ML @ Virgin Mobile Festival 2008, Review.

(As you may know, I was kinda sick so it took a few days more than planned, but here it is, enjoy).

It’s the third time ML has sweated out a weekend enthralled in great music courtesy of Baltimore’s Virgin Mobile Festival. Year 3 of the festival definitely brought its memorable moments by the horse load (pun!). Here is what this ML’s 4-pack of eyeballs (HM + I) saw:

As soon as the ML crew (including the gf and body guards) hit the I-95 we realized we were direction-less, but fear not my buster Samsung Blackjack with google maps would come to the rescue right? Sorta.. while we made it to the venue, a little later than planned, we did get a tour of most of the roadways in inner-city Bmore, the whole car “ooh and ahhed” as we recognized elements from the set of The Wire. We even saw some hot real estate opportunities:

All of this sightseeing made us hungry so we even made a pitstop at a Burger King.

We finally made it to the parking lot where America’s young people were in preparation for the music festival by studying lyrics and cue sheets, in between keg stands.

Erol Alkan

When we finally entered Pimlico we checked out the Dance Tent for a few moments which had Erol Alkan’s electronic flavorings, unfortunately it was about 12 hours too early to be listening to this music so we moved on.

Duffy

Duffy had a great percussion setup but there was something too nice about her everything- voice and image. I think she is made for home listening. I wouldn’t mind seeing her perform “Mercy (Remix)” with The Game though, maybe that can help her attract some Bloods to her fan base too.

HM: We were a little late for Saturday morning, but we arrived on time to see Duffy start. We only stayed for two songs. I didn’t enjoy it, but I’m not really into her music anyway.

Gogol Bordello

I’ve heard about Gogol for a while, but never got to experience them. Let’s just say they lived up to all the hype. From band members running around with accordions, violins, and backup singers dressed in costumes, it was a sight to see even before you heard the music. But then the gypsy punk was catchy as hell with various elements like buckets and huge drums incorporated through out. Even though it was hard to understand most of the lyrics the performance was highly enjoyable.

HM: We moved to the South Stage for the last half of Gogol Bordello. The only thing I had heard about these guys is that they were a gypsy punk band. Their sound was somewhere between the festive songs from an old Disney movie and a California hardcore band. I really liked them a lot. Plus, the stage show was insane as the lead singer kept clutching this bottle of wine and these cheerleader girls ran from mic to mic assisting on vocal duties. This is definitely I band I would see again.

Lupe Fiasco

HM & I had seen Lupe perform live once before for free.99 at last summer’s Artscape. Even thought he only had one album under his belt, we were left impressed. The bar was set high for this performance, because since we had last seen him he has released another solid album and got a live band to back him up. Unfortunately our high expectations were not met, but little had to with Lupe’s own doing. We were pretty up close for his performance, which was our first biggest mistake- people were crowd surfing like this was some hardcore rock show.. the audience was clearly not prepared for this. In fact, Lupe had the most crowd surfing going on out of all the acts we saw. Then to add insult to injury, you had 300lb morons who thought it would be cool to join in on the fun, lets just say after this bs I set an appointment with my chiropractor (NO HMO) for my shoulder. This alone made it very difficult to focus on the music coming from the stage. Despite all of this enthusiasm for crowd surfing, the crowd as a whole gave Lupe a lukewarm reception at best, doing a complete 180 on the energy they had just showed Gogol on the same stage. Contributing factors to the misery included Lupe being marred by technical difficulties that resulted in a few minutes of a painfully long pause, which prompted Lupe to make an off hand comment- “I’m never coming back here again”. When I asked a few other concertgoer’s about the comment, only few caught it though. In the end Lupe played a few minutes less than his allotted time (only 6 songs!) and he wrapped it all up with “Daydreaming” and a nice backflip. It looked like Lupe is picking up pointers from the Gymnastics at the Olympics. Even though the backflip was nice, I left the south stage bummed.

HM: Lupe Fiasco was terrible. First of all, the dude came on late and only played half of his set. His monitors stopped working half way through his set so we were forced to listen to a 5 minute sound check. The crowd was also very unresponsive; people were fighting in the front row; and motherfuckers kept crowd surfing on me. The height of lameness came when Lupe asked the crowd to shout out “god is great”, but practically no one responded and he mumbled “I’m never coming back here”. Trying to get hot and bothered festival goers excited about god after a sound check? Not a good look.

