Leave it to Richard Branson to disprove economic theory. Using the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland to host his free carnival cavalcade of fun, the Virgin Free Fest(ival) boasted booths ranging from creating your own scarves, yoga mats, and Converse shoes to making your own photographic flip book, a high stakes game of Plinko, outdoor beds, tepees, tents, a Ferris Wheel, circus act and a skateboard park. Oh and did we mention the music? With a lineup ranging from Jimmy Eat World to Neon Trees, the VFF proved that there are such things as a free lunch (and clothing, and food, and music, and…)
THE TEMPER TRAP
The day began at the West Stage with The Temper Trap. Starting with an epic drum laden song, the Australian boys solidified their capture of the audience’s attention when lead singer Dougy Mandagi’s debuted his falsetto range. Bassist Johnathan Aherne swung his body fluidly in line with the dreamy layered guitar sound and while Mandagi lead the vocals, all the members participated, occasionally stepping into the spotlight. Sweeping crescendos, delayed guitar rifts and bouts with synth-pop, songs like “Down River”, ‘Fadar” and the commercial hit “Sweet Disposition” started the day off right.
JIMMY EAT WORLD
There is a Jimmy Eat World phenomenon and it goes like this: Every Jimmy Eat World song transports you to your old room at your parent’s house, which is undoubtedly bedecked with a poster from at least one of the following bands: Nirvana, Pink Floyd, or Led Zeppelin. You’re 15 years old, you throw Bleed American onto that old CD player and wait for Jim Adkins’ familiar soothing whine that tells you everything is going to be alright, it just takes some time. Apparently, even a decade later, you never really do grow up because the crowd that packed the Pavilion was nothing short of a mob. In the pit, fans screamed and surfed as Adkins dismantled angsty adolescence through catchy rock-rift haikus with songs like “Futures” and ‘Big Casinos.” People went wild for “For Me this is Heaven”, “Work”, and “The Middle” dancing around like a 90s rave. Occasionally a few stopped to take a breath, probably taking a second to ponder, ‘Did my voice just crack?’
EDWARD SHARPE AND THE MAGNETIC ZEROES
With Jimmy crooning the last ‘ohs’ of ‘Sweetness” somewhere outside the Pavilion a big VW van pulled up and out hopped the 10 members of music’s latest gypsy brigade, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. For those who liked IMA Robot, its fun and somewhat mystifying to see Alex Ebert, a leader of the early millennial hipster movement transform into the image of 1960s shaman.
While the messages extolled speak peace, love and happiness, they don’t forget a bit of tongue-and-cheek humor. “Let’s not make this awkward,” says Ebert strolling out on stage in a white pants, blazer and bare chest. And thus began an hour of intoxicating joyousness, hand holding (mostly pre-empted by Ebert grabbing onto different fans) and constant jumping. Jade Castrinos played a perfect counterpart to Ebert, providing a sweet voice and humorous banter on the song “Home.” Closing with “40 Day Dream” it was clear that the captivated audience would follow wherever Alex and the rest of the gypsy caravan lead them.
MATT & KIM
Matt & Kim’s party-harder, smile-wider attitude attracted the thousands for one of the most packed shows of the festival at the Pavilion. Sitting in on an interview with the super-sweet couple earlier in the day, they mocked their own hipster-ness (‘Yeah, we’re from Williamsburg”), humbly preached their thankfulness of their ‘job’ (air quotes added by Matt) and even spoke on why despite it’s upcoming release they don’t play much off their new album, Sidewalks. “You know, you’re like ‘Hey wanna hear a new song?’ and they’re (the fans) like ‘Ehhh, not really. We kind of just want to hear something we know and can sing along to.” And so they did exactly that, they put on a show that played not just for, but to the crowd. Kim, who never stopped smiling once during the set, took off her bra when it bothered her, threw balloons into the crowd and literally stood on top of the audience as they held her feet and she did her infamous booty dance. Matt even added his own thoughts on VVF’s policy of selling tickets for the best seats and the pit. “Now I know I’m going to get in a lot of trouble for saying this but…free the Freefest!” He then encouraged brave rabble-rousers to try and sneak into the center stage area drawing quite the audience cheer. They finished with their commercial hit ‘Daylight” which evoked screams and somersaults down the aisles. It wasn’t necessarily a show to tell the grandchildren about, but who cares about the future when MK can give instant gratification?
