Arts Desk

Virgin Fest Lineup: Black Keys, Cee Lo, TV on the Radio, Patti Smith, and More

No need to get fancy with the lede. Here's the lineup for this year's Virgin Mobile FreeFest, set for Sept. 10 at Merriweather Post Pavillion:

  • Spread across two mainstages: The Black Keys, Deadmau5, Cee Lo Green, TV on the Radio, Patti Smith, Empire of the Sun, Cut Copy, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Okkervil River, Big Sean, Two Door Cinema Club, Alberta Cross, and Bombay Bicycle Club.
  • In the Dance Forest: James Murphy, Calvin Harris, Ghostland Observatory, !!!, Porter Robinson, Eclectic Method, and Teddybears.

And here are the most relevant details:

  • You can acquire your free tickets on Friday at 10 a.m. via the Virgin Mobile Live Facebook page, but you have to "like" it first. Whether you like it or not. Loyalty bonus! If you're a Virgin Mobile customer or have held tickets to the festival in the past, you should get a text message or email soon, inviting you to get your tickets on Thursday at 10 a.m.
  • There won't be any VIP tickets this year (which last year were the only way you could sit in the covered seats closest to the pavilion stage, until parts of that area were opened to everyone late in the festival). Instead, you can buy a "Premium Ticket Package" which gets you early admission, some FreeFest swag, and drink specials. You can buy those at the Merriweather or Ticketfly sites.

Now, some observations.

Kudos, Virgin and I.M.P, for freeing the pavilion seats.

This isn't the most populist FreeFest (see Weezer, Blink-182 in 2009), but marquee sets from The Black Keys, Cee Lo, and to a lesser extent Deadmau5 still feel pretty damn populist. (Frankly, I'd be happy if the headliners were Patti Smith and TV on the Radio.) Like last year, the lineup is weighted toward mainstream-y indie rock and poppy, internationalist electronica. There are a few great bands. For better or for worse, there seem to be fewer buzz bands (i.e. No Sleigh Bells equivalent).

Very little nostalgia here (see 2010's Jimmy Eat World, Joan Jett), and don't file Patti Smith in that category. She's the biggest surprise on the bill, and probably the act I'm most excited about. I also have no idea what she'll play (it's been four years since her last studio album), but I suspect she won't just be rehashing hits from her late-'70s/early-'80s heyday (I wouldn't smirk at most of those songs, though). The last time I saw her play was at a Ralph Nader rally in 2000. It was the best thing about the experience.

Why so little hip-hop? Big Sean will be lonely.

A bill featuring both Two Door Cinema Club and Bombay Bicycle Club is confusing.

James Murphy and TV on the Radio are pseudo-veterans: Murphy's LCD Soundsystem capped off last year's festival with an ebullient set, and TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek used way too much air horn during a DJ set as Maximum Balloon.

It's taking place Sept. 10, after all. Click Track was dinged for reporting the concert's date last week: Should they be miffed or feel vindicated? Side note: The WaPo blog correctly predicted threefour of the festival's 20 announced acts.

I foresee spending a lot of time in the Dance Forest. Suffocating dust storms be damned.

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  • SW

    Nice job, Seth. Another great festival.

  • SteveKiviat

    few buzz bands and little hiphop means this year is mostly a yawner ...zzzzzzzzzz

  • Hayes

    Totally agree about Patti Smith and TV on the Radio!

  • Matt

    With !!!, Calvin Harris, and James Murphy in the dance forest, I foresee spending a lot of time there too. After last year's experience, though, I'm totally bringing a dust mask with me this time. I don't even care if I look like a dork, at least I won't leave feeling like I'm in the early stages of black lung disease.

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