Review and photos – Virgin Festival 2009 featuring Jarvis Cocker, Ben Harper and more July 25-26
– review by Shawn Conner/photos by Kayla Joffe
When is a festival not a festival? The Virgin Festival quacked like a music fest, sounded like a music fest, and sort-of kind-of looked like a music fest, but something wasn’t quite right. Maybe it didn’t smell enough like a music fest.
The problem, which was pretty obvious, was a lack of bodies. For whatever reason – the height of summer activities, the ticket price ($81 for the day, I believe), the lineup – it looked like barely a few thousand had headed over to Deer Lake Park in Burnaby for the two-stage event.
We arrived in time for k-os‘ mainstage set, which was heavy on the rock (including a couple of classic-rock riffs) and got the stage-front crowd, what there was of it, pumped and jumping.
The Mount St. Helens Band surprised, mostly because I hadn’t heard of it, with a dynamite set of pounding rock rhythms courtesy of an adolescent drummer (the black adopted brother of the lead singer), extra percussion, synth and angular guitar.
Broken Social Scene couldn’t seem to fit enough people onstage. Metric‘s James Shaw, two members of Stars, and k-os joined the band for free-for-all jams on some of its best-known songs, including “Super-Connected”. I don’t know what it is about this band; I’ve seen it a couple of times, and listened to a few CDs, and like the music when I hear it well enough, but it fails to move me. Maybe if I got invited onstage to play trumpet or congas once in awhile.
Plants and Animals was another surprise; like Mount St. Helens Band, the Montreal group thoroughly rocked it, much to the enjoyment of a few hardcore fans up front. For a trio that gets two-thirds of its juice from electric/acoustic guitars, Plants and Animals delivered some incredible, heavy moments.
Our Lady Peace… well, what can I say about this long-running Canadian modern-rock band, except that it’s been inspiring with sheer, unadorned mediocrity for over a decade?
Finally, Spinnerette. Ah, poor doomed Spinnerette, whose set was destined to run aground due to the elements. Former Distiller Brody Dalle – she of one of the most powerful voices and punk presences in rock – and Tony Bellacquiva were making a strong case for their new band’s bright but gnarly rock-pop sound when the spectacular lightning and the increasing downpour put the kibosh on the night.
It wasn’t quite over, though, as we still had half an hour to walk to the car in the pouring rain. At least the sky put on a brilliant show on the ride home.
-photos by Jessica Bardosh
Day 2 of the Virgin Festival at Deer Lake Park in Burnaby felt a little more like a music festival. De La Soul got the party started with a mid-afternoon set, bring the energy and tracks from way-back albums like De La Soul is Dead, and inviting the people dressed as shrubs and a stiltwalker onstage with them. A very fun hour, although I never need to hear the phrase “stakes is high” again.
Jarvis Cocker, dressed like The Kind of Man Who Reads Playboy circa 1979, pulled out some flash rock moves and just generally impressed. Besides being witty and urbane, at least for a musician, he also proved to be something a soul-man, even losing his air of dissolute ironic detachment for a few songs.
I was face-down on the Shiatsu table when Future of the Left came on the second stage; suffice it to say the group’s loud and shout-y set was not the flute music one usually hears while getting a massage.
Conspicuous by their absence in this story are pictures of two of the headliners. There’s a reason for this; yesterday (Sunday) morning the managers of both camps decided that only certain publications would be allowed to take photos. Needless to say, publications like this were the first to be ixnayed. Neither band will be receiving any (figurative) ink on guttersnipe for the foreseeable future.
Our photog Jessica Bardosh was totally down with staying for Ben Harper, the last act of the night and a dude who didn’t seem to mind people taking pics.
More Virgin Festival 2009 photos: