Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., again hosts the fest with tickets going “on free” Friday at 10 a.m. local time. And this year, there’s a twist: the free tickets can be accessed only by “liking” Virgin Mobile Free on Facebook.
Virgin Mobile customers and Virgin Mobile Festival ticketholders from the last five years (the first two were paid ticketed events at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course) will also be invited via text and email to a private “free-sale” beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday. Fans should be ready to jump on the Facebook page quickly, though – the past two FreeFests blew through their allotments of freebies in minutes.
The festival announcement, delivered via video on Facebook by festival patriarch Richard Branson of Virgin Group, includes a bigger artist lineup than in FreeFests past. Also on the bill are Empire of the Sun, Cut Copy, Okkervil River, Big Sean, Two Door Cinema Club, Alberta Cross and Bombay Bicycle Club.
In addition to the two main stages is a Dance Forest, featuring James Murphy, Calvin Harris, Ghostland Observatory, !!! (Chk Chk Chk), Porter Robinson, Eclectic Method and Teddybears.
Virgin Mobile FreeFest isn’t a typical music blowout, though there’s plenty of that. It’s also a lifestyle expo, with the numerous sponsors demonstrating their wares, giving away goodies and providing plenty of distractions during and between sets.
From Kyocera cell phone charging stations to Toyota Prius giveaways to shoe decorating contests, the Virgin Mobile FreeFest does give its sponsors the bang for their bucks. But, hey, that corporate swag is what enables you to get that ticket for free, nada, gratis. And from past observation, most music fans were happy with the tradeoff.
And there’s a karma payoff, too. Once again, the Virgin Moble FreeFest will focus heavily on promoting volunteerism and community service around the issue of youth homelessness. Fans have raised nearly $300,000 and given more than 55,000 hours of volunteer time to shelters and homelessness programs the last two years.
“We’re very proud of our deeply engaged fans who donate their time and money to youth homelessness through this concert,” said Ron Faris, director of brand marketing for Virgin Mobile USA, in a statement. “This festival is dedicated to them.”
Virgin Mobile FreeFest is again organized by Seth Hurwitz and his team at I.M.P., which operates Merriweather Post Pavilion.
“It’s so much fun to be a part of this,” Hurwitz said. “As a promoter, I enjoy watching 40,000 people walking around, having a blast, feeling very lucky they got a free ticket … it’s my favorite day of the year.
“There are a lot of bands vying to playing this festival, but, because we give all the tickets away, we get to choose based on nothing but who we think are the most happening. I suppose it’s a bratty approach, but we just want people to see this festival as THE list of the absolute coolest bands and stories of the moment.”
Click here for the Virgin Mobile FreeFest website.