MixMatchMusic Takes on the Virgin Mobile Festival in Baltimore

It’s been a couple weeks but… it took that long to recoup. On 8/9/08 and 8/10/08 Virgin Mobile and the concert wizards of I.M.P. put on a mammoth music festival called the Virgin Mobile Festival in Baltimore, MD at Pimlico Race Track (home of The Preakness). MixMatchMusic was on site in full force to participate and add to the festivities. The lineup had a wide range of talent from different genres and generations of music. While traveling stage to stage, “v-festers” could run into a number of odd characters. Everything from circus freaks to wandering people dressed as trees and gnomes roamed the festival grounds ensuring an experience hard to forget.

photo by Kenneth Gary

photo by Kenneth Gary

photo by Kenneth Gary

photo by Kenneth Gary

photo by Kenneth Gary

Check out the line-up: HERE

LG‘s Recap: Saturday started off with some hefty chick rock. Cat Power, KT Tunstall and Duffy came in wailing their pipes and warming up the crowd. I heard really good things about Gogol Bordello. Very mad I missed that one. Apparently they put on an amazing live show. I was running around most of the day but caught Bloc Party. AWESOME! They sound great live and the singer was wearing a sweet t-shirt with King Koopa on it.

I made my way over through the crowd of mellow college kids, hippie chicks, and hippies in training to catch a great show by Citizen Cope. Just as I was in earshot, I caught the tail end of “Bullet and a Target” coming from the stage, and I knew the show was going to be one of the better ones I had seen. Cope, who hails from Philly, just a hop skip and a jump away from Baltimore, put on a great set, giving the crowd exactly what they were looking for… a charming stage presence and his greatest hits (predominantly from The Clarence Greenwood Recordings and his self-titled album). Some of my favorites included “All Dressed Up”, “Contact”, and “107 degrees”, but really it all was great. The crowd wailed as soon as girlfriend Alice Smith (back up singer) took center stage to sing one of her own tunes. The couple made a great duo on stage, and Cope left the stage with the crowd wanting more of their favorites which just never seem to run out.

photo by Kenneth Gary

I must admit, although a tough decision being that there were so many ridiculous bands on site, Stone Temple Pilots definitely won my vote as best band performance at Virgin Fest. We all made the Scott Weiland jokes before hand that he would probably pass out on stage on top of drummer Eric Kretz thus solidifying this as his last performance for certain. But in secret, we all really wished that it would be an amazing show…and our wish came true.

Weiland played to the audience’s every whim, feeding off the feigning crowd, giving us exactly what we were anxiously awaiting. Just as the opening chords of “Vaseline” struck, we all knew what the rest of the show was going to be, and for the next 45 minutes, nothing else mattered except for STP’s reunion.

All of the hits were played, predominantly from Core, including “Wicked Garden”, “Plush”, and “Sex Type Thing.” The crowd’s lips moved with every lyric, and we all rejoiced in what was one of the greatest flashbacks we all have had in a long time. Weiland’s bullhorn was in full effect, there was a wardrobe change that included white boots and many neck ties. Also, the old school ’90s STP logo that looks like it belongs on a gas station jacket was plastered on Eric’s bass drum. My rock fist pumped the air more than ever. They looked and sounded perfect… just like it was the ’90s again.

photo by Kenneth Gary

And just when we were feeling like we couldn’t get any more ’90s nostalgia in our veins (no pun intended on Scott) Nine Inch Nails slapped us across the face with their industrial electro rock opening of 999,999 and 1,000,000 and followed up strong with Letting You and Discipline.

Trent Reznor, one of the most reknowned ’90s frontmen, hit the stage running, and didn’t give it up for a second during the set. The 43 year old proved he was nothing less than a ’90s rock legend and fed the crowd hit singles mixed with computer-generated jam out sessions.

The background effects were mesmerizing to say the least, and helped create an intensity in the crowd that was unmatched by any other performer. Fists pumped the air like it was 1999, and mosh pits formed left and right. The performance ended the festival just as it should have…with heart throbbing music and big flashing lights.

The worst act all weekend was Lil’ Wayne. Basically, he sucked. First of all, he was 45 minutes late on stage. Second, he sucked. Third, he has no talent what-so-ever. Fourth, he sucked. Some bands that stuck out, didn’t suck and deserve recognition: Lupe Fiasco, Black Rebel Motor Cycle Club, The Go! Team, Soulwax, The Black Keys and of course… the slightly scary yet highly entertaining… Iggy and the Stooges. I conclude my recap with this tragically ridiculous photo. Iggy, rock on.

photo by Kenneth Gary

Gavroche‘s Recap: What a weekend this was! Between manning the MixMatchMusic tent and meeting the wonderful people of Bal’more, I managed to slip away to catch some of the music at Vfest. For me, there were several bands that clearly separated themselves from the clutter.

