Virgin Mobile FreeFest Review: Kevin’s Take

Hey everyone, again, sorry for the wait, we just got caught up in real life for a bit, but here’s my rant/review of Virgin Fest. Was an awesome day.

This was a thing of beauty. I swear. It was like every good moment ever, had been combined into one huge day. Hyperbolic? Probably. But this day was epic.

Got there incredibly early. They had an incredibly amount of activities for everyone to do there. Beds lying around, Plinko, Flip books, Ferris wheels, and incredibly overpriced food. We had to sit through the winner of the “Book the Band” contest, Brite Lite Brite. They had a dubstep instrumentation backing, combined with someone who tried way too hard to sound like M.I.A. Not very impressed, people who voted them in.

Anyways, I sort of just wondered around checking out everything afterwards, trying to find shade from the hot Columbia sun. After not listening to The Temper Trap, I checked out some of Jimmy Eat World. They played some songs I recognized, some songs I didn’t. The pavilion crowd seemed to be filled with a lot of people about as old as the songs themselves, which I found to be excellent news for the band. Sure, I was never really into the pop-punk stage, but other people are. Go power chords.

I headed my way into the Dance Forest to see people I really didn’t know anything about next. My friend Miller had told me about Wolfgang Gartner, so I decided to take the opportunity. It was incredibly bass heavy, and overall a pretty good time, except the group was, as Dan described “amateur hour.” High school kids bumping and grinding and doing those things it says not to do in the rule book.

After this we stopped by to see my [girlfriend’s] favorite band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. Heard “Carry On.” That’s all I wanted to hear. Got some food towards the end of it, that’s all I have to say regarding them.

Anyways, headed back to the Dance Forest after a quick food break to catch some Neon Indian. I saw these guys riding the chillwave back in June with Wild Nothing. Oh how much better they’ve become. First of all, they added a theramin. If you’ve never seen one of these bad boys, look it up. I’ll wait…

Okay, now you know. He added it in to essentially add a whole new part to every song. Not to mention, the guitarist was dead on. He soloed over essentially all of “Sleep Paralysis” which was to say the least, epic. The crowd, who I guess was expecting some house/grime/dub act was sort of motionless, although I can assure you that there was never any doubt that Dan and I were the biggest Neon Indian fanboys ever.

It was at this point that we took a little rest, and re-organized ourselves for the power lineup of Matt and Kim, Pavement and LCD Soundsystem.

This ending was quite possibly the greatest musical experience of my life. I thought it was Future Islands. Sorry Sam, but there was something about this that was magical. We sat in line for Pavement during Matt and Kim. The crowd looked really into it, and overall seemed really fun. Apparently the sound was mixed bad so it was very bass drum heavy, but they mixed it up with some excellent covers of cheesy pop songs (Biz Markie, miscellaneous others). They seemed really grateful, which was excellent, and they were the first to notice the lack of people in the pavilion, seeing as the tickets cost $125.

Eventually, Pavement started. It was last week all over again, with one rather large difference. I was front row. That’s right, front row. Not trying to brag, but it was epic. “For those of you who don’t know, we’re an old band that broke up a long time ago” quipped Malkmus. Sure, the seats were empty and no one was really there (the band had to battle out Ludacris), but it became a really intimate show. That’s right, a really intimate show in the middle of Merriweather. Dan, our friends, a couple hundred die hards who had been waiting since 1999 for this moment and I sang every note to every song. From “Grounded”’s “Doctors leaving/for the holiday season” to the wonderful screams of “Summer Babe (Winter Version)” (“Not here babe, don’t go!”). They again played all of their big hits, sloppily and loosely as ever. Sure they had long stops between songs (Malkmus: “What’s my favorite Orioles Player? Hmm… Brian Matusz? Is that how you say it.”) and the occasional false start, but fuck, its Pavement. You wouldn’t see Pavement if they were finely tuned and well oiled. “In the Mouth a Desert”’s guitar riff soared while Malkmus fooled around with his guitar, and continued those antics throughout the entire set. Sure, setlist wise I had seen it all last week, but I was 10 feet away from the definitive indie band of the ‘90s, when being “indie” still meant something. Simply put, there was something magical about hearing “Gold Soundz” and “Here” with some awesome friends right up front. Must’ve been something from the dangling Christmas lights.

So, we quickly evacuated the pit, as they told us to do after every set, but quickly circled our way back around, and surprise! There we were again, front row. James Murphy, All my friends, and me.

The six other band members walked onto the stage, with the rows of LCD lights (pun?) in the background while the beat to “Dance Yrself Clean” began and it quickly dawned on the crowd that this was in fact, the promoters saving the best for last.

It started out slow, much like it does the studio version. I heard audience members saying “when does it get loud” but quickly thereafter, the saw wave laden climax picked up, allowing for the most dancing I’ve ever done in an approximate 1 sq. ft. area. Lead single from This is Happening “Drunk Girls” was next. The repetitious titular line made it quite the sing-along, but then again, what song wasn’t? This song and the next one shared a sort of common “rockiness” to them with the first song from their self-titled “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” coming next. The dance parties continued as James Murphy and his hard working trope of musicians continued to play, with Murphy’s “Oww, oww”’s surging over the speaker.

They went back to their last album with “I Can Change” and its great danceable beat, set to Murphy’s haunting lyrics about love being torn apart that sent chills down the crowd’s collective spines. These chills continued with the repetitious and beautiful A and D chord piano of “All my Friends.” It was a thing of beauty, the crowd collectively pleading “Where are my friends tonight?” But everyone probably knew where they were, and they were with them singing along.

It got a little bit more danceable with the next few. And when I say a bit, I mean a whole lot. Infamous “Music about writing music” track “You Wanted a Hit,” and three first album tracks “Tribulations,” “Movement” and an epic version of “Yeah” that literally got the entire crowd enveloped. Screaming the chorus over and over again that must have lasted for about 10 minutes. The band quickly left the stage, but we all knew they weren’t done.

Everyone with the exception of Murphy and backing vocalist/electronics girl Nancy Whang joined back up and started “Losing my Edge,” Murphy’s critique of hipster culture. After the lyric about how he “was there in 1974 in at the first Suicide practices” Murphy got down on Whang’s keyboards with a fairly monstrous riff. I completely lost it at the end, singing word for word, every single one of Murphy’s records.

“This Heat, Pere Ubu, Outsiders, Nation of Ulysses, Mars, The Trojans, The Black Dice, Todd Terry, the Germs, Section 25, Althea and Donna, Sexual Harassment, a-ha, Pere Ubu, Dorothy Ashby, PIL, the Fania All-Stars, the Bar-Kays, the Human League, the Normal, Lou Reed, Scott Walker, Monks, Niagara, Joy Division, Lower 48, the Association, Sun Ra, Scientists, Royal Trux, 10cc, Eric B. and Rakim, Index, Basic Channel, Soulsonic Force, Juan Atkins, David Axelrod, Electric Prunes, Gil! Scott! Heron!, the Slits, Faust, Mantronix, Pharaoh Sanders and the Fire Engines, the Swans, the Soft Cell, the Sonics.”

He ended it with a wonderful version of “Home” and beforehand thanked the festival organizers for finally allowing people to fill the pavilion seats, adding the greatest of vibes to the set. At the end, the members started leaving one by one, until just the guitarist and drummer were left, doing their same melody.

The night was simply, and I’ve probably overstated this, fantastic. Seriously, Pavement and LCD Soundsystem in a row, in the front. You couldn’t ask for a better night.



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