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Virgin Festival Recap

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Teh other guy that's not Bee Thousand

Quite a few people were a bit derisive about the line-up for the first ever North American version of the Virgin Festvail Saturday at the Pimlico Raceway outside of Baltimore, myself included. I'm glad I thought better of it and went anyways because it was one hell of a day. I was on assigment for AOL Music. The mission: get some kick ass photos for their new music blog, obvs. Go here to see all of my best stuff.

Sir Richard Branson

Thanks to some fantastic directions from the Virgin crew I arrived at Pimlico around 11:45. I quickly got my passes and tickets sorted and hurried up the main stage just in time for Kasabian. I was bit bummed not to be able to see them play a local club show but I think I enjoyed seeing them in a festival setting even more. They have a huge sound and, well, it sounds great on a huge sound system. They opened with "Reason Is Treason" and just tore into their set. I was down in the photo pit and we were allowed to shoot each band for the first two songs. I'm still a bit new at shooting festivals so I was taken aback at the height of the main stage. It must have been at least seven feet tall. At this point in the day it wasn't crowded at all so there was plenty of time to move around. That wouldn't last very long.

Kasabian was on at noon and The Mountain Goats were on at ten after, so rather than rushing down to the second stage I walked around a bit and made eventually my way over to the dance tent where RJD2 was spinning. I'm so glad I did, because he was flat out tearing shit up. I am totally jaded when it comes to the DJ scene but RJD2 made a believer out of me. He was straight killing it. There were about 120 people in the dance tent at the time and they got to hear one of the best sets of the day. As I made my way back to the main stage for the next act I made a mental note to seek out as much RJD2 as possible.

Wolfmother

Wolfmother were next on the main stage and while their sound, a mix of The White Stripes and Black Sabbath, isn't exactly new, they were still alot of fun. Big afro guy is a good frontman and he had he is very good at delivering the rock, so hey, more power to him.

Next up on the second stage were The New Pornographers, the source of so much music blog bandwidth. I have yet to download their records from eMusic, so I wasn't that familiar with them. I found them decidedly OK, but nothing really jumped out at me.

Jack White of the Raconteurs

After that I made my way back to the dance tent for 2MANYDJ's but they were running late (a rarity for the day) and after waiting around for 15 minutes I made my way back to the main stage for The Raconteurs. I have their CD and thought it was catchy but a bit unremarkable, but they really impressed me Saturday. They sound like CCR on amphetamines, perfect following Wolfmother's White Sabbath stylee retro-rock. I now have to take another listen to their CD.

After my quick dose of Brendan Benson I made my way back to the Second Stage for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. I really, really hate this band but was perfectly willing to give them another chance, hoping they'd improved since last time I saw them in D.C. No such luck. They took the stage with pouty faces and acted like they didn't even want to be there. And everytime the lead singer opened his mouth to sing I wanted to stick sharp pencils as far down my ear canal as they would go. They are that bad. Truly a horrible band, they laid the first egg of the day. And to make matters even worse, four of their five members have a worse hairline than I do. The next time the blogosphere goes apeshit over them, I'm posting all of the unflattering photos of them I took during their set. You've been warned.

Gnarls Barkley

Hot shit hip-hop/soul outfit Gnarls Barkley and their kooky outfits were up next, and while they didn't blow me away, I have nothing bad to say about them. Sure, Dangermouse is a bit over-rated but Cee-Lo has been the best thing on the last few Outkast records and far be it from me to complain if the kids these days are listening to some Earth, Wind and Fire type shit. More please. I should note here I have no idea if The Raconteurs or anyone else on the bill covered "Crazy." Oh, Gnarls were dressed as Romans and Cee-Lo called the band "Chariots of Fire."

I'm starting to drag at this point but luckily The Brazlian Girls provided me with a quick energy boost. I was a bit freaked out by the lead singer's white face mask, but now I see why Coolfer has been telling me to drop whatever I'm doing and go see them. They are the complete opposite of Zero 7. They can pull off the trip-hoppy, world music vibe and not seem the least bit lame.

