Virgin Mobile FreeFest: What We Learned
Now that the dust has settled—and I mean settled into my nose, 'neath my fingernails, and in every other crevice of my body—let's talk about what we learned at yesterday's FreeFest at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Things like:
- Toward the end of the day, the beer dropped in price by $1 (a 24 0z. Bud was going for $8 most of the day); water and Gatorade held constant at $4.
- It sure felt chaotic, but Merriweather keeps a tight ship. I saw a girl collapse during LCD Soundsystem's set; she was escorted out of the pit by security in less than 30 seconds.
- There's really never a reason not to get a Ferris Wheel for your festival.
- People will not necessarily get down to HBO-approved brass assaults, even if they cover "Lollipop."
- People still really, really love Jimmy Eat World:
- Very few people seemed to have come for Ludacris. Judging by the handful of his songs I caught, he turned hearts and minds (and propelled asses).
- Neon Indian has really pro-ed up.
- At least some of the crowd was willing to meet Thievery Corporation halfway.
- Say what you will, but Matt and Kim's dumbass jock-jams pop is shockingly bankable. The crowd ate it up.
- I think I spotted him rolling his eyes once or twice during Pavement's set, but Stephen Malkmus was very plainly in a good mood, and super-talkative.
- Festival crowds love swag.
- My intern is really funny.
- I take it there was some backstage drama re: the seating arrangement. In brief: You had to have one kind of wristband to access the highest tier of pavilion seats (free-ticket holders were relegated to the lawn), another kind to access the closest tier of seats, anyone could hang out in the pit by the stage but this wasn't plainly clear, and for a bunch of sets the elite pavilion seats were half-empty. Matt Johnson, the goofy singer of Matt and Kim, got all political and bantered about how the crowd should "free the FreeFest!" Later, James Murphy thanked organizers for opening up the elite seats to the masses. "This is much better," he said.
- The Ted Nugent pinball machine did not make it.
- Joan Jett rocks a lot harder than her biopic counterpart.
- LCD Soundsystem's set was really, really loud, and really, really good, and didn't offer so many surprises, but more than a few moments of sweaty catharsis.
- I missed Sleigh Bells and M.I.A., which is a real shame; I heard that former was great, the latter meh.
- That shit was dusty! Especially in the dance forest, where most of the electro-minded acts played. Like, reduced-visibility, sneezing-out-soot dusty. My eyes still hurt.
- I killed my voice singing along to the Pavement set, and it was worth it.
What did you learn at FreeFest? Tell us in the comments! And check back here tomorrow: I'll have some more thoughts, we'll have some video, and Erica Bruce will have a ton of photos.