Monday, September 25, 2006

Virgin Festival Roundup of Sorts


Those of you that read this thing have grown accustomed to my dizzying, pendulous mood swings. I had a real crank-fest last week there, one that I'm considering deleting. But the GOOD thing about being a moody dude is that you're either experiencing a dizzying high or there's one right around the corner!

And man, I'm telling you, there's no cure for the grumps like 12 hours of solid rock music. Like 40, 000 other people, I went to the Virgin Festival this weekend -- and had the great fortune to be able to take some photos. Here's some of 'em, with, of course, some well-thought-out, incisive and deep commentary, commentary so sharp you'll totally overlook that I am typing this in my underpants way past bedtime.


This is Myles Haskett and Chris Ross of Wolfmother. They gave their freaking all like they always do, but it's a little much to expect any band to rock a crowd's britches off starting promptly at 1:30 in the afternoon. Nothing good about rock happens early, man. All the rockers in the crowd practically had sleep in their eyes still, except the dude in front of me. "You like these dudes, bro?" he asked. "I freaking LOVE 'em," I replied, "but tell me -- have they played 'Love Train' yet?" Came the answer: "Shit, I don't fuckin' know, man ... I'm DRUNK!"


Gnarls Barkley pulled it off live for real. The whole show was performed live -- no samples, deejaying, or prerecorded trickery that I could tell. They had a string section, guitarist, bassist, backup singers -- all to perform an album that was made by two guys in one room, shaping samples and singing over them. It was real musical alchemy, watching one kind of gold turn into another.

Cee-Lo has a smile that is an actual renewable energy resource. He and Dangermouse were sitting there being interviewed by MTV, and he looked kinda grumpy - not unlike King Kong getting ready to tell the blonde lady "get back to dancing." Then someone asked for a picture and this SMILE came out, so big his ears must have gotten wet, just 50 million watts of bright whiteness.

The dudes were really not all that excited about taking this photo with me -- you could tell they were tired of the whole enterprise, but when I asked, Dangermouse was like "ah, alright," and they kicked out legendary photo faces:



Man, was the Who ever impressive. Old enough to be my gay dads, Daltrey and Townshend put on a show that none of the other rock acts could top. Townshend windmilled, Daltrey whipped the mike around like a cowboy with a lasso ... they gave the people what they wanted. The set was light on new stuff, heavy on the hits. I can't believe one band a) wrote that many iconic rock songs and b) had the ability to still play them perfectly after 25 years.

Seeing the Who live from the photo pit totally made up for the absolutely asinine behavior exhibited by the show's security. The deal with being in the photo pit is that you can only be there for three songs, no flash photography, and then you're outta there. Theoretically, photographers are allowed to walk out under their own power, but nobody told the security guy in charge of the photo area.

The last note of the third song was still ringing in the air when he started making the little cords in his neck jump out, screaming, "out, let's go, let's go" and shoving people (and by people, I mean me) for emphasis. I mean, the Who is explosive and all, but I really didn't think they were going to start lobbing grenades down the front of the stage. Apparently I was alone in that thought.


This little guy got rocked straight to sleep ...


I tried to hate the Killers for months. I kept hearing all this stuff about 'em on MTV at the gym, or from a bunch of kids that claim with a straight face that Blink 182 is their favorite punk band. It got my 'kids today, they don't know real music' speech all geared up. Then it turns out like four songs that I really liked from the radio were all by the Killers. Dammit. I'm a fan.



The Flmaing Lips were far and away the greatest part of the whole festival. The band brings out the giddy, giggly excitement in me -- they just conjure this feeling of hope, wonder and FUN so effortlessly. They played a bunch of songs off the Soft Bulletin, which they released in 1999, and the band seemed to be having as much fun with the same songs last night that they were having when I saw them in Perth two years ago.



During the intro to the first song, Wayne Coyne took a little wander around teh surface of the crowd inside a giant Mylar bubble. He was helped offstage and over the barricades by stagehands dressed in superheroc costumes. I saw Thor, Batman, the Hulk, Skeletor, Wonder Woman, and Superman. Before the show got started, Superman was plugging in cord and sorta setting things up. A drunk girl behind me said "Hey, Superman's drinking BEER! Superman isn't supposed to drink that much beer!"

I can't even explain how much incredible it was passing Wayne Coyne around in that giant balloon, helped by Superman and Thor. I could feel this weird hitching in my chest and my breathing got all funny -- it was like laughing and crying all at once at the same time, just feeling so ALIVE.


Of course Coyne shot confetti at the crowd ...



... and there were the requisite costumed freaks crowding the stage, dancing and shouting.

I have to admit -- I completely lost myself during "Do You Realize." Something about the song itself, the cool breezes penetrating the hot crowded air, everyone singing along just made me think about time passing, people I love, people I miss terribly and people I'm grateful for, and I just started crying like nobody's business. I was standing RIGHT next to a co-worker, and I did not need her to see that at all, but man. It was so much all at once, such a release, and to feel the mellow high you feel after a huge cry, surrounded by falling confetti and right in front of your favorire rock band ... that's something you can't bottle, you can't advertise, and you sure can't sell. It's just got to come together, and it was complete magic.