Soulwax

This Belgian act was one of the best acts to show up in the Dance tent during the weekend. Even though they were a little late for whatever reason, the 4-piece electro band simply rocked out with their tightly organized electronic sound and made it worth the wait. Their rendition of Daft Punk’s “Robot Rock” was pure dope. When I ran into their Bass player, Stefaan, near the racetrack after the set he said he was happy with how it all turned out despite the fact they rarely play this early in the day.

HM: We took a short break then moved on to Soulwax. I had seen these guys at a prior Virgin Festival performing as 2 Many DJs. They were great then, and they were great now. They performed a lot of remixes from their old and new stuff. I really enjoyed the live drum element, and they had an intense amount of stage energy. They ended the show with crowd pleasers like their cover of Phantom by Justice, and Robot Rock by Daft Punk.

The Offspring / Chuck Berry / Citizen Cope,

The Post didn’t like The Offspring much, but I did. Because they were a part of the music I grew up on, I will always have a soft spot for them. I’m not going to say they are the most deep or technically amazing band, but they do have a pretty large catalogue of fun catchy jams that know how to rock a crowd. When I heard “All I Want” during the set all I could think about was flashbacks of that song blaring as I played Crazy Taxi on the Sega Dreamcast for the first time. The band was having fun with themselves as well as with the crowd, a solid act for sure. We decided to grab some food after this while catching parts of Citizen Cope & Chuck Berry. Citizen Cope was on the North Stage, the same stage as Duffy & Jack Johnson aka the take-a-nap-on-the-grass music. His music was fine but it was just kind of boring when listened to in such a huge venue.  Chuck Berry on the other made us pay for not being too close for his most of his set as he rocked out, playing his hits and Beatles covers (with his Japanese Beatles cover band). He finished the set with a bunch of young girls/women dancing on the stage, showing that the mans pimp hand is still strong.

HM: After another break, we caught the second half of the Offspring. I was never a huge Offspring fan in my younger days, but I liked them enough. They played a great set with all the hits, and they sounded fantastic. I started to get tired again so we chilled and watched a bit of Citizen Cope, Wilco, and Chuck Berry from a distance. My favorite was Chuck Berry because of his captain suit and the mob of girls he brought on at the end of his set. Dude is my hero.

Foo Fighters

It was a no-brainier decision to watch the Foo Fighters close out Saturday as we didn’t want to listen to the songs from the Curious George soundtrack. The decision paid off as Foo Fighters showed they are true American rockband that simply kicks ass. Playing their semi-homecoming show (Dave Grohl is from Northern Virginia), they seemed really happy to be at the festival. Grohl was ready to go, as he told the crowd he just got back from the beach and was ready to “rock our asses out”. He joked about playing longer then we can stand on our feet or endure without going to the bathroom. Marking about the 1-year mark since the band reunited with original guitarist Pat Smear (sidenote: In elementary school one of my best friends, Vivek, was obsessed with Pat Smear for whatever reason so I’ve always been following him closely), they ran through all of theirs hits with huge amount of crowd interaction and energy. When they played “Cheer Up, Boys” the 3rd single off their last album, complete with music breaks, it really came across as a classic rock-n-roll jam. Through out the night I noticed that Taylor Hawkings plays like the drums like a mad men, puffing a cigarette during quick breaks, the man is easily one of the top 5 active drummers. There was prolific playing on all the instruments on stage including the triangle (the instrument you played in the 3rd grade as Grohl called it), as a band member played a triangle solo. The crowd also provided some personal entertainment courtesy of some frat bros who failed miserably at attempting a mosh pit near where we were standing. After the crowd stepped back to laugh at this foolery, the bros soon left. Even more laughter was delivered via Grohl who dedicated an acoustic “Skin & Bones” to all the kids in the rave tent “kissing people they don’t know”.  A perfect band to end day 1 of VMF.

(Sidenote #2: The Foo Fighters were supposed to be my first concert when they played in the parking lot of Tower Records in 1997ish, but I was late and missed it due to some family reasons, so more than 10 years later it all came full circle.)