Nine Inch Nails killed. Frankly, I’m still thinking about it…it was that intense. Trent Reznors’ voice was prestine yet edgy, as he perfectly hit every note in his emo-soul-industrial sorta way. The instrumental parts were precise and experimentally layered (in the good way). Their performance was full of energy, regardless of whether the song was mellow or driving. And the visual production was better than anything I’ve ever seen – various layers of trippy screens and lights that matched the beat of the songs.

Next on my list is Soulwax. I was expecting to see a DJ set, as I know these guys primarily for their works as 2 Many DJs. But, out comes a full band in white tuxedos, with drums, bass, vocals, and plenty of fun little synths and effects. Their style is a dirtier, more industrial, daft punk. They had the entire DJ tent moving to their beats in this mid-afternoon dance party, including a bunch of 16 year olds jumping up and down (this made me feel real old). Later on that evening, Underworld took over the dance tent with their fast, hard, and ambient grooves. I had waited years to see them, and 4 computers, a singer, and trippy lights = me dancing.

Gogol Bordello was just as much of a party, in their own gypsy punk kinda way. Their violinist and accordian player brought a very eclectic sound, and the singer/guitar player is a total rock star. Wilco definitely did not disappoint, although I wish they’d played more from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Their chops were on and I felt like I was watching new classic rock.

LJ‘s Recap: This was my first time doing any crowd promotion and my first time behind the scenes at a concert. It was a trip to show up on Friday the 8th and see the entire race track being set up, and having free rein to wander where I pleased. We had planned our tech setup very well, so it went very quickly the next morning, and we were free to promote, and of course, see shows. LG and Gavroche covered plenty, so here’s my quick recap of what they missed: the Offspring was amazing – they played very little of their new stuff (always a good strategy IMO for bands with classic hits) and rocked the stage with their original stuff. Dexter’s voice still sounds awesome.

On Sunday, the day started with the “Book the Band” winner, Hollywood Undead. Usually “local” bands at concerts are underwhelming since they have little experience playing to large crowds and dealing with professional sound systems (in other words, they turn up all their instruments too loud so you can’t hear the singer). However, I was quite impressed – very ska-ish.

Next I went up close to see Paramore. Hayley Williams is really hot, and chick rock or no, I’m a huge fan of their music. The show was great, a lot of energy. They assumed people knew their lyrics a bit too much, but once they got past that, it went very well.

Taking Back Sunday, who is great on the radio, made that rookie sound system mistake I mentioned; their songs were harsh and you couldn’t understand the words – a shame. I did get a chance to meet the backup vocalist, Matt Fazzi, and handed him a business card – we’ll see if he wants to engage his fans in new ways over the internet :-).

One of the best non-music-related ideas I saw was the TRASHed recycling store. You brought them empty cans or bottles, and they gave you points towards schwag. Next year, they should have a trash store, where for every pound of trash you bring you get points too. There were kids running around cleaning up the concert all weekend.

All in all, it was an amazing weekend full of awesome shows and AMAZING weather.

Sandra‘s recap: As anyone who has been to a big, hot, dusty music festival before knows, there are a lot of factors other than the line-up that contribute to a successful event. One of my particular favorites at Virgin was the Oxygen Bar!

Other places to recharge included the many Kyocera tents which had such cool amenities as free massage, recharging of cell phones powered by stationary bikes, and one rain forest-like tent full of plants, mist, and showers. This was a very well put together event to say the least. There was even a half pipe.

Musically speaking, if I had to choose, the general vibe and ambiance of the DJ tent was my favorite. I think DJ Tony Z of NetMix captured the enthusiasm of the crowd and the electricity and magic in the air in there well in his photos below:

photo by Tony Zeoli

photo by Tony Zeoli

Large scale music festivals like this one reinforce how universal of a language music really is. The stunning diversity one comes across just walking from one stage to another proves that regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, income, culture, or style people can find common ground when it comes to sharing a love of music. And the planning, technology, and collaboration that go into (successfully) producing this kind of event are not to be sneezed at.

MixMatchMusic was thrilled to not only be able to attend Virgin, but also be a part of it.

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