Sweet Harmony Of Rock And Rap

By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 28, 2008

From the Dept. of Improbable Bookings: Rock poet Bob Dylan will share the concert stage with rap star Lil Wayne at the Virgin Mobile Festival in August.

The inspired if unlikely pairing of the Bard with the wildly imaginative rapper whose "Lollipop" currently sits at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 will come the day after rock-and-roll pioneer Chuck Berry follows the pop-punk band Offspring onstage at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course. Oh, and Berry will be backed at the two-day music bacchanalia by the Silver Beats, a Beatles tribute band from Tokyo.

Hail, hail unpredictability!

"People want to label our festival and try to use shorthand to describe it, and we're trying to make it impossible to do that," said the super-concert's producer and promoter, Seth Hurwitz. "The goal of this festival is to be exciting and challenging and genre-defying without being incongruous."

The full Virgin Mobile Festival lineup is being announced today, with roughly three dozen acts joining a bill topped by the previously revealed co-headliners, rapper Kanye West, industrial rockers Nine Inch Nails, Dave Grohl's post-grunge powerhouse, the Foo Fighters, folk-rock surfer dude Jack Johnson and the reunited grunge band Stone Temple Pilots.

In addition to the Aug. 9 headliners Johnson and Foo Fighters, the lineup on the festival's two main stages that day will feature Berry, Wilco, Offspring, Paramour, Swell Season, Lupe Fiasco, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Bloc Party, Citizen Cope, Gogol Bordello, KT Tunstall, Duffy and Cat Power. Underworld, Soul Wax, Steve Lawler, DJ Dan & Donald Glaude, Erol Alkan and Ferry Corsten are scheduled to perform in the festival's dance tent.

The Aug. 10 headliners -- West, Nine Inch Nails and Stone Temple Pilots -- will be joined by Dylan, Iggy and the Stooges, Lil Wayne, Shudder to Think, Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire, Taking Back Sunday, the Black Keys, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, She & Him and the Go! Team. The second-day dance-tent lineup includes Armin van Buuren, Richie Hawtin, Chromeo, Deadmau5, Pendulum and Moby doing a DJ set.

Though the exact order of the lineup has not yet been released, Hurwitz said that Lil Wayne will be slotted between garage-rock band the Black Keys and She & Him, an indie-pop duo comprising actress Zooey Deschanel and multi-instrumentalist M. Ward.

Dylan will be followed by the petulant rapper West on one of the two main stages that night. Hurwitz said he'd been looking and looking for an act to slot before West, "something exciting and different," when he learned that Dylan was available. "People are saying, 'Bob Dylan before Kanye West? That's crazy!' " Hurwitz said. "That's exactly what I want to hear."

But, he said, it's not merely about shock value. "I want us to have a unique identity and I want people in this area to feel like their hometown festival is the best one in the country."

Tickets will go on sale Saturday through Ticketmaster. Admission is $97.50 per day or $175 for a two-day ticket. VIP packages are also available.

The 140-acre track at Pimlico can accommodate up to 60,000 concertgoers using a general-admission setup. 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.

Of course, the best seat in the house this year might actually be the one you can't buy.

Said Hurwitz: "Just think about the backstage scene [on the festival's second day]: Trent Reznor [of Nine Inch Nails], Scott Weiland [of Stone Temple Pilots], Kanye West, Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan -- it's quite a collection of humans in one space. I can't wait to see how that plays out."

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