I got the opportunity to go to the Virgin Mobile Festival this weekend, which I considered to be one of the better, and certainly more eclectic festival lineups 2008 had to offer. From rock legends like Chuck Berry and Bob Dylan to rappers Lil Wayne and Kanye West, there was truly something for all festival goers to be excited for. I was planning on doing a top ten list like other marathon runners had done in the past, but since this was only a two day festival, ten would be more than half of the acts I saw. So instead, I’ll be doing an act by act run down in the same style as my Bonnaroo post.
KT Tunstall – This show was a great way to start the festival. The Scottish-born songstress was not too high energy to where you upped your expectations for the rest of the festival, but did enough to get the crowd into a good music mood for the rest of the day. Her most memorable contribution was an awkward half cover of Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes.
Gogol Bordello – This set did not live up to the hype I had built for it, but then again, they did have one of, if not the most memorable set of my two Bonnaroo experiences, playing for 30 minutes over their set time. The length was about the only let down, as they ended about 5 minutes before they had to, but with the time they did contribute, they transformed a nearly full crowd who had never heard of them before into believers. Overall, a good show.
Lupe Fiasco – My least favorite of the 3 Hip Hop/Rap artists, Lupe still put on a show that got the crowd energized in a different way than Gogol could or anybody else the rest of the day for that matter.
Bloc Party – I’d previously been warned of a slightly lame live effort from Bloc Party, but I thought they brought good intensity. Too many crowdsurfers constantly going over my head, but unfortunately this seemed to be a theme for the next few hours.
The Offspring – For a band that’s been considered a bit of a alt rock one hit wonder, they certainly carry a big following in the way of crowdsurfers. They played a few new songs, which have a favorable sound much like their more familiar stuff.
Chuck Berry/The Silver Beats – Chuck Berry and the Silver Beats were listed for an hour set time, so I assumed the Silver Beats were probably his backing band. Instead, The Silver Beats, a Japanese Beatles cover band, “opened” for Chuck and played for 40 minutes. They were fun, but not what I was there for. After they were done, Chuck finally came on and played for 45 minutes, thus shortening my time to see Wilco, but I’m still appreciative I got the chance to see one of the creators of Rock N Roll. For someone in his mid 80’s, he still rocked pretty hard, but not quite at the level everyone knows from Chuck.
Wilco – I loved what I saw and my only complaint is that I wish I could have seen more of their set.
Jack Johnson – Probably the most easy going show of the day, I enjoyed Jack’s mix of electric Sleep Through The Static songs with older, acoustic numbers. Jack was the only act on the day to have an encore and he did not disappoint, sending the crowd home in a dreamlike state after playing some old acoustic favorites.
After sleeping in my car in a Wal Mart parking lot, I decided to go inside and get some supplies for the day. When I did this, I guess I decided I wouldn’t need my keys for the rest of the day, so I locked them in my car. When I realized I might need them later in the day, I purchased a set of hangars, some car tire wedges which I used to wedge open the door enough to put hangars in, and some gloves to be able to wedge the door open in the first place. After about a 25 minute struggle, I succeeded and now would be comfortable doing it again should any of you lock your keys in your car.
On to the music…
Chromeo – I arrived about 5 minutes late, but even a late arrival couldn’t upset my joyousness with my favorite electro funk band. After weaving in between their first two albums flawlessly, they went to their well known 80’s medley of Journey and Outfield songs, putting a modern electronic touch on some 80’s classics. Afterwards, I got to talk to Dave and he joked that we’d be seeing him at Lil Wayne.
Andrew Bird – This is one of the shows where the crowd showed their true colors. Never known to put on a thrilling, adventurous show, Andrew Bird excelled with the early time slot on the South Stage, while the fans grew restless because they couldn’t crowdsurf/because he wasn’t a hit making rapper. Unfortunate, because had they just listened to the music, they would have realized what a talented creative bunch they were given the gift of seeing, as well as the best whistler on the planet.
She and Him – Another fine example of crowd stupidity. As Zooey Deschanel took the stage, multiple people around me remarked about how she looked like someone famous, perhaps looking a little bit like the girl from Elf, or Hitchhikers Guide, or even the M. Night Shyamalan flop The Happening. After the crowd quieted down about this, M. Ward and Zooey and crew treated the crowd to a 60’s folk country hour that possibly, just for a few minutes, made people forget they were there just to be getting a good spot for Weezy baby. In addition to this, Zooey captivated me with the mere sight of her impossibly blue eyes. I think she could have just stood there with her eyes open for an hour and I would have been fine with it. Alas, she did not. Instead, she showed she was more than just a voice, playing the keys on more than a few tracks.
Lil Wayne – After angering the crowd with a 30 minutes late start, Lil Wayne won them back with one of the best shows of V-Fest, even from this man’s eyes. If I had to list a tp 25 types of music, rap probably would not make my list, but even to someone like myself who isn’t a rap efficianado, Lil Wayne gained my respect from the show he put on, stopping multiple times to thank those in the crowd who support him and buy his cds and all. The highlight of this show was Kanye West’s cameo for Lollipop remix, which was the only guest spot of the festival unfortunately, as that is one of my favorite things about Bonnaroo when musicians hop on stage with their friends for impromptu sessions. To top it all off, Weezy ended with “I Will Always Love You”, perhaps the cheesiest 80’s love ballad of all time. Hats off Weezy.
The Black Keys – Being sandwiched in between one of the biggest rappers of our time and a music god can’t be easy, especially when Lil Wayne was still playing by the time they should have been starting. Given their abbreviated time, The Black Keys might have established themselves as the top two piece rock band out there.
Bob Dylan – Poor song selection plagues his set from the eyes of the mostly Kanye West supportive crowd. After opening with Rainy Day Women # 12 and 35, it was a while before most people in the crowd recognized anything else by Mr. Zimmerman. The highlight of the set in my mind was Ballad of a Thin Man, which given how much his voice has deteriorated, was the closest thing to classic Bob all night.
Kanye West – I unfortunately bought into the anti Kanye propaganda from Bonnaroo, but Kanye still won me over here, playing what I consider the set of the festival. The show wasn’t full Glow In The Dark, so no Jane or any goofy stuff like that, and he interacted with the crowd better than probably any other artist I saw at the festival except maybe Chromeo. From freestyles about Pimlico Park and Baltimore, Maryland to one about not beating his sister like Christian Bale, this show was great from start to finish. Kanye, unlike most rappers had a full band for the show, including three drummers, a guitar and bass player, among others. Kanye and Chromeo tie for Show of the Festival in my book and I look forward to seeing both and other artist again.
V-Fest gets a 8.5 out of 10 and would have been a 9 had the crowd been better. The time in between sets was much more manageable at 20 to 25 minutes than ACL and Bonnaroo have been in the past. This coupled with the weather, and extremely nice security people push this over the top as my festival of 2008!