Virgin FreeFest recap

A summary of the acts at the Merriweather Post Pavilion festival.

By Jess Blumberg Mayhugh. Posted on August 31, 2009


The National Photo by Kate Wellington/Flickr

Hope everyone enjoyed the live-blogging yesterday. I wanted to see a couple more acts than I did, but jumping around from stage-to-stage was a little more difficult (and more hilly!) than I thought.

This year's Virgin FreeFest had a lot of positives. I preferred Merriweather as a venue to Pimlico because the layout was more open than it was at the racetrack. You felt like there was more to explore as you walked the distances between stages. Also there was a lot more shade. Not that it was such a big deal yesterday, but the sun was always beating down on fans at Pimlico.

I also liked the idea of three sizable stages for bands to perform on. This made it so there was enough room for people to watch Public Enemy on the West Stage, while plenty of people could also watch Jet at the pavilion. It spread out the masses. I also liked the dance stage instead of tent—it gave people more room to do their thing and the stage was lined with woods and trees, adding to the ambiance of DJ sets, pictured.

There were a couple of issues yesterday, though. In order for fans to get into the pavilion (where most of the the bigger acts were playing), they had to wait in long lines twisting around the grounds. People were frustrated by the fact that they had to wait in line after already entering the venue. Also, the line-up could have used more musical variety. Because of bands like Blink-182, Taking Back Sunday, and The Bravery, the crowd was made up of a lot of teenagers. A more classic act definitely would have mixed up the crowd and the sounds.

But overall the event was extremely well-organized. Everything pretty much went on-schedule and I never felt too overly crowded, even though there were about 30,000 people in attendance. That's a huge testament to the festival organizers.

The biggest plus of all, though, was the fact that it was all free. It still blows my mind that so much music was available to so many people for no money at all. I got a chance to talk to Hold Steady guitarist Tad Kubler about the idea of the economy's affect on the music culture.

"Over the last year, year-and-a-half, we've made a concerted effort to try and keep ticket costs and charges down," Kubler said about The Hold Steady. "We've been working with our booking agent to try and find creative ways to avoid some of the exorbitant charges that come along with ticketing." Some of these creative ways, he explains, have a lot to do with what kind of venues the band plays. "This past June, we did two nights at Bowery Ballroom and two nights at Williamsburg Music Hall, instead of one show at a bigger place like Terminal 5," he said. "We can do more shows at smaller clubs, where their operating costs are cheaper, so in turn the tickets are cheaper for our fans."

So it's safe to safe to say that playing a free festival with nearly 12 hours of music coincides with The Hold Steady's philosophy. And it's something that any music fan can appreciate.

On The Town Arts & Entertainment Virgin FreeFest Music festivals

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