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At 9:16 AM, Blogger ejtakeslife said...

Agreed, it was a fantastic day all around-- nice round-up and photos (and glad to hear that the shrimp didn't kill you)!

At 10:17 AM, Anonymous Sweet said...

Great photos dude. And yeah I walked up as the Lips were playing 'Do You Realize' and I was kicking myself for wasting my time on the Chili Peppers show instead.

At 2:18 PM, Anonymous suicide_blond said...

lovve looovee looooove the Flaming lips.. have forever.. the pix are great..thanks for the post!

At 10:10 AM, Anonymous Tracy Lee said...

Well - the Who nasty security incident might have been because Photo people are only allowed in the pit for *two* songs, not three, and after the 2nd song ended nobody was movig. Cause I was standing right next to you :)

Photos are here: Pancake Mountain

I missed the FL live show - glad to see some good photos from it.

At 10:53 AM, Blogger Jeff Simmermon said...

Tracy -- great photos!

Maybe the reason nobody was moving was that everybody else thought it was three songs, too ...

At 11:36 AM, Blogger cuff said...

Loved the photos and the recap, but I have to admit that I'm so out of touch that when I saw the link on DC Blogs to the "virgin festival," I thought it would be a sendup of some religious right festival on the Mall...

At 2:41 PM, Anonymous Tracy Lee said...

Oh, I'd better elaborate. Security during the Who *was* oppressive. Scary extreme. The security guys went from being so cool earlier in the day and joking with us to suddenly being incredibly uptight - yelling and pushing. It was bad when the Who was on, and when we all didn't immediately move out when the 2nd song ended (cause we couldn't get many photos with them having shoved us up against the stage so an extra 15 seconds for another shot, well, it seemed like we were all going to take it.) they started screaming and pushing us. They were trying to move some VIPs into the pit and I think our presence there was screwing that up.

At 2:46 PM, Blogger Jeff Simmermon said...


Man, don't think I didn't notice! Thanks for the elaboration, btw...

I was like, motherfucker, I am hot and tired, too!

You saw the near-fight break out in the pit before the Chili Peppers, did you not? When that guard was trying to talk about "I want everyone in a single-file line!" Next thing I knew two or three behemoth dudes were screaming and shoving each other in front of a bunch of professional photographers -- REAL smart.

What was your perception of that part?

At 4:54 PM, Blogger Needtsza said...

SICK Photos!!!

and what was your child wearing? The most noise resistant headphones ever!?!

Cool dood!

sorry I don't have Roger Waters pics to trade, but I had to just go with the flow and let the camera go.

Keep on rockin'! in the free world

At 6:23 PM, Anonymous tracylee said...

Conversation via comments :)

The screaming match in the pit between security before the RHCP took the stage - oh very professional. Not. But at least the guys from Virgin were standing up for us and screamed down the dick that was wanting to make everyone move.

It seemed like there were three different security groups working the same event: the guys working for virgin, the guys working for the bands, and then the guys working for the venue. And each had their instructions and none of them could agree as to which was highest up in the chain of command.
Early on in the day when the crowd was smaller we had the whole pit to move around in including the center area back into the crowd. As more people showed up we had to keep an aisle open for the security guards. By the time The Who took the stage not only did we not have any breathing room to shoot but it seemed like suddenly the number of folks with access passes to the pit area had doubled.

Both confrontations were unnecessary - and scary. I certainly don't need some 6foot weightlifter security guard knocking me around (all 100lbs of me) especially when I've got a couple thousand dollars worth of gear hanging around my neck.

At 3:56 PM, Blogger VP of Dior said...

i've been telling people for years (literally) that the killers are good live and no one believes me. i think their set reinforced my belief that they aren't as bead as people want them to be.

also, i am not ashamed to admit i left the who midway through the set to watch the scissor sisters. talk about a completely amped up crowd just having a good time. great set.

then i switched back over to main stage for chili peppers. i've been a fan for 10years and there was just no way i was going to miss them. IMHO, Flea is in the top five bassists of all time!

At 8:35 AM, Blogger Braving the Arirang said...

Hey, I am a random blogger who found your blog and is going this year for the first time...

Your pics are ridiculously awesome. I hope that I can take some good pics that way too.

Did you take a car last year or Amtrak?
I wanted to know how much it is for parking, or if there is any other way I could score some cheaper parking.... eek!!

At 8:44 AM, Blogger Braving the Arirang said...

Hey Jeff - Thanks for the reply... yeah I live in Maryland - have a car... wasn't trying to pay the extreme amount to park the car though - I am going with my best friend and he is bugging about having to possibly pay $35 to park. I have never been to Pimlico Race Track in my life (not a big horse-racing fan, could ya tell?).

The pics you took were incredibly well done, and make me even more excited about going!!! :-) Kinda wishing I lived back in DC so I could just take the train up. lol


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