Virgin Festival at Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore

Poor travel planning and a mix up with my press tickets resulted in missing Shout Out Out Out Out, the only band in the early afternoon I cared to see. I headed into the Dance Tent for Booka Shade, only because Amy Winehouse seemed ultra-boring. Booka Shade was not much better, but the tent provided some early salvation from the sun.


I was energized instantly when Felix Da Housecat took the Dance Tent stage. Relying on accessible Daft Punk classics and the always welcomed “Smack My Bitch Up,” the increased blood flow to my limbs warmed me to the enchantment of an entire day of music.

Walked over to the North Stage to see Peter, Bjorn and John, who slowly won over the audience with their tweaked versions of Writer’s Block hits, most notably a Bloc Party-eque version of “The Chills.” I could not tell if Peter was actually whistling on “Young Folks” or if it was a sample playing; did not really care, the song took my mind off the blazing heat.

James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem seemed to be ill, as he popped cough drops, sipped tea from water bottles and generally looked spacey. Nonetheless, he put on an energetic show that had me dancing around enough to not leave for the Beastie Boys.

Ran to see the Beastie Boys, singing along to the songs I could hear playing in the distance. I’ve been a Beastie Boys fan since I knew what MTV was. My long-time-coming was paid in full as the elder Beasties rocked their set. Mixmaster Mike is an animal on the tables, so much that he dropped a beat Mike D stopped to inquire about mid set. The Beasties ran the gamut of their catalogue, whether letting Mixmaster Mike take us back to the classics or picking up their guitars to funk out with “Sabrosa”, or closing with the still vicious “Sabotage.” (Crosses Beastie Boys off “Bands to See Before I Die List”)

Caught TV on the Radio mid set, but was instantly entranced by “Wolf Like Me.” Tunde Adebimpe soaked himself in water, jittered and pelted like a man possessed. I can definitely see why David Bowie considers TV one of his favorite live acts, although I still cannot warm up to “I Was a Lover,” even in a live set. The band owned the stage with its beat box reworking of “Dirty Whirlwind” and danced-out closer “Staring at the Sun.”

Modest Mouse closed the night, opening with “Paper Thin Walls.” Isaac Brock and company skipped around the catalogue from Lonesome Crowded West on up. It was a tame set, until the band unleashed an eight-minute jam of “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes,” which included Brock shouting into his guitar, creating a dissonant solo feedback. Has anyone heard any news on Brock’s eye problem since two months ago? He was wearing glasses to start the set, but I was on Johnny Marr’s side of the stage, so I could not get a good look.


Made it on time, with no hang-ups and headed directly to the Dance Tent once again, to see Dan Deacon and Girl Talk‘s split set. While the verdict is still out on my opinion of his music, Deacon won me over with his wit. Whilst trying to arrange a dance contest in the middle of the tent, Deacon said, and I paraphrase, “And on the seventh day we rest, I think not. We have dance contests on racetracks,” which reminded me of the humor in attending a music festival at a venue that hosts the Preakness Stakes. After Deacon shook us awake, Girl Talk attempted to get us sweating. Perhaps the hype is wearing off, or Greg Gillis could have had an off day, but I was let down by Girl Talk. Gillis screwed up his mix three times and dropping Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone” was just awful. The set had some standout moments and Gillis did a decent job of mixing in acts playing at the festival, but it was generally missing that uninhibited madness that embodied my first Girl Talk show.

I decided to lounge on the lawn with some food to watch Matisyahu. Got rained on with Trojan condoms and lulled with boredom until he somewhat impressed with a beatbox routine as I was leaving for Spoon.

Spoon started off strong, dragged in the middle, but finished with pizzazz. I was not surprised though, considering I’ve always felt Spoon was a band that had this contained energy, never giving too much, but playing it safe enough to hold you down for their full set.

Went back to the lawn and lounged for Explosions in the Sky, which also had a similar lulling effect, though this one was more due to tranquility than utter distaste.

Woke up to Bad Brains, but I think I’d rather see them in 1981 at CBGBs. Checked out the Dance Tent to escape Sun Ra and resumed confusion as to why a DJ simply dropping out the bass tickles people’s fancy and calls for shouting.

I thought all ravers had been exterminated; I was baffled that a few had survived. My friend imagined a business man returning home from work on Friday, opening up his closet and pulling out his neon technicolor raver hat and parachute pants, feeling a sense of redemption as he leaves for Virgin Fest.

Curiosity almost instilled anger when Infected Mushroom took the stage. I lost respect for the Dance Tent enthusiasts. I’d rather hear Rammstein than these hacks; at least Rammstein plays with fire. I got the hell out of that shitfest and swore never to go back.

Trekked down to the South Stage for Yeah Yeah Yeahs and felt much better about music. Karen O was sexy and outrageous. I somewhat regret leaving her for Wu-Tang Clan.

Even if you don’t smoke weed, you were getting a contact high from the crowd at Wu-Tang Clan. Pre-set, all I could hear was lighters clicking, heavy coughing and the occasional “wu wu wu wu” chant. The Clan did not disappoint, but the soundman did, as the mics were constantly off or cutting out. Crowd surfing was at an all-time high, as fans were passed toward the stage on an assembly line, only to be caught by the front stage bouncers and probably sold into indentured servitude. Method Man’s energy is unparalleled; it was primarily his antics that got the crowd jumping. He even pulled an Iggy Pop and stood on the audience’s hands, declaring that no one has ever seen someone do that. I would have to agree, since Iggy is tiny and Meth is over six feet tall and probably more than 200lbs. (Crosses Wu-Tang Clan off List.)

Reneged on my hatred for the Dance Tent to check out the Crystal Method DJ set, only to rekindle a love for dance music. The set was alive; I burned my tongue eating pizza because I had to get in there as fast as I could. The Method one-upped Felix with a better mixing of “Smack My Bitch Up” and then took it to the next cipher with a techno version of “Killing in the Name Of.”

My closing choices for Sunday night were the Smashing Pumpkins, 311 and M.I.A. I chose the Pumpkins and somewhat regret the decision. Billy Corgan started off the set proper by pulling a Hendrix and soloing the National Anthem, but songs such as “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and “Zero” did not have the ear-blistering impact they require. The set dragged due these insufficient volume levels, and the slow realization that I should have left the Pumpkins back in 7th grade.