Brandon

Brandon Flowers and The Killers were next on the Main Stage and even though I think they're incredibly lame, I hoped they would put on a performance that would clue me in to why they are even remotely popular. Again, no such luck. Flowers' Bono complex must have been visible from the farthest reaches of the infield because it was being thrown in my face down in the photo pit. I just can't take this band seriously. Their new album is shaping up to be a giant turd and I, for one, can't wait for them to come crashing back down to Earth. But then again, what do I know, I like The Bravery.

Despite the unsettling in my stomach from watching The Killers, I decided to skip Thievery Corporation in order to get some food, recharge my camera battery and rest my weary feet. Sure taking photos all day is alot of fun, but it's also hard work. By this point the photo pit was becoming increasingly more crowded and good spots in the pit were getting hard to come by. Moving around was really hard by the main stage because the bouncers kept insisting we crowd into the stage as far as possible so they could pull kids over the barricade.

Bee Thousand

I'm a bit ashamed to say that up until Saturday, I never really "got" The Who. Sure I liked them, but I failed to see why Eddie Vedder spontaneously blows a load whenever anyone so much as mentions their name. Well, after seeing them live, I get it. I was really nervous about taking photos of them and don't really remember much about the first song they played, but "The Seeker" was second in the set and it made me step back and just take it all in. I was about 4 feet away from Bee Thousand while he was windmilling around everywhere. Wow. I stayed around for the next four or five songs and discovered a newfound admiration for a band that everyone already loves.

Jake, not Billy, Shears

I almost didn't want to walk all the way down to the other end of the infield to catch Scissor Sisters, but ultimately, I did, and by doing so I caught what might have been the best set of the day. Scissor Sisters had the advantage of being the first band on after dark and they really took advantage. They were incredible, infectious and flashy. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone better than Jake Shears and Ana Matronic to front this band. My jaw was on the ground the whole time. So much fun! And, as a bonus, they were the only band that let everyone shoot three songs instead of two. So I got a boatload of great pics from them. This one might be the single best photo I have ever taken. I walked away a new fan. Their new record comes out tomorrow.

I had half a mind not to fight the crowd in the photo pit and just skip the Red Hot Chili Peppers altogether. I last saw them on Lollapalooza in 1992 (was that really 14 years ago?) and feel like they've gone downhill ever since. In retrospect I should have because they went on 20 minutes late (the first band on the two main stages all day to do so) and then started with some wack instrumental "funk" jam before Anthony Keidis decided to grace us with his presence. I positioned myself on Flea's side of the stage, figuring he'd be a better subject to take pictures of than John Frusciante, who generally has his hair in his face like Cousin It. By then the pit was so crowded with photogs, other media types and random people trying to get shots on their camera phones that I got stuck right up on the front of the stage which made taking pictures almost impossible because the band was standing a bit back from the stage lip. The results were a bunch of head shots and me trying furiously to dodge Flea's sweat when he was twirling around.

That guy that was on 910210 that one time

And here's the kicker. Since the stupid Chili Peppers went on late, I missed the start of The Flaming Lips set. You know, the giant ball, all the balloons, etc. I fucking ran from one photo pit to the other but couldn't make it. I was seriously pissed by the time I got to the Second Stage and was even more so when they told us we wouldn't be getting an extra song to shoot even though the Chili Peppers went on late. So I snapped as many frames as I could for the last half of that song before the ushered us out. I did get one keeper though. All this unfortunately put a damper on my first ever Lips performance and I ended up leaving after watching the next few songs. I was dead tired and drunk teenagers kept coming up to me asking for cigarettes, so I decided to beat the traffic and head home.

All in all, a good day. I got to see some great sets and have another festival shoot under my belt. I met quite a few of my fellow photographers and got tips from alot of them. My new lens was up to the task and I took some of the best photos of my life. I was downright giddy going through them all yesterday. Good thing because it takes a very long time to edit down 1300 photos. Obviously a few are included here, and more are over at Flickr. As I said earlier, I was shooting on assignment for AOL Music, so check out their coverage for the best stuff.

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Wharman said:

Nice pics ILB. Looks like fun.

frank said:

psst - the Toronto V Fest two weeks ago was the first North American version.

but awesome pics. I gotta get a better telephoto...

Christine said:

Really amazing photos LB! I saw your Flickr set and had to read your review. Great stuff! Thanks! :)

Dan said:

Fantastic pics, Kyle.