V Fest: Pimlico Race Track, Baltimore, MD 9/23/06

Was Baltimore worthy to host the first American incarnation of the Virgin Festival this year?  Will it be the city-of-choice for next year or will Virgin CEO Richard Branson move the music festival to another American city?  Who the hell knows, but despite seriously steep ticket prices, the Baltimore version was highly entertaining, thanks largely to Seth Hurwitz, the local promoter and owner of D.C.’s 9:30 Club.  Held at the 140-acre Pimlico Race Course, V-Fest drew a diverse crowd, ranging from 8 to 58, which cheered on each act energetically and respectfully.

The Raconteurs were awe-inspiring with Jack White squeezing his guitar amidst many blues-rock numbers.  Other acts included Kasabian, Wolfmother – those Aussies can rock!, Gnarls Barkley, The New Pornographers, The Killers, The Who, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Flaming Lips and The Drive By Truckers. V Fest’s technical set-up of lights, sounds and effects were superior, as it should be with the $98-per-ticket admission. The sound was loud and bright with nary an unintentional squelch or muted vocals (a problem at last year’s HFStival at the Baltimore Ravens’ stadium).

For a break, rock fans could venture into the Freak Lounge, which was adorned with locals Trixie Little and the Evil Hate Monkey, a titillating burlesque act, and the Go-Go Hula Hoop Girls, among others.  All this pageantry and circus-like atmosphere was balanced with Oxfam giving out information on their fair-trade work, and local Baltimore and D.C. vendors hawking their products in their tent-shops.   Club-music and trance lovers danced and thrashed away the day in the Dark Horse Dance Tent.   

All considered, the Virgin Festival in Baltimore was a huge success.  And yes, people will pay “top dollar” for quality rock acts, but even more would pay if there were “moderate-cost” tickets available.  The merch?  V-Fest T-shirts were thirty dollars.  Bands’ shirts were similarly priced, indicating the layers of capitalism involved in this rock-n-roll circus.  Of course, the Flaming Lips fit right in, even providing the streamers and balloons.  Will the Pimlico Race Course host the American V-Fest next year?  There’s no reason why it shouldn’t.  Spread the word.  

Photo by Douglas Glassband

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