On August 4 at 1:00 P.M. when Cheap Trick took the North Stage at Pimlico Racetrack, the crowd was not the muddy, sweaty throng it would eventually become, but with the opening chords of â€šÃ„ÃºIf You Want My Loveâ€šÃ„Ã¹ were struck, The Virgin Festival had begun. The band went on to play â€šÃ„ÃºI Want You to Want Meâ€šÃ„Ã¹ and â€šÃ„ÃºDream Police,â€šÃ„Ã¹ inspiring a flurry of old guys playing air guitars and their half-drunk wives screaming along with their eyes closed. Cheap Trick commendably previewed what the rest of the weekend had in store. The Fratellis came on the South Stage and gave the crowd their surprisingly original take on the blues-rock revival genre. The audience flipped out for â€šÃ„ÃºDoginabagâ€šÃ„Ã¹ and the bandâ€šÃ„Ã´s more popular â€šÃ„ÃºFlatheadâ€šÃ„Ã¹ in a well-executed, high-energy set. Amy Winehouse came on around 2:00 P.M. and featured â€šÃ„ÃºRehabâ€šÃ„Ã¹ along with â€šÃ„ÃºWake Up Aloneâ€šÃ„Ã¹ and a sultry version of â€šÃ„ÃºHe Can Only Hold Her.â€šÃ„Ã¹ She moved and gazed at the crowd like she was playing to 20 people in a bar. However, the rising temperature and sweltering sun necessitated two things: lively music and shade. The dance tent was thus the venue of choice for many festival attendees at Pimlico.
ame Booka Shade played well into Felix Da Housecatâ€šÃ„Ã´s set but the crowd didnâ€šÃ„Ã´t seem to care, dancing and screaming to the upbeat trance tunes coming from a computer and an electronic drum kit. When Felix finally came on the tentâ€šÃ„Ã´s numbers multiplied. His stage presence was far better than that of most of the weekendâ€šÃ„Ã´s electronic artists. He was dancing and drinking from a bottle of Cuervo while sampling Depeche Modeâ€šÃ„Ã´s â€šÃ„ÃºJust Canâ€šÃ„Ã´t Get Enoughâ€šÃ„Ã¹ and The Prodigyâ€šÃ„Ã´s â€šÃ„ÃºSmack My Bitch Up.â€šÃ„Ã¹ A fairly bland Paolo Nutini lost a lot of potential South Stage listeners to the party going on in the dance tent.
ame The next standout act, LCD Soundsystem, played what may have been the best set on Saturday. The crowd sang along to â€šÃ„ÃºDaft Punk is Playing at My Houseâ€šÃ„Ã¹ and â€šÃ„ÃºUs v. Them,â€šÃ„Ã¹ both of which spiraled into a maze of heavenly electronic chaos. James Murphy was taking some sort of pharmaceutical on stage while playing cowbell and passionately screaming; the dayâ€šÃ„Ã´s largest audience at the South Stage gave him well-deserved praise.
ame Saturdayâ€šÃ„Ã´s sun finally backed off around 6:00 P.M. for The Beastie Boys, who played one of their new instrumental funk songs â€šÃ„ÃºElectric Worldâ€šÃ„Ã¹ along with â€šÃ„ÃºBrass Monkeyâ€šÃ„Ã¹ and â€šÃ„ÃºIntergalacticâ€šÃ„Ã¹ among other hits in a set that was great but in no way surprising. Meanwhile, TV on the Radio looked tired and hot, featuring â€šÃ„ÃºWolf Like Meâ€šÃ„Ã¹ in a good yet average set met with equally average response from a large South Stage crowd.
ame Great anticipation set in as The Police took the stage and immediately launched into â€šÃ„ÃºMessage in a Bottleâ€šÃ„Ã¹ which triggered an obvious crowd eruption. They went on to play â€šÃ„ÃºSynchronicity IIâ€šÃ„Ã¹ and â€šÃ„ÃºWalking on the Moonâ€šÃ„Ã¹ well but somewhat lazily. By the time â€šÃ„ÃºDonâ€šÃ„Ã´t Stand So Close to Meâ€šÃ„Ã¹ started, the initial shock of seeing The Police in person had worn off; what remained was not a band but simply three old men playing old songs. A surprising amount of people were actually leaving The Police to go see a tremendous Modest Mouse set. Isaac Brock energetically sang in his trademark quasi-lisp while ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr wailed like he was on stage with Morrissey. The band spanned all of their recordings and the crowd forced them to come back for an encore, a weekend rarity.
ame Sunday officially got underway when Gregg Gillis of Girl Talk came on stage with just his laptop. He played a continuous set of mainly new material which also featured samples from his latest release Night Ripper. He appropriately mixed in the Smashing Pumpkinsâ€šÃ„Ã´ â€šÃ„ÃºZeroâ€šÃ„Ã¹ and The Policeâ€šÃ„Ã´s â€šÃ„ÃºMessage in a Bottleâ€šÃ„Ã¹ and brought out 20 or so young hipsters to throw confetti and dance with him.
