Year after year, venue after changing venue, and killer lineup after killer lineup, Virgin Fest holds on to its reputation in 2011 as one of my absolute favorite festivals of summer.
It doesn't span three massive days like Electric Zoo, look out over the breathtaking Gorge like Sasquatch or round up every soon-to-be-signed indie artist like SXSW. It does, however, nestle itself into a very special place in my heart because it sums up in one single day everything I love about Baltimore.
As a Charm City native, I grew up at a hub for music innovation, creativity and styles spanning all genres from Bluegrass to Baltimore club. As a 17-year-old, I spent humid Wednesday nights selling merch for Baltimore jam-funk band, The Bridge, in the basement of the 8x10 on Cross Street and spent afterhours cruising between house parties while listening to K-Swift on 92Q. I attended fireworks and festivals accompanied by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, took the Light Rail downtown to see Dan Deacon at the Copycat or switched off between jazz ensembles and classic rock cover bands while hopping between venues in Fells Point. Even the venue where this year's Virgin Mobile Festival was held is one that makes me swell with nostalgia, as Merriweather Post Pavillion was where I saw my first concert (Radiohead and Alanis Morissette) in 1996.
Whether it's the contrast of styles that all meet in this mid-Atlantic town, or my natural attraction to diversity, I love what Virgin has done with this festival: selecting talent, and their fans, from different genres of music and pulling them together for a single day's experience. It's amazing the people from all social classes and backgrounds who swarm to the Merriweather grounds for one last summer festival hoorah, and offering the experience for free attracts a true balance of fans, not just those fans who can afford tickets.
This year drew big name acts, mostly known for killer live performances, like Deadmau5, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Empire of the Sun and !!!. With three stages and set times spaced with just the right amount of time in between, catching all of the key players in this year's Virgin Mobile Fest was not impossible -- and a feat I was determined to pull off for the sake of such a well-rounded and well-selected lineup.
Check out the slideshow below for pictures and a few notable details from some (but not all) of my favorite performers throughout the day. (Photos courtesy of Virgin Mobile FreeFest).