HM: Closing up Saturday, the Foo Fighters performed. Their set was one of the best of the festival. Dave Grohl swore whenever possible and they really encouraged crowd participation. When he introduced the band he spent extra time on his drummer and made a point of calling him by his government name, Oliver Taylor Hawkins, instead of Taylor Hawkins. Dave Grohl also kept saying that they were going to play until they were asked to leave, but they ended their set right on time. It didn’t matter though. They were great anyway, and Sunday was ahead.

Chromeo

We were late on Day 2 as well, our clock game is fd up something serious. We only caught Chromeo’s encore and it made me really jealous of those that saw the whole set. I swear one of these days we will actually be in time to see an opening act! The dance tent was more packed then I had seen it on the previous day, with seemingly everyone chanting “Chromeo!”.

HM: After some delays we arrived on Sunday to catch the end of Chromeo. We pretty much got there to see him perform a cover of “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Anyway You Want It” by Journey, but judging by the crowd their set was great.

Rabbit in the Moon

HM: Rabbit in the Moon was the craziest thing I have ever seen in my life. I didn’t see the whole set, but from what I did see it was a live show full of costume changes and great music. I saw him dress-up like a mad scientist, a strong man, a suit of lights, and a space explorer. I saw him saw into a mask on his own face and then pull a girl out of the audience and do it to her. My biggest regret of this festival is not seeing RITM in full. I highly recommend the experience.

Andrew Bird

I wasn’t farmilar with this band’s music but I’ve heard good things about them so I decided  to check it out. It was some mellow folkish stuff for sure ala Sufjan Stevens but still an easy listen. They played some song that included a whistling part which had me sold in a matter of seconds.

Paramore

I hear this band all the time on the radio for whatever reason and I had a curiosity if they were a legit thing or just a flavor of the month. After seeing them the jury is still out on the issue, no one seemed overly excited over them, but then again maybe I’m getting too musically snobbish/old. I was too bored to even stick around for their final performance of their biggest song to date, Misery Business. While walking away from this set I saw some guy wearing a black beanie laying on the grass, I didn’t have the heart to disrupt his attempt at a heat stroke, so I let him carry on with his stylings.

She and Him

HM: At the south stage we saw the end of She and Him, Zooey Deschanel’s band. They sounded good, but I felt kinda bad for them since the crowd was mostly there waiting for Lil Wayne, and they made that clear in their lack of interest. Towards the end of the She and Him set some douchebags in the crowd were even yelling things like “Get off the stage” or chanting for Lil Wayne, which is pretty dumb cause he wasn’t about to be on for a while.

Lil Wayne

This performance can really be just described as, I apologize in advance, Wayne’s World. Even a few days later and I’m not sure I can comprehend what exactly happened. We arrived a good 25 minutes in advance to get a good spot, as well as place bets on pertinent issues such as will there by a Styrofoam cup in Wayne’s hand (answer: no, I lose :( ). Then there was chants for a trio of girls in homemade “Kanye’s Workout Plan” hats to “reveal” their goods (they gave in and then made out), ah yes, classiness was in the air. With no Wayne in sight a while later, to kill time I started to try to read lips of concert organizer Seth Hurwitz, as he was having some important looking conversation in the front of the stage. I didn’t see him mouth “Breach of Contract”, though. Before Wayne came out we got a good 15 minutes of his the Young Money weed carrier set (official count: 7 members) walk around the stage and pick out groupies which was really just as entertaining as it sounds. People were starting to get restless of this and started flicking off the set, who flicked off right back. Luckily, the setting was a race track and not some Baltimore club, because next I would probably be describing some sort of combination of police, bullets, security, etc. In any case, in the very least these wise men were able to figure out a way to not be as late as Weezy to the stage. Oh yeah, then Weezy finally showed up on stage, about 45 minutes late, at a festival where no one is late, ever (other than Wu-Tang). A short apology would have gone a long way, but nope, Wayne acted as if he was on time . He started off with some sloppy shit jumping from one track to another, with painful momentum killing transitions. Half of the tracks he did had his original vocals (even album cuts!), which in my book unacceptable, you need a hype man for a reason. Through out the set Wayne would bring out “very special guests” like Mac Maine (for Got Money) and some other dude who was dressed like a Baby look-a-like, wearing a red leather jacket (available on every summer clothing line). He would go on to sing the siren noises from Mrs. Officer..this has HM so not interested he started snacking on a bag of Sun Chips, boring sporting event style. What I found amusing that I was in the minority feeling salty, the majority of the people were rocking with the guy.. maybe that Wayne hating from Knobbz is rubbing off on me. Shit, even rodents were crowd surfing:

