Monday, September 27, 2010

Virgin Mobile FreeFest

I went to Virgin Fest of Freeness and Mobility on Saturday and had a pretty good time.

In my many years of going to concerts, festivals have been a regular occurrence. In the beginning it was HFStivals and Tibetan Freedom Concerts and now it's Pitchfork and Virgin Fest. The situation is always less than ideal. The food is overpriced and undercooked. The bathrooms take a turn for the worse before the sun has even gone down, and getting there and back can be a hassle. But Saturday's show was relatively pain-free. Parking and escape was easy, the food was good, and it was easy enough to get from one stage to another.

Now I must note. I'm one of those people (or suckers, capitalists, realists, choose your term of preference) who paid for a VIP ticket. So my experience was perhaps a little better than others but really it mainly meant I got a free t-shirt and a better view during some of the bands earlier in the day, and for Pavement and LCD Soundsystem I was able to get a very good seat.

The bands were largely excellent. I didn't attend specifically to see Jimmy Eat World or Joan Jett, but both put on very solid sets. And Neon Indian were pretty good, although they (or he) need to work on their (or his) set flow, as the energy came and went. There were a few mysteries which remain unsolved - why do people love Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Thievery Corporation? I'd like to think I can come at some music from a more objective sense and see why people enjoy it (for example - Jimmy Eat World are loud and enthusiastic and rather emotional and I can see the appeal) but I can't for the life of me figure out why Edward Sharpe can now sell out 930 Club in the blink of an eye. It's just tired hippie shit. Polyphonic Spree do it a hundred times better.

The heavy hitters that I saw all delivered. Chromeo are on top of their game. For a duo that relies heavily on samples they have mastered live performance. They were tight and funny and engaging and the new material sounds just as good as their first two albums. Pavement were still Pavement. Flubbing an intro here or there, but still extremely crowd pleasing. I have a complicated relationship with Pavement and chose to forgo seeing them in NYC this week, but hearing "Range Life" and "Summer Babe" were real highlights.

That leaves us with our headliner - LCD Soundsystem. I saw them tour with MIA a number of years back when both has just released their first album. Both acts were still working things out, but based on current albums alone, it was obvious I was going to see LCD rather than MIA. And I was rewarded with one of the best sets I've ever seen. Right from the beginning, when "Dance Yrself Clean" really kicked in it was obvious that they were on a level that very very few bands are on right now. Over 90 minutes the band hit a number of highs. "You Wanted A Hit" and "Drunk Girls" were excellent and old classics "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House" and "Losing My Edge" still sounded fresh. It was hard to say beforehand if they were the proper headlines, but by the end there wasn't a hint of a doubt. The entire crowd were ecstatic throughout the set.

Was it worth the VIP price? That's hard to say, and it might have been nice to just have had a free ticket. Plus there could have been more port-o-potties and a bit more information beforehand for the VIP tickets, and perhaps even something to cover the dirt and dust in front of the dance forest stage, but those are minor quibbles. Virgin Free Fest was an excellent way to spend a Saturday.

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