What to know before you head to Virgin Mobile FreeFest

September 19, 2013

A typical show at Merriweather Post Pavilion draws about 18,000 people, but an expected 50,000 concertgoers will attend Virgin Mobile FreeFest on Saturday.

Read: Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2013 set times, bands you should catch

Naturally, a fair amount of planning is called for to get you onto the grounds -- and if, you're truly wily, into prime seats. Tip No. 1? Arrive early.


The crowd at the 2012 Virgin Mobile FreeFest waits for M83 to take the stage. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson / For The Washington Post)

Where and when: Merriweather Post Pavilion. Gates open at 11 a.m., and the festival
ends at 11 p.m., but the venue's parking lot will open at 9 a.m.

How will the venue accommodate the extra drivers? There will be additional parking outside the regular lot off Broken Land Parkway. Signs will direct drivers to satellite lots; look for shuttles that will ferry concertgoers to the festival from some satellite lots, including a pair at Howard Community College.

Can I bring my own drinks or food? You can bring up to two sealed, plastic water bottles or one empty reusable bottle for water. Food will be permitted in clear, non-glass containers. Also add to your list: a small blanket to sit on, sunscreen and a small backpack to carry it all. (Coolers, chairs and large bags are prohibited, as is tailgating).

What kind of food will I be able to buy? Unlike the Sweetlife Festival, FreeFest won't bring in a caravan of food trucks. Instead, expect an expanded Merriweather menu that's as gloriously greasy as anything you'd find at the county fair. Think veggie-fried rice, grilled cheese, deep-fried Oreos, pizza, barbecue, quesadillas, falafel and Italian sausages. (Bring cash to make your life easier.) On a diet? Eat a salad. Beforehand.

How do I score seats in the pavilion? The covered seats are first come, first served, but not reserved thereafter. So if you leave, someone else may be allowed in. The standing pavilion pit is cleared between acts, giving late arrivers a chance to score a prime view.

What is there to do between sets? Check out the "village," where you'll find some mindless fun, including a ferris wheel. Artist Brian McGregor, who for 10 years made interactive elements for fans at Phish concerts, is bringing a giant camera that
acts as a multi-person photo booth. Lady Buggies, the glowing cooties-on-wheels that graced Coachella, will roam the grounds, and New York's hipster vaudeville act, Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, will perform its sideshow theatrics.

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Tim Carman | September 19, 2013