At least the man brought his random quirkiness, alerting the crowd at a point that we were at Weezy’s Poetry Corner.. and only finger snaps were allowed instead of clapping (“cause we cool”). What followed out of the mans mouth I have to share with you or this isn’t Metal Lungies.

“Roses are red, violets are blue/ I love my money bitch, I don’t love you.”

There were more random ass parts to follow as Wayne thought it was a good idea to just randomly sing the hook from the Trina assisted track, Prostitute, acappella. WTF? We were by no means done, because Wayne wanted to show that he is the next Jimi Hendrix by doing his guitar shtick (Buhizzle, I see you, you’re jealous)..

Just so you know, all great guitarists sit down to play the electric guitar while they sing/rap. The way Leather So Soft came in, I wouldn’t be surprised that there was a backup guitar being played on vinyl for a part of this. I was starting to think this was some bizzaro amateur hour. Next was Wayne’s live staple, Pussy Monster over a a generic beatbox, which provided me with some uncomfortable moments..the peak of which was Wayne doing some random thrusting on his knees before collapsing to the stage. But there was someone that would save the day (sorta), captain Kanye with his Louis Vuitton backpack burst on to the stage for the Lollipop remix..which ended almost abruptly after Kanye was done with his verse, as Lil Wayne didn’t know “that shit” (his verses on the remix). So let me summarize, the dude didn’t do a single verse (remix or not) from his biggest song ever…and a bigger act than Wayne knew HIS verse for the remix *Head explodes*. The end was nearing, but Wayne wasn’t going to leave normal, he left to Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You blaring, as a weed carrier tried to “capture” Lil Wayne into a red robe, finally succeeding and Wayne running off ala James Brown. Random Note: the first time I saw the SWAT Team was after leaving the Wayne performance, they were headed in his direction.

Oh yeah, the The Black Keys are not Lil Wayne’s biggest fans.

HM: Lil Wayne was 40 minutes late. Luckily entertainment was provided before his set, in the form of 16 year old triplets who were making out with each other for the crowd’s amusement, while 30 year old men chanted for them to remove their tops. Incest and pedophilia were a big hit at Pimlico. After 25 minutes Lil Wayne’s Young Money crew came out and walked around the stage greeting, and giving the finger to the crowd, all while hollering at girls in the audience for phone numbers. Eventually, Lil Wayne came out and performed a set that included a broad range spanning his musical catalog. The highlight of the show was his 5 minute acapella ode to vagina that made him drop to his knees and left him lying down on the stage thrusting his groin into the air. Throughout his performance he kept telling us that he was bringing out a special guest, and that guest would turn out to be a Young Money weed carrier like Mac Maine, but near the end of the show he brought out Kanye West to perform his verse from the Lollipop Remix. Wayne started to do his verse after Kanye, but he couldn’t remember it cause he was fucked up. In classic confusing Lil Wayne style he ended his show with a James Brown-esque robe routine followed by playing “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston. All in all, it was classic.

Moby

Please don’t tell Eminem, but the GF & I genuinely enjoyed his set. This was the most that I danced the whole festival, sorry Wayne. He spins all sorts of stuff from his own stuff to Basement Jaxx, you can’t really compare to listening to his albums, it was that suberb. It helped me forget about the fresh ketchup stain on my white tee. If he’s coming in a town near you, go see him.

HM: We took a long break and then went to see Moby in the Dance Tent. I have always been a fan of his music, but I had no idea that he was such an incredible DJ. He rocked mad dance classics and I was a dancing fool. I must have lost 10 pounds in pure sweat in that tent. I will definitely see him again.

