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- Posted on Oct 8th 2012 5:30PM by Mike Mehalick
Paul Morigi, Invision for Virgin Mobile, AP Images
Over the past three years thousands have flocked annually to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD to help raise nearly $600,000, generate more than 75,000 hours of volunteer time and create over 25,000 outreach kits to help draw attention to youth homelessness. With noble causes come equal rewards as the star studded Virgin Mobile Freefest gave music fans on the East Coast one last shot at summer festival glory.
The day began somewhat inauspiciously as Das Racist, the first act scheduled to perform, never showed up for their noon set as rapper Heems was struck down by strep throat. When one door closes, another one opens this time for the local natives Future Islands who put on an exhilarating, challenging, and cathartic performance drawing the attention of everyone lounging or unfamiliar. Lead singer Samuel T. Herring controlled center stage thumping his chest and gesticulating violently not unlike Joaquin Phoenix's character in "The Master."
"I don't know about you, but I'm excited to see ZZ Top," said Herring towards the end of Future Islands' set. "I dream that they're somewhere in the audience watching our show. I can feel their beards!"
After Penguin Prison reminded everyone of the pratfalls of fucking with people's money, the mercurial festival mainstays Portugal. the Man buoyed the overcast afternoon with a much-needed injection of psychedelic and roots rock. As the evolution of the band continues, sound and member-wise, the band seems to revel in a more aggressive style of play nowadays serving as an early indication as to how their upcoming record might turn out.
While girls in sundresses danced on the lawn to the intricate arrangements of Trampled By Turtles, the under-appreciated hometown heroes the Dismemberment Plan took to the West Stage. Travis Morrison donned his "favorite" Misfits t-shirt while ripping and scatting through classics like "A Life of Possibilities" and "The Ice of Boston".
Back over at the Pavilion Stage it was difficult to tell what fans were cheering for more, the first peek of the sun through the murky clouds above or the return of Ben Folds Five after a lengthy hiatus. The band continued their reunion tour with a balanced set of beloved older material and new cuts from The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind.
"You might know this one, we recently played it with some Fraggles," said Folds right before going into single "Do It Anyway".
The late afternoon managed to stock something for every manner of music fan, as the masses finally seemed to reach their peak with Santigold and Nas on one stage, and Alabama Shakes and ZZ Top on another. The normally wearying pace of it all was supplanted by the one-day festival attitude which includes not having to worry about waking up in a tent and doing it all again the next day.
The skies went dark right before M83's largely attended set, which served as the perfect backdrop for the dizzying and dreamy lights and sounds. Group leader Anthony Gonzalez delivered the Hurry Up, We're Dreaming hits like "Reunion", "Steve McQueen", and of course "Midnight City" with bass centric jams helping to move from song to song.
With the day nearly done, it was time for the headliner to make his way to the main stage. Flanked by his all-female band on this particular occasion, Jack White emerged already blasting out the squealing solos he's come to be synonymous with before transitioning on a dime to the opening chords of "Sixteen Saltines".
"This ain't the 9:30 Club, huh?" said White taking stock of the thousands up front, out on the lawn, and beyond.
Fans in Third Man Records shirts were treated to plenty of old White material with "Hotel Yorba", "Top Yourself", and "Fell In Love With A Girl" all making the ever-rotating setlist.
While the closing pangs of "Seven Nation Army" ruminated throughout the grounds of the Pavilion, Skrillex was still going strong on the other side of the festival. The restless DJ and producer somehow managed to update his incredible live show from only a few months ago when he destroyed a much larger audience at Bonnaroo. New remixes and original productions were seamlessly weaved in and out of with fire balls, lasers, and smoke machines all seeming like normal occurrences set next to Skrillex's space ship DJ booth.
With that, another Freefest went into the history books -- and hopefully will return in 2013.