After the early end to day one of the Virgin Music Festival , with the Roots canceling prior to taking the stage due to extreme weather conditions, the second day of the festival continued on in the extreme heat.
It was hot before noon, with a blistering sun, oppressing the crowds every step. From the get go the crowd was lackluster and for the first few hours of the gates opening, there couldn’t have been more than a few hundred people in attendance.
Most of the mass made their way to shade, wherever they could find it. The layout, as with every Virgin Festival, had two stages, a larger main stage and a smaller secondary stage. The acts were divided up into headliners and newcomers, and alternated back and forth between the two performance area so there was no break in the music.
After the early dismissal of day one, all tickets were honored for daytwo, which meant as the day wore on, the venue overflowed with music goers. First band to take the Virgin Mobile Stage (main stage) were The Manvils, a local act with high energy and a growing fan base. After watching them play a solid set, I decided I will need to seek out a few of their local shows to catch more of their contagious energy. They had some great vocal hooks, and something about the singer grabbed my attention immediately.
All the early acts were on stage for very short sets, and I felt robbed when The Manvils were leaving. An obvious appreciation from the crowd flowed through the air, it was evident these guys were playing for the fans.
After a trek over to the filler playing at the second stage (festival stage), came the classic jams of De La Soul. For the heat that was blazing overhead, they sure powered out and trekked through their hits. This group really showed that the acoustic setup at this venue was capable of carrying great tones without dilution. I listened from three varying locations, and at all three stops the sound carried crisply across the crowd. The interaction of De La Soul with the audience was typical for the type of act, but the interaction between the group was fun to watch. They seemed to be having fun and really enjoying the moment as they performed. Soon enough the mass of music goers were bouncing to the beat and some people were dancing all by themselves. This is quite a feet when its a record breaking high temperature out, good on them for playing with such love and for the crowd to reciprocate that to them.
Jarvis Cocker is a strange fellow, he was very odd on stage, yet very intriguing. I would gladly pay to see him headline at a smaller venue. His style is kind of Bowie’esque alt rock. I actually felt a lot of that sort of Bowei minimalism poetic speaking, when he spoke between his songs. His antics on stage are playful and fun, which is great for a festival. Jarvis was obviously roasting in his tweed coat, with streams of sweat twisting over his face, but he couldn’t have cared less and really gave it all during his performance. At one point he through hand fulls of candy into the fans and too my surprise most people just let it hit the ground without even attempting to grab some. An example of the over-heated, under-enthusiastic crowds mind frame, and ability.
Sonic Youth was the fourth on the docket for the main stage, and I had to admit I was excited to see them. Too my dismay the performance was low energy, the performers were incredibly boring, the sound was faded and weak and poorly mixed. The singer, Thurston Moore, was standoffish from the fans and seemed like he didn’t really want to be there. It felt like the band was just their for the paycheque, or at the very least were succumbing to the heat themselves. For the most part the band stood and posed for the cameras as if they were in the mindset of Noel Gallagher and really could give a flying crap about the people who paid to see them. All in all I was very disappointed in what I saw, I was expecting more but felt let down in their set.
Metric rocked the stage and set the way for the main headliner. This proved why they were one step down from glory, they really came out guns ablazing and ready to party. The energy level was an immense part of there success with this group of sweaty onlookers. When Metric took the stage and busted into there set with an explosive enthusiasm, the melting pot of people jumped at the chance to rock out. Soon enough the onlookers were smiling and swaying steadily to the musical blessing being bestowed on them. Emily Haines was intense with her delivery, from my last spotting of her at Virgin Festival Vancouver 2007, she still draws all eyes on her at all times. When she is deep in the moment of any song you have no choice but to watch her. Her love and passion for the art, travels across her face and lights up through her eyes. Although she did manage to cover her peepers with a pair of wayfarers for most of the set. The band played solid and the depth is starting to show through. I really enjoyed their set.
Ben Harper and the Relentless 7 are one of the bands I have been eager to see for some time. Well on Sunday, my wait came to an end and I was excited. Although I have never heard anything about there live shows I new from the context of their album that it would be a pleasure to witness. My feeling was right, they play with over the top emotion, insane bluesy depth and soul. Ben Harper powers through the verses of every song and spills his heart out with every lyric. He would take a single word and stretch its feeling into the depth of a book and you could see it exploding out of every pore. They covered some Zeppelin and Vaughn and laid no shame to retelling those blues driven masterpieces, some might even say they gave them a delicate twist that made them pop as if brand new. Throughout the performance the entire band was smiling and bouncing to the beat, as if they were some young garage rock band playing hits with their friends there to enjoy. It wasnt though, it was a crowd of over heated, bitter concert goers, who now were instantly wooed by this band. It took one note, nay, one breath, to win them over. Ben Harpers name is tossed around like he is some common everyday rocker, but he isnt. The band and him are unique in this day and age, they play from the heart and enjoy every minute of it. Some people enjoy and good scream from a lead singer and I am one of them. Ben Harper let out a bluesy cry that had the entire mass clammering to clap and scream. He let rise a powerful burst of raw emotion and blew the top off the perfect evening with a sudden shout. But not out of context, and not out of place, like the last stroke of a painting, it tied everything together and really finished it quite nicely. The rest of the set was just as powerful and kept me “star gazing” for the last few songs. THe band threw up there hands and thanked the crowd, leaving the stage with smiles and a sense of accomplishment. They didnt leave the stage like they owned us, they left the stage like they had shared there soul and left a piece of themselves with us. I would jump at the chancge to see this group any day of the week at any venue, no hesitations. I would love to see an intimate show and really hear every note as clear as it should be. The night ended almost instantly after this, people streamed to the exit and a new change had laid itself over them. No longer were they bitter and sweaty and wishing they hadnt been to this show. Now they were bearing smiles and laughing and embracing the beauty they had just been privy too. For the price I would say this was a great day. A few of the bands were hot and had no choice but to be a little lazy and underwhelming. It sucks for their fan appeal but as a concert addict I get it. Overall I would give this show 3.5 out of 5. The musts from this show are Ben Harper and Metric, get out and see these bands, hurry dont miss it, go and see them. I cant wait for the next Virgin Festival, but I fear this may be the last for Vancouver, as the turn out was poor and the crowds attitude said it all.