Early afternoon came with the mesmerizing and cutesy Regina Spektor on the North Stage by herself. The stage looked oddly empty with just her and her piano and whether she filled the space with her sound is up for debate. She played â€šÃ„ÃºBetterâ€šÃ„Ã¹ and â€šÃ„ÃºFidelityâ€šÃ„Ã¹ but as on Saturday, the crowd yearned for shade and upbeat tunes to energize them.
ame Many flocked to the dance tent and Dieselboyâ€šÃ„Ã´s distorted electronica. His monotonous â€šÃ„Ãºdeath technoâ€šÃ„Ã¹ was almost overkill but a large audience remained until Explosions in the Sky came to the South Stage. Their music was defined by constant movement, improvisation, pedal manipulation and dynamics. EITS drew a deluge of listeners because Dieselboy had been going on long enough, or because Spoon were boring, or because they were so enticed to hear music the likes of which they had never heard before.
ame The big surprise of Sunday: Bad Brains, who started a mosh pit at the South Stage like it was CBGB. The band played better than they did on some of their two-decade-old recordings; â€šÃ„ÃºRegulator,â€šÃ„Ã¹ â€šÃ„ÃºSailinâ€šÃ„Ã´ On,â€šÃ„Ã¹ and â€šÃ„ÃºJah Loveâ€šÃ„Ã¹ were crowd favorites.
ame The first band to challenge LCD Soundsystem for the Most Jaw-Dropping Festival Set Award were Yeah Yeah Yeahs. A near-possessed Karen O came out looking like David Bowie in a glittery cape and masquerade mask, eventually stripping down to a fishnet bodysuit and a black-and-gold leotard. No performer at The Virgin Festival had a stage presence to rival Miss Oâ€šÃ„Ã´s. She poured full water bottles onto her head and attempted to shake dry while screaming with all her might, at one point holding half the microphone in her mouth while doing this. She drank heavily, laid down on the monitors and maniacally laughed in front of a freaking-out crowd.
ame In light of the groundbreaking Yeah Yeah Yeahs set, Velvet Revolver brought out 311 and covered a Guns nâ€šÃ„Ã´ Roses song to attract an audience but nevertheless joined the mediocre Interpol in the category of forgotten acts. It didnâ€šÃ„Ã´t help that VR wrapped up a mere 15 minutes before Smashing Pumpkins started: for many people the entire weekend had led up to seeing Jimmy Chamberlin and Billy Corgan playing on stage together.
ame The Pumpkins came out and lived up to all the hype. Though their set contained new songs from Zeitgeist it also featured â€šÃ„ÃºToday,â€šÃ„Ã¹ â€šÃ„ÃºBullet with Butterfly Wings,â€šÃ„Ã¹ â€šÃ„ÃºZero,â€šÃ„Ã¹ Tonight, Tonight,â€šÃ„Ã¹ â€šÃ„Ãº1979,â€šÃ„Ã¹ and even obscure B-side â€šÃ„ÃºStarla.â€šÃ„Ã¹ Corgan and Chamberlin played an absolutely flawless set, as if they were back in 1995. They looked happy, rejuvenated, and excited on the North Stage in front of the festivalâ€šÃ„Ã´s biggest crowd. Light rain fell and threatened to intensify but it felt appropriate for the momentous occasion. The Pumpkins came on stage and channeled their former selves, the wet crowd loving every minute of it. Corgan soloed while Chamberlin furiously pounded his kit on â€šÃ„ÃºHeavy Metal Machineâ€šÃ„Ã¹ after which he bowed respectfully, thanked the crowd for its â€šÃ„Ãºhospitality and graciousnessâ€šÃ„Ã¹ and walked offstage proudly, respecting the bandâ€šÃ„Ã´s time limit, doing no encore.
ame Those who attended The 2007 Virgin Festival will heal from their sunburns long before they forget what they saw at Pimlico Racetrack. One can only hope that next yearâ€šÃ„Ã´s bands will rise to the occasion and make lasting memories like the best acts did this year.