Long live rock, I need it every night

Monday, August 31, 2009

Like a Virgin*

The Virgin Mobile Free Fest - Sunday, August 30th @ Merriweather Post Pavilion - $10 (for two tickets)

This was my first Virgin Mobile Festival having passed up super rockers The Who and The Police in year's past, mostly due to the previous venue. I saw Lollapalooza at the Watkins Glen race track in the mid 90s - which was hot, dusty, and ultimately disappointing - and we all know what happened at Altamont Speedway.

But this year, the Vfest moved to Merriweather, which is way better than a racetrack and one of the more tolerable pavilions in the area, oh, and it was virtually free.

Here's the quick run down of the day (for me):

Holy F*ck was our first stop at the Dance Stage. We only stayed a couple of minutes before moving on, but I continue to like this band's live act. More on them in a minute.

St. Vincent was playing the West Stage at the same time Holy F*ck were up, and Emma Peel and I opted to check them/her out across the way. We arrived just in time to hear her cover the Beatles' Dig a Pony. Covers are great. This one was not. But she's hot, and as sexist/sexy as that may be, it helped.

We parted ways with St. Vincent toward the end of her set to catch Mates of State at the Pavilion Stage. We found some shade under a small tree and lounged to the disjointed rhythms from this Kansas creation. I like the tracks I've heard on WOXY, the ones that appear to be individuals songs from start to finish (Think Long, My Only Offer). But I'm not one for unnecessary groove disruptions, so the tempo changes from these two got me off my duff and I headed back to the Dance Stage.

Holy F*ck were still at it, but wrapping things up. They were scheduled for 2 and a half hours. Holy F*ck, that's a long set. Long enough for me to walk to two other stages and be able to check out two other acts, come back and hear the finale. By the end of their set, they had built a solid crowd and had them all kinds of riled. That's what I like about this group. They get folks moving.

By 2:30 it was time for lunch and we headed back toward the West Stage where the food options were more diverse (and slightly more risky) than elsewhere. They included: greek salads, burritos, crab pretzels (got me), steamed crabs, chinese food, chicken tenders, and italian subs. I got the chinese sampler platter which was a good value but made my stomach ache.

The Hold Steady were next on the list, and this was a highlight as I've never seen this nerd-rock in action. Fun. Great live performers, a good number of fans there to soak it up and play along. Craig Finn certainly delivers his lyrics with a Boss quality. I'm not sure I recognized any of their tunes.

I previously suggested that we (DCRC) had seen JET before, which is of course a complete fabrication. But JET is one of those bands that despite being Australian, is a lot like one of those post-Strokes British-sounding rock pop bands that have flourished in recent years, and I got carried away. We checked them out at Vfest Sunday, and they performed adequately, though seemed disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm from the crowd.

Public Enemy number one. Chuck D and Flavor Flav played the West Stage and we lazily took in their performance from a distance. Chuck D is the EF Hutton of hip hop. He speaks, and I listen. His voice cuts through anything. I never thought I'd see PE in my lifetime so this was another great bonus. Another check off the list.

The National were up next on the West Stage, so we stayed put. I really like this band, and I knew I wouldn't feel bad sitting through their melancholy set. Matt Berninger looked a bit like Kevin Klein, and his deep vocals are hard to replicate live, but he managed to wail loud and impassioned.

Weezer was the band that I was anxious to see Sunday. About 4 years ago, I had tickets to see them play in DC, but had to leave town for work and couldn't go. So this was my do-over. You can't hate Weezer. I'm sorry. You can't. They have hits. They play hits. The Pavilion Stage was packed packed packed for their set. Mr. Virgin, Sir Richard Branson, was seen with a broad smile as he rode in one of those cherry pickers adjacent to the stage while Weezer performed. Rivers Cuomo had a trampoline on stage. What more can I say?

That was enough free rock for one day, and we skipped out on Franz Ferdinand (which was probably a mistake) and Blink 182 (which was probably not a mistake).

I wonder how Vfest moves forward. Once you go free, can you really come back and sell tickets? Keep the free tunes coming, Sir Dick. I was touched for the very first time.

*Post title credit to Emma Peel


Jimbromski said...

I'm with you on the tempo changes. this is my main beef with seeing Fiery Furnaces live. it's too jarring.

Jumbo Slice said...

The past few Weezer albums have been terrible yet I'd still like to see them live. Not as much as I want to see Public Enemy though. Love them. I even bought Chuck D's solo albums. Me and about 12 other people.

BTW, Chuck D as EF Hutton? Well played.