Food & Drink

Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2011 gets underway; crew member injured

Extreme Trampoline Performance at the 2011 Virgin FreeFest at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Some 35,000 people are expected to convene at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia today to watch performances by the Black Keys, Cee-Lo Green, and an eccentric millionaire. No, not Sir Richard Branson, Virgin's founder - Deadmau5, the Canadian DJ with the cult following.

The performers are among the 20 acts that will be performing today at the Virgin Mobile FreeFest, the free outdoors music festival that is now celebrating its sixth year.


The music festival, Maryland's largest, sets itself apart by giving away its tickets, usually through an online giveaway. This year, the free tickets were given away via Facebook in July, and were claimed by fans in under 60 seconds.

As doors opened at 11 a.m., the lines outside the South entrance of Merriweather snaked all the way to the main parking lot.


Howard Police warned residents of traffic delays traffic congestion and delays near Merriweather Post Pavilion and the Mall in Columbia.

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Before the festival, a crew worker was injured while testing out a zipline for safety. He has been transferred to Shock Trauma in Baltimore with non-life-threatening injuries, Howard County Fire & Rescue said.

Unlike last year's festival, which took place in late September, this year's FreeFest might be affected by rainy weather. The National Weather Service forecast a 30 percent chance of precipitation. Organizers have said the festival will go on "rain or shine." This morning, evidence of last week's rain was evident throughout Merriweather's muggy grounds.

FreeFest also sets itself apart with its heavy sponsorship component and its musical sensibility, which skews towards independent or alternative music. Last year, it attracted some 40,000 people with acts like LCD Soundsystem and M.I.A.

“Musically, I think when you the line-ups for big, multi-day festivals, frankly, you see a lot of the same artists,” Debbie Speer, an associate news editor at trade magazine Pollstar,

in July. “Virgin sticks to a more indie line-up than you see at a lot of other festivals. They won't be pulling in Coldplay, for instance.”

Also performing Saturday: legendary singer-songwriter Patti Smith, art-rock band TV on the Radio, and the Australian dance bands Empire of the Sun andCut Copy.

Check back with Midnight Sun for regular updates from FreeFest. You can also follow us at @midnightsunblog and @louder_now on Twitter.