Bob Dylan

Can you say anything negative about this Legend? We only caught the tail end of his set cause Moby was kicking so much ass but, I’m glad we caught him. Watching Like a Rolling Stone for an encore was a definite highlight of the weekend (or life?). Some random observations of his performance: Does Bob Dylan not allow anyone but the band on stage while he plays, not even a camera man or family/friends on the sides? But has his Oscar statue standing on his equipment stage?

HM: We wanted to get a good spot for Kanye so we left Moby early and caught Bob Dylan’s last song and encore. The annoying thing was that there was a girl next to me shouting “Get off the stage! “ and “We Want Kanye!” and she wasn’t the only one. Bob Dylan is a fucking legend, and he’s still a relevant artist. People weren’t showing him half the respect he deserved. Young ass kids don’t know that without Dylan there would be no Kanye. The man made poetic and true lyrics popular for a whole generation. Smarten up!

Kanye West

Kanye always has a very solid live show (best in rap? music?) and I had heard nothing but very impressive things about Glow In The Dark tour, which I wasn’t able to catch in person for logistical reasons. Now I wish I could turn back time, because I would travel cross country to see the whole GITD setup. His stage for the festival was dumbed down from what I’ve seen/read about GITD. I wasn’t disappointed in the least, for example the lighting alone was the most impressive of any live act I’ve seen, shit seemed like a top notch Broadway production. I didn’t bother taking much notes on the song selection, because I was vibing/wyling out to damn near every song.There was some freestyles with shout outs to Takoma Park, Springfield,and MD- “The home of the terrapin”. Then he did a new verse for All Falls Down which I smirked to: “Trying to stay free like Mr. Kells”.  From his big smashes like Good Life to favorite album cuts like Get Em High (done in what can best described a Darth Vader voice) everything flowed perfectly, not one moment of downtime. Even just listening to the man talk, he mentioned being opposite NIN for a 2nd straight festival and being a fan of theirs, was enjoyable. Another thing that he mentioned was that he took a similar inner-city route from the hotel to Pimlico like we did on Day 1. Someone told him about the blue lights that hang on utility poles on street corners (“if the blue light blinks once its bad, if it blinks twice its really bad, and if it blinks three times its really really bad”). Kanye would go on to mention the people that were watching the screens way back behind the fences outside of the field. All of this shows that there isn’t a detail Kanye isn’t aware of when comes to his craft, from who’s playing opposite him, where he’s playing to who’s listening to him. Prior to Kanye’s set I was getting tired, the feet were aching from standing, I forgot about all of this once Kanye came on stage. I can’t really describe how good and enjoyable his performance was, do whatever, sells kidneys, sell your kids.. just make it to see him live. I hope Wayne was somewhere drinking out of a styrofoam cup and taking some notes.

HM: I was amped for Kanye. Now, after the fact, I’m having trouble describing it. He did old songs. He did new songs. He gave a light show. He gave some speeches. I think every performer should see him because he is the best I have ever seen. I want to see it again. I want to live it again. Everything I see afterwards will fall short. He puts on the kind of show that makes you look at your buddy after and ask “Where do we go from here?” I’m still not sure.  You won’t understand until you see it yourself. I saw it and I still don’t fully understand. It didn’t make my weekend. It made my year.

Check out the whole stash of photos at our Flickr page, MLickr.

Misc Notes:

Day 1 chant in the under race track tunnel- “Yankees Suck”.

Day 2 chant in the under race track tunnel- “Ole Ole Ole”

There was supposed to be mad rain on day 2.. we copped a stash of ponchos, the weather turned out to be amazing.

Food Awards (getting our Food critic on):

Inedible- Hot Dogs (Beyond terrible, felt like I was eating a container of pure white.. salt) & Hamburgers

(Highly) Edible- Cinnamon Roasted Almonds, Chicken Tender Platter, Fries

Kanye didn’t mention the “error” on stage at least.

*BONUS* Some professional pictures (including a bunch of acts we sadly missed) (Courtesy of Virgin Mobile):

If you are a living in an institution (I know, I know, we missed a few acts) and this recap wasn’t enough check out the Baltimore Sun & WaPo’s Post Rock blogs.

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