The A to Z of bands rocking Pimlico Race Course

Virgin Fest

August 07, 2008|By Sam Sessa, Alex Plimack, Courtney Pomeroy and Rashod D. Ollison

It's good to have options.

At this weekend's Virgin Mobile Festival, more than 40 performers will be vying for your attention on two main stages and in a dance tent. One of the biggest challenges is deciding whom to watch.

Would you rather catch classic performers like Bob Dylan and Chuck Berry or hot hip-hop acts like Lil' Wayne? Before you pick and choose, it's good to know a little bit about each act.

Here's the skinny on all the bands at this year's festival.

The Black Keys

Essentials: On its latest album, Attack & Release, the Keys went into the studio with producer Danger Mouse and came out with a new sound, complete with keyboards and high-end production. Guitarist Dan Auerbach howls with his voice and guitar, with the fuzzy, distorted crunch of a six-string and drummer Patrick Carney's foot-stomping beats.

What to expect: Auerbach will sit before the black and white keys if the songs calls for it, but the majority of the band's set will be strictly guitar and drums, pounding through the blues-inspired tunes.

When and where: South Stage, 5:15 p.m.-6:15 p.m. Sunday

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Essentials: Based in Los Angeles, the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club specializes in high-energy rock 'n' roll. The band has continued to please fans with its sometimes sentimental, sometimes politically charged lyrics.

What to expect: Drummer Leah Shapiro demands attention while Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been contribute vocals, melodic guitar riffs and strong bass lines.

When and where: North Stage, noon-12:45 p.m. Sunday

Bloc Party

Essentials: Bloc Party has released only two studio albums, but the indie rock quartet is regarded as a Brit band with some staying power. Each record has made big waves in Britain and also has won over some American critics.

What to expect: Kele Okereke's smooth but powerful vocals, Matt Tong's show-stealing drums, Gordon Moakes' intertwining bass riffs and Russell Lissack's guitar make for a powerful live performance. Many of the most popular singles have danceable beats and introspective lyrics.

When and where: South Stage, 3:45 p.m.-4:35 p.m. Saturday

Cat Power

Essentials: Cat Power's haunting vocals have enchanted fans since she emerged on the singer-songwriter scene more than a decade ago. Her strengths lie in her minimalist instrumentation and breathy, emotional delivery.

What to expect: Once synonymous with substance-induced emotional breakdowns, Cat Power has cleaned up in the past few years and has emerged as a critical darling of the New York music scene.

When and where: North stage, noon-12:50 p.m. Saturday

Chuck Berry and The Silver Beats

Essentials: A rock 'n' roll pioneer, Berry introduced some of the earliest attention-getting guitar riffs that floored fans. He's still acknowledged as a talented, hard-working rock-and-roller 50 years after his musical debut.

What to expect: At 81, he's no acrobat. But Berry's guitar work is still on point.

When and where: South Stage, 6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Saturday

Citizen Cope

Essentials: Citizen Cope's music blends hip-hop, R&B and soul. He's based in New York, but the D.C. native frequently performs in and around Baltimore, garnering him a strong local following.

What to expect: Citizen Cope is as versatile on stage as he has been in his three albums. He can play guitar and keyboards, but his talents are his soulful voice and heartfelt lyrics.

When and where: North Stage, 5:45 p.m.-6:35 p.m. Saturday


Essentials: A blond beauty from northern Wales, Duffy evokes uptown '60s pop-soul on Rockferry, her critically lauded debut. She croons and belts songs of heartache and newfound love backed by swelling strings and strutting vintage rhythms.

What to expect: Though it's unlikely that she will be backed by strings and horns, the singer-songwriter works hard with a full road band to replicate the polished sound of Rockferry.

When and where: North Stage, 1:10 p.m.-1:55 p.m. Saturday

Foo Fighters

Essentials: The hard rock band was the brainchild of Dave Grohl, former drummer for the celebrated '90s grunge group Nirvana. The Foos peaked in the mid '90s with a riotous but strongly melodic sound.

What to expect: Although on the latest Foo Fighters albums Grohl counterbalances the thrashing rock tunes with lean, acoustic pop songs, he and the band still rock hard on stage - screaming vocals matching screaming guitars.

When and where: South Stage, 8:15 p.m.-10 p.m. Saturday

Gogol Bordello

Essentials: Accordion, saxophone, string instruments and electronica blended together equals Gogol Bordello. Each of the eight band members plays at least one instrument, and most help with vocals, which makes for one wild mix.

What to expect: Gogol Bordello shows are usually characterized by the band's crazy costumes and dance moves, which often leads to the audience disintegrating into one giant dance party.

When and Where: South Stage, 1:20 p.m.-2:10 p.m. Saturday

The Go! Team

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