The Upstate Life
The Upstate Life

Monday, August 06, 2007
Virgin Festival Recap: Day 1

After checking into the hotel which was literally across the street from Camden Yards, we made our way towards the Lexington Market subway to catch the train to Rogers Avenue. From there, we took the shuttle bus to Pimlico which dropped us off roughly one block from the entrance. The process was surprisingly very efficient and the transit employees did a hell of a job assisting all the out of town riders. When we finally made our way towards the infield, we were able to catch the majority of The Fratellis set. While their music may not lean towards anything that's substantially groundbreaking, these Scottish rockers put on a fun, energetic show and sounded very tight. I would probably check them out if they ever rolled into town.

Once The Fratellis ended we made our way towards the North Stage to catch Amy Winehouse, and low and behold, she showed up! Actually, we were in line for the water stations during the majority of her set due to the scorching temperatures. Saturday had to be the worst day I've ever spent outside in terms of heat. I didn't realize how hot it was until reading the Washington Post article which stated that the heat index was above 100. I waited for almost half an hour in line until I finally reached the water fountain to fill up my 1.5 liter bottle. This was the one thing the organizers really needed to address. There were only so many water stations throughout the festival and when you have an event in the middle of August in Baltimore, you need to be prepared for summer heat and dehydrated patrons. Other than that, I want to commend Richard Branson, Seth Hurwitz, and all the organizers involved for the great variety of food vendors, a healthy supply of restrooms, the numerous recycling stations, and the overall pleasantness of the staff. For a festival that's only in its second year and first as a two-day event, things couldn't have gone more smoothly (sans transportation issues on the way back, more on that later). Back to Amy - wonderful voice but she was just kind of, I don't know, there? Maybe she's had better shows but for the most part it was pretty uninspiring.

Once we rehydrated, we made our way back to the South Stage to catch Peter Bjorn & John Nino. Don't know what happened to John but these guys made up for their lackluster 9:30 date with an outstanding set on Saturday and instantly redeemed themselves. Their setlist was, of course, comprised mostly from Writer's Block but their showmanship improved leaps and bounds from their previous DC outing. I think their selection of songs helped them the most (yes, everyone got to hear "Young Folks") but the band was a lot more energetic this time around which appealed to the sweaty masses.

After PB&J (or should I say, PB&N?) finished up, we hung around the South Stage to secure ourselves a good spot for LCD Soundsystem. To the two girls who offered this dude a spot to sit down on your comfortable mat during the forty minute break, I just wanted to take this time to say thanks. It never felt so good to sit down. James Murphy and Co. did not disappoint, and just like their thrilling 9:30 set, they put on one hell of a show. As I stated earlier, I was looking forward to their performance the most and it was worth the 40 minutes I spent in the sun to watch them from right behind the crowd barrier. All the fan favorites were played including "Movement", "Daft Punk is Playing at my House", and "North American Scum". But the best part of LCD's set was that we finally got to hear "All My Friends" live. That right there made my day. The band closed things up with a pulsating rendition of "Yeah" which capped off another excellent performance with James Murphy's at the top of his game (it also helped that his voice was 100% versus a few months ago where he lost it nearly halfway through).

We stuck around the South Stage so we could see TV on the Radio after we naively passed up their two shows at the 9:30 Club a few months ago. Jeez, they were absolutely terrific live. Tunde's stage presence alone made the show. Even the blazing temperatures would not stop his energetic stage antics despite him declaring multiple times between songs that it was "hot as a mother f***er out here". And yet while the heat was nearly unbearable TVOTR simply embraced it.

We weren't too eager about seeing The Police, but since it was their reunion tour and part of the festival, we figured we might as well catch some of their show. Unfortunately, since we were at TVOTR the entire time The Police were already ten minutes into their headlining set and the lawn was packed right up to the midpoint of the entire infield (or at least appeared to be). Anyway, we walked along the side of the field and listened to "S.O.S" before heading back to the South Stage in order to see one of TUL’s favorite bands, Modest Mouse. That way, we could at least say we saw The Police (even if it was for about 8 minutes). By the time we got to the stage, we were so tired we couldn't care less about our viewing location. The band kicked off their top billing set with "Paper Thin Walls" to the delight of the crowd. Speaking of which, despite The Police essentially headlining the entire two-day festival, Modest Mouse was still able to attract the largest audience of the South Stage by far that day. The highlight of their set was when they closed the evening with an incredibly long, powerful version of "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes" which featured Isaac Brock playing the guitar with his teeth. He looked like a man possessed while singing (shouting?) the lyrics which clearly demonstrated how intense the dude was while onstage. These guys have never failed me in concert and were able to continue their solid streak of live shows. Oh, and it was pretty awesome to see Johnny Marr in person for the very first time too.

While getting to the festival was a seamless journey, leaving the grounds was virtually the exact opposite. Even though it's nearly impossible to accommodate thousands of people leaving Pimlico simultaneously, trying to get on a shuttle bus back to the subway station was a downright hellacious experience. While there were numerous busses lined up down the street, for one reason or another only the bus in the front would accept passengers until it was full. This caused a huge clusterfuck since you had x amount of people trying to board one bus until its doors closed. By the time we finally were able to get into one of the shuttles, at least thirty minutes had passed and yours truly was stuck in the rear stairway aisle standing up surrounded by what had to be at least four bodies, one of which really, really reeked. Other than the packed like sardine in a tin can ride home, the entire day was an overall success. The shower that night was arguably one of the best I've taken in my entire existence. Pics:

Peter Bjorn & John:

LCD Soundsystem:

TV On the Radio:

Modest Mouse:

iPod Clicks


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