Wednesday, June 24, 2009

News: Virgin Fest to Go "Free," Move to Merriweather Post Pavilion

The Baltimore Sun wrote today that the Virgin Festival is indeed going to happen this year, but in Columbia, MD instead of Baltimore, and not charge for tickets.

In theory, a free Virgin Fest sounds like a cool idea. In practice? Not so sure. How many free festival shows with decent lineups (this one includes Public Enemy, The Hold Steady, Girl Talk, Franz Ferdinand for example) have you been to that haven't been either a total zoo or a total clusterf*#k? And Aug. 30th? I so wish that festival organizers here would get that doing anything outside like this in August around here is the equivalent of breathing through a towel soaked with hot water. We gave up our tickets to the second Fest as it was around the same calendar date and 97878686 degrees Calvin that day.

But I could see this time round changing my outlook on all that. The one thing that Merriweather has that Pimlico didn't though is shade, which will be a plus. And I will say that when I attended the first Virgin Fest at the Pimlico track, the organizers seemed to be really together in terms of set up and whatnot. So what do I know, maybe they'll pull off "free" properly as well? Given the lineup, here's hoping!

UPDATE (11:34 am):
Apparently, the Sun reporter either didn't do the research or has the same crummy internet browser I do that doesn't show links across the top of the Virgin Fest site page. A friend (with Firefox) just sent me the following info:

-The June 25 and 26 dates are not for the free tickets but more of a "presale" if you purchase one of two "karma packages" ($30 and $55): Karma Packages

-The "free ticket onsale" is actually June 27: Free Ticket 'Onsale'

-There is no mention on the Virgin Fest site of any "first pick" tickets allotted for Virgin Mobile customers or for attendees of previous Virgin Fests.

-Nothing on the site confirms/denies the free parking and no convenience charges for tickets picked up at Merriweather or the 9:30 Club in Washington stated in the article.

Weezer, Blink 182 to headline a smaller, but free, Virgin Fest

Rock bands Weezer, Blink-182 and Franz Ferdinand and hip-hop group Public Enemy will headline a downsized Virgin Mobile Festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion, organizers announced Tuesday.

The festival, formerly a two-day affair held at the sprawling Pimlico Race Course, has been scaled back to one day, Aug. 30, and moved to the smaller Columbia amphitheater. But, in a surprising change of course for the four-year-old even t, this year's festival will be free, officials said.

"In a time of economic challenges and daily sacrifices, we wanted to throw a fantastic party so people could let loose and have a great time -- on us," said Sir Richard Branson, founder and president of Virgin Group, in a statement.

To accommodate the Virgin Mobile Freefest, Merriweather will be outfitted with multiple stages and a dance tent and expanded to hold nearly 35,000. Other performers include Jet, Girl Talk, the Hold Steady, St. Vincent, Taking Back Sunday and more.

Virgin Mobile customers and previous Virgin Mobile Festival-goers will get first pick at the free tickets, which will be distributed through Ticketmaster June 25 and 26. Parking will also be free, officials said, and there will be no convenience charges for tickets picked up at Merriweather or the 9:30 Club in Washington.

"I suppose people will think that there must be a catch, but there really isn't," festival producer Seth Hurwitz wrote in an e-mail. "We just wanted to put on a show that would make people happy."

When it debuted in 2006, the festival boasted headliners the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Who and drew about 40,000 to Pimlico. Since then, attendance has steadily slumped at the festival, which was expanded to two days in 2007. Last year's festival featured an eclectic lineup of more than 40 performers, including Bob Dylan, Kanye West, Nine Inch Nails and the Foo Fighters.

"When Virgin Mobile first suggested to me that we throw this year's festival for free, I was like, 'Um ... OK,'" Hurwitz said. "I thought they were crazy. But then again, Virgin's always done things a little differently."

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