“We’re Pavement. For those of you who don’t know, we’re like an old band that broke up a long time ago,” said Steven Malkmus. There’s actually a lot to know about Pavement who have been characterized by strange, erratic antics, depression, pot-smoking, breakups and yet still are credited as one of the preeminent forces that shaped the 90s lo-fi music scene. While their audience was slightly sparse (albeit they were competing with Ludacris and ‘slightly sparse’ in the Pavilion is nothing to snuff at), their show brought out the diehards. Everyone in the crowd gleefully watched Malkmus flimsily throw about his guitar while they mouthed every word they’d been memorizing for the past 10 years to songs like “Date with Ikea”, “Summer Babe”, “In the Mouth of the Desert”, “Perfume V”, “Heaven is a Truck” and of course, “Cut your Hair”. With the sole stage spotlight on Malkmus illuminating his long, un-chopped locks, it seems that even 20 years later he’s still as intelligent, woeful, charming and disagreeable as ever, even if it’s to his own song’s advice.
MIA’s late night West Stage set won for the most onstage antics. Starting noticeably late, her stage was complete with singers in full burqa, politically charged videos, back-up dancers and lasers. MIA came out in a metallic jacket that she dramatically ripped off to reveal short-shorts and a long-sleeve satin print outfit and preceded to gyrate against the speakers and booty dance in the lenses of the photographers. She made no excuses, “You know how it was all confusing-like in the beginning? It still is that way,” she laughed. She sang songs like “Bucky Done Gun” and “Paper Planes” where she crowd-surfed, came out for an encore and then sent the raving dance crowd home sweaty and likely needing a cold shower.
The light ended on the field listening to LCD Soundsystem gazing at the stars and the sky illuminated by hundreds of (free) glowsticks. Thousands stood pulsing with the beat of funk-fused jams like “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” or swaying to the melancholy longing of “I Can Change’. Interspersed with fireworks, the moment felt magical, one that will hold even more precious if this is truly LCD’s last album and tour. As James Murphy pressed his lips against the microphone with the words, “That’s how it starts…” one girl yelled, “I don’t want this to end!” Looking around, her sentiment seemingly rang true. No line had formed for the exit, no one moved from their spot. No one seemed ready for the end of the festival, the end of summer or to leave the music just yet. And they didn’t have to; it was only 10:00pm. Freedom never tasted so good.
Arizona-based alternative rockers Jimmy Eat World have announced via twitter the release of their new album Invented on September 28, 2010. It has been reported elsewhere that the first single from the new album will be called ‘My Best Theory’. The band also confirmed an upcoming tour with more details on the way soon. The emo/pop-punk band has achieved huge success since their breakout 2001 album Bleed American but they have still managed to put out some solid rock albums since. We are pretty stoked about this new release regardless of how many times we here “The Middle” on the radio.
With today being the last day of winter, and tomorrow marking the first day of spring, we wanted to pull together a playlist to mark the occasion. Open some windows, turn up the volume, and say goodbye to Old Man Winter. Hopefully the weather will follow our lead. Some songs are old, and some are new, but they are all great tunes for that perfect Spring day.
With Valentine’s Day weekend upon us the gang at Merchants or Rock were feeling a little torn about just posting the usual lovey dovey schmoopie moopie playlist for all the lovers out there. That’s why we decided to post two; one for the lovers and one for the people out there wanting to give a big middle finger to Cupid and his stupid little heart shaped arrows (not that there’s anything wrong with that). So on this Valentine’s Day we’ve drawn a line in the sand and asked you to pick a side.