Virgin Festival 2007 in Baltimore

The PoliceLast night I got back very late (about 3am) from the Virgin music Festival in Baltimore. Here’s a write-up…

We arrived fairly late on Saturday afternoon. We missed Amy Winehouse (wasn’t worried about that) and Felix Da Housecat (which upset me more.) Our tardiness did mean that I got to see the Baltimore harbour, and meant we avoided the worst of the 100 degree heat.

On arrival Peter Bjorn and John were playing. I hadn’t heard them before, but they definitely went in my ‘meh’ bucket. From there we went (via the bar!) on our first of many visits to the dance tent. Danny Tenaglia was playing, mostly his traditional NYC house and less of the tribal stuff he (apparently) plays these days. It was crazily hot, but we were in the mood for a dance so duely joined the sweaty collective for half an hour or so.

The other trip to the dance tent for the day was for Sasha & John Digweed, 2 of my dance music heroes who I’ve never seen play before. Digweed started the set with an accessible but typically Digweed-esque prog mix-up. Sasha then took over the ropes after about 30 minutes and played some festival-friendly trance. Cue me dancing like a madman and glad that I’d drunk about 2 litres of water already that day. 🙂 No sign of Xpander (at least while I was there) but was still great fun, I hope one of these 2 comes to play at Studio B some time (hmm, I’m missing a blog entry somewhere.)

We also took brief trips to the south stage to see LCD Soundsystem (I need to check these guys out) and TV on the Radio (another meh.)

The real treat of the day (and the biggest draw for me to go at all) was The Police. I remember ‘permanently borrowing’ the Synchronicity album from my dad when I was about 8 (sorry Dad!) and it was huge part of my musical upbringing. I was surprised and thrilled earlier in the year to hear they were reforming for a tour. They did not disappoint. I know this tour has been pretty intense, but I was extremely impressed with how tight the 3 played considering they haven’t been together for over 20 years. Sting, Andy and Stuart are all fabulous instrumentalists and it was a pleasure to watch them belt out all the classics. The highlight was probably a slightly re-envisioned Wrapped Around Your Finger, but the whole set was thoroughly enjoyable. Hats off also to the concert organisers – considering this was an outdoor festival gig the sound was very good with punchy bass and clear vocals.

Onto Day 2. I was hoping to see Girl Talk but due to a lazy brunch we only made it to the Pimlico racecourse most of the way into Dieselboy & Andy C’s Sunday lunchtime drum ‘n’ bass set. This wasn’t really my thing (mostly because I’ve not been to many d ‘n’ b nights out) but there was no denying the crowd (and some of my friends!) were loving it.

I liked Panic! At the Disco but they didn’t have too much depth. They were followed up by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs who I really just don’t get. I know Karen O is a pretty extravagant frontwoman but I didn’t enjoy them. I think I need to borrow last year’s album off of someone to try them properly.

Infected MushroomThe biggest surprise of the weekend was probably yet another trip to the dance tent for Infected Mushroom. I’d never heard of them before but their guitar-led psy-trance was just what the mid-afternoon doctor ordered. Thankfully I’d drunk even more water on Sunday and the temperature had dipped because my inner raver had it’s way. Just to top it off Matisyahu lent a hand on vocals at one point – crazyness!

After visits to listen to the Wu Tang Clan (I still don’t get hip hop…) and a brief listen to The Crystal Method DJing (I was danced out by this point) the rain started coming down and we decided to call it a day. I missed Interpol (but I’ll probably go and see them in NYC anyway) and the Smashing Pumpkins but we’d already had a fantastic weekend.

Will I go back next year? Well it depends on the line-up I think. Someone like The Police playing would be a big draw, but I think I might do Austin City Limits next year as an excuse to see another US city.

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Green Velvet @ Studio B (a.k.a. Mike finally has an enjoyable night out dancing in NYC)

As you may have figured out from my last post, I still have an inner raver. Yes, I know when you’re 29 the thing you’re supposed to be doing at midnight on Saturday is putting away the pipe and slippers and drinking a nice mug of warm cocoa before tucking in for the evening. But that’s not for me.

What I really enjoy every now and then is to listen to some good dance music, dance till my legs ache, with a whole bunch of friendly people around me doing exactly the same thing. It wasn’t hard to do when I lived in London. The End, Turnmills and Fabric when you picked the right nights were little pieces of electronic heaven.

New York City has proven to be more than a little disappointing on this front though, and it’s not just me. Several friends of mine who are NYC locals say ‘yeah, there’s no decent clubs here any more’. At the end of May I went to Cielo, supposedly one of the better clubs in the city, and was extremely disappointed. The venue was great, the music was so-so but the worst thing was the crowd – AWFUL! I like clubs where the people are there mostly to enjoy the music, and yes sure there’s always a bit of flirting on the side. But in NYC, in Manhattan at least (and concentrated in the Meatpacking district on the weekend), it’s all about ‘the scene’ – what you look like, how you’re dressed, whether you’ve got the greenbacks to spend on ‘bottle service’ (there’s a whole rant in me on that subject alone) and seemingly almost everyone is there for some kind of gratuitous mating ritual.

As you can tell, I’d pretty much assumed that my clubbing-life was over. That’s OK, there’s plenty of other things in my new home to keep me occupied. But little did I know that in a corner of Brooklyn a little spark of healthy rave-dom lived on…

I’d never come across Green Velvet before, but he’s a really rather good house / trance DJ. When one of my friends suggested an outing to Studio B to see him I was pretty convinced I was going to be as disappointed as ever by the New York party scene. But how wrong was I. Finally a good venue, GREAT DJing (when he dropped Blue Monday in the middle of an already wonderful sequence I thought I was going to cry) and *GASP* a crowd that actually wanted to be there for the music! An amazingly pleasant surprise and should I decide to keep the pipe & slippers waiting a little while longer, I’ll be making return trips.

The moral of the story? There are good parties left in New York, but you’re probably going to have to leave Manhattan for them.