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.
Tags: Virgin, Virgin Festival, Flaming Lips, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Wolfmother, Gnarls Barkley, The Who, Tiesto, Carl Cox, The Killers, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Jeff Simmermon, And I Am Not Lying For Real, Richard Branson