The 2010 Virgin Mobile FreeFest took place at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday, and while it didn’t have quite the heavy-hitting lineup of last year’s, it still had a nice cross-section of music and non-music events. The D.C. area is a smidge less humid in September than in August, and the day’s weather was lovely. (Let’s hope this date change from August to September is a permanent one!)
A few days late, here are our photos of Virgin Mobile FreeFest—-now with more ferris wheel!
I started the day out with Jimmy Eat World. Jimmy was never really my thing—-its sound always seemed a tad too formulaic to me—-but the kids seemed to be into it. Internet radio stations must have been kind to these power pop-punksters in the last few years and playing their stuff a bunch, given the line of kids waiting to get down into the floor’s “pit” section and the number of crowd-surfers once the set started. Jimmy’s set included tracks from its first record in three years, Invented (which came out today), and earlier songs like 2001’s “The Middle.”
The area between the two stages held the commerce and non-music activities. Wooden forts and draped beds, like the one below, served as areas for folks to sit on something other than grass.
I ran across to the West Stage to catch Trombone Shorty. Shorty has long been a popular figure in the wave of up and coming musicians around New Orleans, but he’s probably known more in Yankee country from his spots on the HBO New Orleans-based series Treme. So it was really neat that the FreeFest organizers thought to include someone who is hot these days but not the usual fixture in the indie pop/rock/soul realm.
Traditional Nawlin’s music is always so happy and fun, and Shorty’s take on it is no exception. Using his trombone like a lead guitar, Shorty and company tore up the jazz-funk with pop songs in a big way. There was a small crowd at first but as the infectious sound caught the ears of the folks moving between the stages, much like a second line, it proved impossible to resist. Trombone Shorty definitely won some converts at FreeFest.
One of the non-musical things to do between the stages was a “Psychic Soula,” or a Magic 8-ball for the new generation. I wonder if one of her responses was, “Reply hazy, try again”?
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros came next. I wasn’t really impressed by the tracks I’d heard from them as it just seemed like the usual noodle rock. But there is quite a buzz about them so they had to have something. Maybe it was the prevalence of dirty bare feet?
Or all of the above, and lots of long hair?
I think my tweet about the set went something like, “Edward Sharpe-part of the unwashed hippie movement for the indie generation, picking up where Phish left off…no wait where moe. left off. Blech.” I wasn’t impressed overall, but who can say what makes a person connect to a band or a song? I think the attraction with Edward Sharpe may have something to do with his showmanship. Early on, he bridged that two-foot gap between the stage and his audience by cat-walking most of the barricade and climbing into the crowd. Sometimes it’s just feeling a bit of that human touch that makes all of the difference for people. The 9:30 stage staff weren’t enamored by his actions I’m sure, but it was obvious that the crowd adored and loved him for it.
Costumes and photo flipbooks were also part of the fun things to do between the stages…
I stopped over to check out Yeaysayer. The band proclaims their sound as “Middle-Eastern-psych-snap-gospel.” Uh-huh. All I heard was “plain ol’ keyboard synth and guitar.” Then again, I think “snap” is an activity, not a musical style, so what do I know?
Two acts I really wanted to see this year were Pavement and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. For the latter, it seems I wasn’t the only one…
Joan Jett’s voice can still go from lullaby-sweet to snarly within three seconds (“Crimson and Clover”). Her set also included the Runaways’ hit, “Cherry Bomb;” the first song she ever wrote (“You Drive Me Wild”);” The French Song” (“Love between two people is a beautiful thing. Love between three people is a more beautiful thing, especially when one of them is me,” she said), and “Backlash,” one of her collaborative songs with Paul Westerberg. And she got the loudest and best sing-along of the day going for “Do You Wanna Touch.”
Joan Jett proved that she is still one big bad ass under those killer cheekbones. It was cool to see kids who weren’t even alive when “I Love Rock and Roll” came out be wowed by her. It was also neat to hear the collective cheer go up from the seats and the lawn when she launched into “Rock and Roll”‘s opening chords. Everyone wants Joan Jett to be their bad-girl biker girlfriend.
See the rest of the photos from all sets here.
Next up: Chromeo, Ludacris, Pavement, and MIA.