Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Virgin Festival at Merriweather is what I imagine my heaven to be like. The day was a dusty journey through an indie wonderland with all of my favorite artists at every destination. Scattered between the three music stages was a psychedelic array all of the delightful things in life: a giant ferris wheel, fire-works, karma bars (with booze and delicious food), random teepees with (!!!) free massages inside, giant beds for randomly napping, dj tents spinning tunes ranging from Billy Jean to Aloe Baac. UMM. HEAVEN. I happily stumbled across old friends, danced with current friends and made a few new friends.
For me, the day started at the Dance Forest where I unfortunately missed hometown DJ, Will Eastman, but made it in time to catch Pitchfork favorite, Neon Indian. Likely you know the ‘chill-wave’ pioneers by now (first LP, Psychic Chasms, was released just this time last year), but if not then perhaps you recognize them from their recent Apple appearance. 22 year-old Alan Palomo is the virtuoso behind the electronic sound, expertly crafting sound that immediately shifts your mindframe into some sort of 70’s sci-fi digital existence. His music is like a video game on acid.
“Deadbeat Summer” was easily the most popular track of the set, and fell between both new and old tunes including “Local Joke”, “Mind, Drips”, “Don’t Sleep” and a very-crucial version of “Should Have Taken Acid With You” (soooo good). Transitions between songs were frequently filled with Palomo’s own experimental-sound melding; where he was able to show off his innate musical palate by turning noise into paralyzing sound. With the set starting at 3:45 and the festival buzz just kicking in for most, this was a perfect way to leap into the euphoric afternoon and the procession of amazing sets to follow.
Although Yeasayer overlapped directly with NI, I heard several reports that the Baltimore based indie-band definitely did not disappoint. Other local favorite’s, Thievery Corporation, took the West Stage afterward giving me a brief second to chill-out to the familiar and tranquil beats, soaking-up the zen before trying to jump from stage to stage in the next few hours.
If you are a fan of Pavement then you already know that this set was inexplicably great. Cult legends in the the indie-music genre, and just recently starting to play shows again after a 10-year hiatus. Pavement’s under-attended show on the main pavilion stage seemed to echo their niche in the popular music scene of the 90’s; underappreciated but ultimately proving to be good news for those fans that are lucky enough to love them. Stephen Malkmus’ unmistakable voice undoubtedly gave all of use indie-nerds a bit of a… umm…. well, you know.
Although the main-stage generally houses the ‘headliners,’ it seemed that many of the festival-goers flocked to the West Stage for bands such as Ludacris and M.I.A. This, in turn, allowed the VIP ticket-holders a chance to get to see Pavement and LCD Soundsystem surprisingly up-close and personal. VIP tickets were clearly the way to go for those of us who were interested in these acts (thank you indie gods!) and I was able to sit only a couple rows back in the center of the seated pavilion with an AMAZING view and very minimal elbow jabs.
Trying to get remotely close to the West Stage for M.I.A. would have been nearly impossible without staking a spot far before the dissident diva took the mic. If you were one of those dedicated to the mission, you got a chance to see MIA in all her badass glory, dark wild hair flowing, rockin gold shades and eventually shedding a gold jacket to reveal a metallic mini-dress. With vibrant dancers adorning the stage and a sea of devoted fans, MIA has clearly become a superstar.
The night ended perfectly with LCD Soundsystem’s mind-blowing performance. As a huge LCD fan and never having had a chance to catch the band in real-life, I was completely captivated by the live show and despite my near exhaustion, danced recklessly for the entire hour-long set. Starting with “Dance Yrself Clean,” James Murphy, dressed simply in a flannel and jeans, unassumingly screamed all of his electro-classics to the elated crowd. Backed by Hot Chip bassist Al Doyle (!!!) and the rest of his dynamic team, Murphy effortlessly delivered hit after hit until finally ending with an encore of “Losing My Edge” and “Home” (love). Murphy had the pavilion bursting with an uncommon energy, reminding us all what it is that we love about music.
All in all, the Virgin Free Fest this year was exceptional, and the day couldn't have proved to be more perfect. Much love to Richard Branson, the virgin founder and philanthropist, for putting on this Free Festival to help fight youth homelessness. And thanks to all of the artists, and definitely the I.M.P. staff at Merriweather who were all really awesome.
Big shoutout to my sister CARA for providing these fine pics.
Posted by Nicole at 9:58 AM