The forecast calls for a cloudy afternoon and evening -- but there’ll be no raining on the pop music parade that is this Saturday’s Virgin Mobile FreeFest at Merriweather Post Pavlilion. The lineup includes Robin Thicke, Icona Pop, Kaskade, Vampire Weekend and MGMT.
This year’s "free'd out," or sold out, Virgin festival is biased toward EDM acts -- which is this critic’s bias too, truth be told -- but there's also a lot of that hyper-masculine noisy strain of techno known as dubstep. With its repeated breakdowns and intense, shrill sonics, it seems custom-made to provoke fighting and agitation. I’m not cruising for any kind of a bruising -- ear or otherwise -- so chances are I'll make few trips and spend little time in the Dance Forest at this year’s fest. (A sentence I would have never dreamed of writing just a few years ago, such as the time in 2007 when I barely ventured out of the Dance Tent.) That said, I might make one return trip mid-evening to hear the increasingly popular British DJ Gareth Emery, whose style of trance is almost a throwback to the raver ‘90s.
All told, there are 20 acts across three stages performing over the span of just 11 hours. How does one choose? Well, after careful listening and review, and consultation of the full schedule (printed below), I’ve created what I’m calling a cheat sheet of the acts (with set times) worth checking out. (The five acts in bold with YouTube clips are those I consider to be of highest priority.) Of course this will require some sprinting and politely dodging thousands of fellow music lovers, estimated at 50,000 strong, to catch at least some or all of the sets.
To help familiarize you with the best acts on tap, I also created a Spotify playlist offering a sampler of the good tunes in store.
Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2013 Cheat Sheet
Ghost Beach in the Dance Forest at 12 p.m.
The Knocks on the Pavilion Stage at 12:15 p.m.
Sky Ferreira on the West Stage at 1 p.m.
Washed Out in the Dance Forest at 1:30 p.m.
CHVRCHES on the West Stage at 2:15 p.m.
Manufactured Superstars in the Dance Forest at 2:50 p.m.
Icona Pop on the West Stage at 3:45 p.m.
Kaskade on the West Stage at 5:15 p.m.
MGMT on the Pavilion Stage at 6 p.m.
Robin Thicke on the West Stage at 6:45 p.m.
The Avett Brothers on the Pavilion Stage at 7:30 p.m.
Vampire Weekend on the Pavilion Stage at 9:20 p.m.
The Virgin Mobile FreeFest takes place Saturday, Sept. 21, starting at noon, at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, Md. Visit merriweathermusic.com.