Headliners Picked For Virgin Festival

By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Rap star Kanye West, industrial-rockers Nine Inch Nails, Dave Grohl's Foo Fighters, reunited grunge-rockers Stone Temple Pilots and folk-rock surfer dude Jack Johnson will headline the Virgin Mobile Festival at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course in August.

The third American edition of the super-concert will be held Aug. 9 and 10. Ticket prices have not been announced, nor has the full lineup for the two-day rock bacchanalia, which will feature roughly 40 acts and DJs on two stages and in a dance tent.

"I'm taking my time, not rushing to book mediocre bands just to meet a deadline," said the festival's producer and promoter, Seth Hurwitz. "It's still a work in progress. I'll announce it when it's done."

Yesterday's announcement represented a slow start out of the gate for the Virgin Mobile Festival, which finds itself jockeying for position -- and ticket sales -- in an increasingly crowded field. New entrants include the All Points West Music & Arts Festival, which will be staged in Jersey City on the same weekend as the Virgin Festival. Promoters of All Points West announced their lineup in February, with Johnson sharing the top of the bill with British rock band Radiohead.

"There's a lot of great festivals out there right now, and it's a high standard to compete with," Hurwitz said. "The challenge is to build a great lineup from top to bottom, that's as great at noon as it is at 10 at night. We don't have a zillion slots and tons of stages like some of these other festivals. . . . Our goal is still for the Virgin Mobile Festival to have the best group of bands of any festival."

Last year's festival was headlined by the Police, Smashing Pumpkins and Beastie Boys and drew 42,000 people on the first day and 32,000 on the second. The 140-acre track at Pimlico can accommodate up to 60,000 concertgoers using a general-admission setup.

In what's quickly becoming an annual Virgin Festival tradition, this year's lineup is already being criticized in some quarters for being too mainstream. Those quarters include the 9:30 club forum over which Hurwitz himself presides as the club's owner.

"This show is for the people, not the self-congratulatory hipsters," Hurwitz said. "It's for them, too, but not only for them."

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