By Amy Willard
photo by Amy Willard
For the last four years, the Baltimore-Washington area has played home to one of the biggest end of the summer music festivals, Virgin Fest. This year, Sir Richard Branson, who was in attendance, felt it was time to give relief in these harsh economic times and make the entire festival free.
On Sunday, August 30, thousands of fans, many of which earned tickets through volunteer work, made their long awaited trek to Columbia, Md. to see music history in the making. Whether it was by plane, train, car, or bus, concert goes from all over the country had one destination: the Merriweather Post Pavilion, designed by famed architect, Frank Gehry.
At 11 A.M. screams of joy echoed through the woods off Broken Land Parkway, as attendees were finally allowed onto the festival grounds. Many rushed to the gates at the pavilion to wait for a prime seat at 1 PM. Others who were more into the free experience made their way to the Lucky Layoff Lounge to win prizes which included: free Converse sneakers, Kyocera cell phones, Dickies jeans, Ikea furniture, and even a massage.
Other tents on the ground included free samples from Got2B hair products, a Converse shoe design competition, Red Bull, and plenty of organizations with raffle prizes for those who donated to the cause.
Those who donated their time and money to attend the show were deemed "Free I P's." These selfless citizens earned special treatment at the event and even got to me Mr. Virgin himself, Sir Richard Branson.
The West stage opened up at 11:15 AM with Sunday's Roulette. The large stage in the field that plays host to the Van's Warped Tour also featured the sounds of The Birthday Massacre who was voted on upon fans to play the event. Other acts included: Wale, The Hold Steady (Mark Hoppus of Blink 182 tweeted as his "music monday" this morning), Flava Flave with Public Enemy, The National, Girl Talk, and concluded the day with Franz Ferdinand.
The interesting duo of Mates of State opened the pavilion stage around 1 PM, along with Holy Fuck in the dance tent. As the rest of musical acts got underway, crowds began to form all over, evening stopping to enjoy the street performers, stationed around the festival grounds and marked by traffic cones.
Highlights of the event included the always entertaining Adam Lazzara of Taking Back Sunday who belted out songs off their latest release, New Again. Jet opened their set with "Cold Hard Bitch," and made a dedication to the recently defunct Oasis. Dawned in a black and white striped tank top, Sam Endicott, kept the festival's momentum going as The Bravery took to the main stage.
Fans began packing the pavilion tight as festival staff worked swiftly to hang a golden Weezer banner across the stage. The crowds surged as 8 PM drew near, causing the pavilion to officially be gated off to new entrants. Despite the closed gates, fans still lined up, all around the large hill in hopes to be let in in time for headliner, Blink 182. Much to their dismay, as Rivers Cuomo of Weezer bounced around stage in his red polo, and black slacks singing hits like "Hash Pipe," "Island In the Sun," and old favorite, "Buddy Holly," no additional guests were let into the pavilion area.
As darkness fell, a large black curtain was drawn across the main stage to set up for the kings of pop/punk. While equipment exchanged places, the Red Bull skydiving team jumped from aircrafts above the festival and landed on the pavilion's roof where they were granted by Sir Branson and champaign, of course. The notorious Billionaire was short on words as he was handed a microphone, but wished everyone a good evening, to which a packed lawn responded with cheers.
By 9:15 the black curtain finally dropped as talented drummer, Travis Barker, rattled off beats as bassist, Mark Hoppus, and guitarist, Tom Delonge, skipped on stage. The popular punk rockers from the 90's proved that at over 30, they were still young at heart. The main event featured hits like "What's My Age Again," and "All The Small Thing's" which was dedicated by Hoppus to Delonge's wiener. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the show was full of profanity, the F-bomb was dropped an exponential amount of times, sexual references, and constant reminders of how awesome each song was.
Despite the jokes and signature immaturity, Hoppus and Delonge gained composure for a moment to remind fans why they were there, and well, that seeing them was worth what they paid for (nothing, that is), "if not double." They apologized for an "economy that sucks," but encouraged fans to text donations to various charities affiliated with the day's events. Hopefully some people in attendance were sober enough or could get a signal long enough to send a text for a good cause (such a high volume of texters and tweeters made trying to use cellphones difficult).
It will be interesting to see the official attendance numbers and the amount of money raised by the event in pure donation. All in all, the festival was a success, even if it wasn't, would it really matter? It was free.