This year’s VirginFest was without a doubt better musically than last year. Well, more adventurous and unique bands, at the very least. Many of my favorite bands were in attendance (LCD Soundsystem, Ed Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, Matt & Kim, Sleigh Bells, to name a few), seemingly all extra excited about the show being completely and 100% free to the public (apart from the $8+ drinks). We were also pretty excited about scoring VIP passes courtesy of the folks at State Farm, who put together an awesomely relaxing experience at the Club 17ktent. While I’d love to dive into a more general experience of the festival, the type of people who attended, and all the rockin’ bands that played, I’m restricted both by internet formalities and my/your limited attention span. So I will simply highlight a couple bands that stole the show, at least in my humble opinion. We’ll start with Thievery Corporation.
I’ve been waiting my whole life to see these guys play live. It finally happened and it was… majestic. While it wasn’t in the dark and edgy night club that I would have expected, it was still as beautiful as I always imagined it to be. Thievery’s sound has been described as dub, acid jazz, psychedelic, trance, reggae, Indian classical, Middle Eastern, Brazilian, lounge aesthetic, and a whole laundry list of different styles, none of which can accurately sum up the entirety of the Thievery experience. For example, the band brought along an eclectic cast of vocalists, including Punjabi singer Gunjan, gentle Lou Lou, the Rasta duo See-I, and the Brazilian Princes Carina. What resulted was a beautifully chilled compilation of international dance tunes that could make anyone get down. I know what you’re thinking… “chilled international dance tunes” seems somewhat contradictory, but those of you who have experienced Thievery before might know what exactly what I’m talking about.
What I found most interesting to watch was the different festival goers varying reactions to the outer-worldly sounds of Thievery Corporation. Take Mandala, a song sampled below. One guy standing in front of me is completely tranced-out, dancing like a monkey on acid, while the person to the side of me just looked completely baffled and bored. Then there’s me, acting out your typically awkward head bop with minor body shuffling, staring into the sky, contemplating the sheer uniqueness of Thievery’s mind-blowing tunes. That moment pretty much sums up Thievery for me: one big mystery. When I listen to Thievery’s music, I imagine myself meandering through some never-ending tripped out hostel, peeping into the different rooms full of mysterious gypsy-people from all corners of the world. There is no love/hate relationship with the music, only one big chaotic blur of musical bliss.
While I am fully aware that Sir Billionaire Branson had no input in selecting the bands this year, I like to believe it was at least his decision to start this festival, and most importantly, to make it free to the general public. All the bands that came out this year were genre-bending and adventurous, just like Branson himself. So this year I thank you, Mr. Branson, not for your beautiful blonde locks or your eerily cheerful personality, but for your seemingly altruistic nature and willingness to host an event unlike any other. I’m still pissed I didn’t get to meet or even see you, but hey, there’s always next year.
As I just finish paying over $250 in parking tickets to the corrupt DC city government, I am humbled by how truly expensive life can be, and how nothing in this world is free. Keep it free Rich, and most importantly, keep it fun.