just amazing. Apparently they have a new theme for every show and this one was Chariots of Fire so they dressed appropriately in Roman-esque garb. They played a ton of great material and closed on Crazy, an absolutely fantastic song to hear live.

The Killers during their final songThe Brazilian Girls were the next to appear on the smaller Clubhouse stage. Shayan is a big fan of theirs and he was bowled over by their performance. Contrary to their name, none of the members are Brazilian and only one, the lead singer, is a girl. During the performance, she had this white latex mask on and would apply make-up to it between songs. I only stayed for a few songs before heading over to see The Killers on the main stage. Now I'd been looking forward to this as they were played frequently on both Octane and Alt Nation. They played all the big hits from their first album like Somebody Told me and Mr. Brightside and even included songs from their upcoming one, most notably Bones. These guys were amazing and I would definitely pay to see them again live.

Roger Daltrey on vocalsAt this point, we headed back towards the smaller stage to see Thievery Corporation. After about 20 minutes there, Seema said that she wanted to go see The Who. Nobody else seemed interested so the two of us headed back to the big stage. We got there just in time to see Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, the only remaining original members of The Who, plus a bassist, keyboarder and drummer put on what I can only describe as the greatest rock show I've ever seen. I'm a big fan of the group but nothing could have prepared me for this performance.

Pete Townshend about to do his famous windmillThe vocals from both Daltrey and Townshend were spot-on and whenever Townshend did his famous "windmill" on the guitar, the crowd went nuts. I found it gratifying that the same band my Dad was such a big fan of could still rock the hell out of a venue like this one. People young and old, myself and Seema included, were screaming at the top of their lungs. Baba O'Riley, Behind Blue Eyes and My Generation were just a few of the hits that they played. I'd been hoping for something from Tommy so when I heard the opening notes to Pinball Wizard I thought I was going to lose it. They closed the show on Listening to You/See Me, a truly mesmerizing performance.

Flea from the Red Hot Chili PeppersThe Red Hot Chili Peppers came on at 8:30pm and, including their encore performance, rocked the crowd for nearly two hours. They played a good number of hits, most of them from Californication and By the Way. The only disappointment was that they didn't play Under the Bridge. Otherwise though it was a great show and definitely a great closer to what was a top-notch music festival. This was the 1st one in the US but I hope Virgin continues to bring this great event stateside year after year.

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