Gnarls Barkley’s Cee Lo Green at Virgin Festival in 2006. (Tracy A. Woodward/TWP)

Virgin Mobile FreeFest comes to Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday, but when the festival first landed in the area five years ago it was very different. Then it was just Virgin Festival, it most certainly was not free, and it was at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. In this exercise we’ll look back at that original lineup and see how that past five years have treated the bands that played on the two main stages.

Stock Up

Flaming Lips, The New Pornographers, Drive-By Truckers, Gnarls Barkley

The first three bands have spent the last half decade steadily growing their fanbases, if not necessarily making the best music of their careers. Back then they all seemed likely to sell out one night at 9:30 Club. Now Flaming Lips can play at Merriweather and New Pornos and DBTs can sell out two nights no problem. Meanwhile, Gnarls looked like an oddballone-hit wonder at the time, but Cee Lo has elevated himself to superstar status (including a prime slot at this year’s FreeFest).


The Who’s Roger Daltrey at Virgin Festival in 2006. ( Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

The Who, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Thievery Corporation, The Raconteurs

The Who and Chili Peppers are headliners forever. Neither will ever carry as much clout as in 1972 or 1992, respectively, but they will always be huge draws. Thievery Corporation has been on chill cruise control for years. The Raconteurs would attract interest if they started playing shows again, but nowhere near the level of the White Stripes.

Stock Down

The Killers, Scissor Sisters, Wolfmother, Kasabian, Brazilian Girls, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

These are the bands you see listed out like above and say to yourself, “Looks like the undercard of a 2006 music festival.” Which is exactly what it was, of course. Except for the Killers, who were one of the headliners. The rest have seen their initial popularity level off (Scissor Sisters), disappeared completely (Brazilian Girls) or something in between those two (Wolfmother, Kasabian, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah).

Grade: B

Lineups the next couple years had future headliners in the middle of the day, which wasn’t the case with the inaugural edition. But the top of the bill still packs plenty of punch.