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Virgin Music Festival rocks in US debut – Concert Report

virgin_festival_mdVirgin Music Festival rocks in US debut

Virgin Music Festival 2006
September 23, 2006
Pimlico Race Course
Baltimore, MD

By Jason Price

The first U.S. Virgin Festival By Virgin Mobile landed stateside on September 23, 2006, at the home of The Preakness, Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. The Virgin Festival which has been a huge hit in the UK in years passed, featured over 20 genre diverse artists and put it on display to an equally diverse crowd of well over 40,000 music fans.

When the concert was first announced, many people were somewhat perplexed by the choice of Pimlico Race Course as a venue for this festival. This is not a surprising reaction seeing that if you have attended a large scale Summer concert like in years passed, it was likely at one of the stadiums in the Baltimore/Washington, DC area. The venue choice was definitely a smart move by the events organizers, as Pimlico seemed to be the perfect stage for a tour de force lineup of 14 bands and five DJs. The musical lineup played out through the day with overlapping sets on the multiple stages (Grandstand Stage, Clubhouse Stage and Dark Horse Race Tent) in a similar fashion to that of the Lollapaloozas, Ozzfests and HFStivals of years passed.

Notable performances include The Raconteurs (a side project of sorts for Jack White of The White Stripes) performing “Steady, As She Goes” from their recently released album “Broken Boy Soldiers”. White and company didn’t miss a beat in the set and easily converted some skeptics with a very solid performance.

The hip-hop/soul duo known as Gnarls Barkley (composed of Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo) took the stage dressed as Roman Gladiators and offered up the majority of their “St. Elsewhere” album to a welcoming crowd. This duo has mastered the art of showmanship, with the high point of the set being the performance of their hit single “Crazy”, which immediately got the crowd in a feel good sing-a-long mood. The Flaming Lips and The Scissors Sisters laid down some of the more bizarre visual performances, rounding out the bill on the smaller stages but kept the crowd’s interest peaked, even away from the main stage.

The Who drew what was without a doubt the largest crowd of the day. These legendary rockers managed to draw in the young and the old from all walks of life. Even though they might be considered “old-timers” by some of the youngsters in attendance, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend came to life onstage (touring together for the first U.S. tour in two decades) and left the crowd yearning for more and in some cases thinking back to what once was. Both Daltrey and Townshend remain at the top of their game after all these years. It was a genuine pleasure to see these legends of rock perform together. Standouts from their set include “Baba O’Riley”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and “Pinball Wizard” from the greatest hits vault. As the day grew shorter, you could feel the anticipation building as the crowd prepared themselves for The Red Hot Chili Peppers, a band that always draws a huge crowd when playing this area. Taking the stage and laying down a laundry list of their hits is simply old hat to these seasoned veterans. The Peppers also managed to sprinkle the set list with new material from “Stadium Arcadium” which will surely yield even more songs that stand the test of time. The highlight was when main man Anthony Kiedis took the crowd by surprise with a cover of Sir Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” only to then throw down a blistering performance of “Give it Away”.

The Summertime concert has long been a rite of passage for us on the East Coast. However, over time, many of the biggest Summer tour packages have lost their punch. Most of the area festivals now are more designed to fill the bill, sell the ticket, get you to buy the tee shirt and leave you with little else. Much to my delight, this festival is a whole different animal, encouraging the attendees to partake in a true “concert experience” by providing top quality musical entertainment and a ton of attractions to keep you busy in your journey between stages. The attractions around the grounds ranged from your standard concert merchandise vendors to more varied fare, such as, a Virgin Mobile Tent which included a cell phone recharging area, a variety of food and beverages, tattoo artists, a MLB gaming area (a favorite of young and old alike), a spacious lounge featuring burlesque dancers and a live showcase of graffiti artists.

The festival offers a quality blend of big name headliners with a glimpse of what could be the “next big thing” with many up and coming bands that are showcased on the bill. In short, The Virgin Festival has breathed new life into our area’s Summer concert scene with their inaugural event and it will surely be a hot ticket for next season.

Virgin Music Festival 2006 Lineup:

The Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Who

The Killers

Flaming Lips

The Raconteurs

Gnarls Barkley

Scissor Sisters


Thievery Corporation

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

New Pornographers

Drive-by Truckers


Brazilian Girls


DJ Tent


John Digweed

Carl Cox


2 Many DJs

James Holden