Virgin Mobile FreeFest Preview

st. vincent

What do you know? We finally have a schedule for Sunday's Virgin Mobile FreeFest! The festival will go until 11 p.m., not 10 p.m. as previously stated, so be prepared for a long day -- especially since the first and final main acts are the two most deserving of your attention. Instead of the live-blogging as in years past, I will be Twittering all day from Merriweather Post Pavilion -- follow @postrock for lots and lots of updates, all of them sure to be incisive and hilarious. I might set up a post so you can follow on here, too. Argue with me with @replies, all that fun stuff. And here's a quick preview -- who to catch, who to skip, main conflicts and other stuff.

First Can't Miss Band: St. Vincent, West Stage, 12:45 p.m.
So if the Black Cat was too noisy when Annie Clark was in town in May, why will she fare any better at a big, outdoor festival? Because she's proven her mettle with a universally-praised set at All Points West last month and because her album "Actor" is the best 2009 offering form the batch of festival performers. (OK, she's also one of the only artists on the bill to release an album in 2009.) Only bigger things are in store for Clark; it's worth getting there early to see her.

Biggest Conflict: Girl Talk vs. Weezer
My basic plan for the day is simple -- stay near the West Stage. The Pavilion Stage promises to be a bit of a mess since it seems to be general admission which could lead to some human traffic jams. Plus, all the bands I have the least interest in seeing are playing consecutively: Mates of State, Taking Back Sunday, Jet, the Bravery. Thanks, schedule makers! With Girl Talk (read my interview!) you've got the guaranteed party set. Even if you aren't into his sampling thing, the visual aspect of seeing everyone go crazy and get sweaty (and maybe naked) will be enough of a reason to check it out. And then you have Weezer, one of the headliners, capable of playing a retro set of hits, but likely to split the difference between "Blue Album"/"Pinkerton" faves and ... the rest of their songs. There's enough overlap to be able to catch both, but by this point in the day, schedules might be a little off.

Smallest Conflict: Franz Ferdinand vs. Blink-182
Franz Ferdinand is one of the most dynamic big rock bands around, night time is the right time to catch them and it's been ages since they've appeared in D.C. The latter can also be said of Blink-182, but unless you really feel like channeling your inner Warped Tour kid, it seems silly to pass on Franz for Blink's juvenile antics.

(Much more after the jump.)


Biggest Wildcard: Wale
Compulsive tweeter, emerging rap star and the lone local act on the bill (save Endicott's ties). His placement between St. Vincent and the Hold Steady may seem odd, but the truth is that the bloggers who love those two indie acts are the same ones who are building Wale's hype. It was announced earlier this week that Wale, along with local go-go heroes UCB, will serve as the house band for next month's MTV VMAs, which should expose him to his biggest audience yet. Hopefully he'll have UCB with him for this gig as well. A winning performance on Sunday could go a long way to helping him really take over the local market as he readies his debut album for the fall.

Second Biggest Wildcard: Crowd Control
The main stage is the pavilion stage and it seems like seats will be given on a first-come, first-serve basis. How will the staff manage this? Will there a mad rush right before Weezer and Blink play? Will their die-hard fans stay put within the pavilion all day?Or will it be much ado about nothing? Is there even any ado? Who knows?

Best Giveaway: Full Room Furnished by IKEA
Besides the music there will be the usual assortment of booths and tents and distractions. The best place for free stuff seems to be the Lucky Layoff Lounge, in which festival goers may be able to score a variety of swag: clothes from Dickies, PSPs and furnishings from IKEA, among other items. Converse will be sponsoring a Punk Your Chucks contest; it's basically Pimp My Ride for sneakers, and the winner's design will be sold in stores. And you'll surely be bombarded by plenty of other companies trying to build brand loyalty. Also, Richard Branson will be a Waldo-esque character on Sunday. If he won't be everywhere, it won't be for lack of trying. And hopefully, for his sake, there won't be any repeats of 2007 when Wu-Tang Clan accidentally thanked Verizon during their set. Oops.

Oddest Scheduling: The National following Public Enemy
So you've got Public Enemy, rap pioneers who even in their somewhat advanced age are sure to bring the fire. And following that you get the intellectual chamber-rock of the National. Interesting. It's not quite on the level of Dylan --> Kanye last year, but let's face it, what is?

Time to Check Out the Dance Tent: 6:30ish
At some point you'll likely want to zone out to some electronic beats, even if it's just for a few minutes. After Public Enemy finishes -- or maybe even before, depending how that set goes -- your choices are the National and the Bravery. The Bravery's story is interesting -- Sam Endicott is a local dude and he wrote songs for Shakira's new album (!) -- but the songs don't always click. Danny Howells will be doing his progressive house thing and it should be a good way to get settled before the last few hours.

See you all out there on Sunday.

By David Malitz |  August 28, 2009; 5:04 PM ET Virgin Festival
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