A man with a plan for an infield jam-packed with commotion

ON NIGHTLIFE

August 07, 2008|By SAM SESSA

This weekend, thousands of live music lovers will pour into Pimlico Race Course for the third annual Virgin Mobile Festival.

We're talking two days of 40-plus bands, art exhibits, sideshows and more. If you've never been before, it's easy to get lost in all the hubbub. There's so much to do and see.

Here are some tips to help you make the most of this weekend's festivities:

*Buy a water bottle early on and keep filling it from the giant water tanker. In past years, the tanker has been near the North Stage, and the lines can set you back a half-hour. So, if you're pressed for time, buy a new bottle. But if you don't mind waiting, free water makes everything better.

*Shade is at a premium. Yes, there are tents designed for lounging under and mist tents for cooling off. But spots under the shade tent get snapped up quickly, and there's almost always a line for the mist tent. That means come 4 p.m. or 5 p.m., festivalgoers start cozying up to anything that casts a shadow.

*Bring a cheap poncho, just in case. It's hard to see the stage if you're cowering under an umbrella. Plus, ponchos generally keep you drier than an umbrella if you're moving around a lot, which you will be at the Virgin Fest.

*Form an attack plan early on. Unlike most other festivals, the Virgin Fest runs almost exactly on schedule. And this year's lineup has a mix of older stars like Bob Dylan and Chuck Berry, reformed rockers like Stone Temple Pilots and hot new hip-hop artist Lil' Wayne. There's plenty to see, and not much filler. Yes, sets are shorter at festivals than in clubs, and the sound is almost never as good at a festival as it is indoors. And yes, headliners will be playing at the same time on different stages. But the bonus is, you get to watch dozens of bands each day. And even though the North and South stages are the same size, they're positioned far enough apart and at different angles so that the sound doesn't bleed from one area to the next.

*Before you stuff your face with hot dogs and french fries, consider all your options. Virgin Fest has a surprisingly well-rounded list of food vendors. There's good barbecue, crabs, vegetarian fare and name-brand fries, to name a few. Budget $30 for lunch, dinner and snacks. In past years, the food was a little less expensive than stadium grub, but you'll still be paying festival prices.

Same goes for drinks. Yes, there are the generic national beers, but there are some microbrews, too, along with top-shelf liquor. Last year, the frozen Southern Comfort cocktails were a hit in the heat. Better still: Drinkers aren't penned into beer gardens. As long as you're 21, you can carry your drinks all over infield grounds.

*Sneak up the sides. If you want to get close to the North Stage, the best way to do it is to walk to the far right side and slip around the crowd by the fence, then cut back into the mass. Just be warned: The closer you get to the stage, the heavier the crush of people pushing and crowd surfing.

*Explore a little. Pimlico's infield is huge, and there's lots to see besides the musicians. Last year, there were burlesque shows, roller derbies and weird art, just to name a few attractions. So keep cool and cut loose.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

The Virgin Mobile Festival is Saturday and Sunday at Pimlico Race Course, 5201 Park Heights Ave. General admission tickets are $97.50 per day or $175 for the weekend. Go to virginmobilefestival.com.

Online

Read Sam Sessa's blog on nightlife and local music at baltimore sun.com/midnightsun

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