Fans cheated by over-played Virgin Fest lineup
UPDATED: 2008-04-09 03:54:38 MST
By MICHAEL PLATT
Calgary Virgin Fest offers pure talent
Isn't "Virgin" supposed to mean something that hasn't been done before?
If you're like many music fans in Calgary today, you're probably feeling disappointed -- and maybe a little cheated -- to see the been-there, done-that lineup of Calgary's first Virgin Festival.
The Tragically Hip and Stone Temple Pilots: Two huge bands in the days of cassette tapes, grunge and Seinfeld, and now the headlining acts at Virgin Festival Calgary.
To quote the razor wit of one Facebook wag: "Stone Temple Pilots and The Tragically Hip ... wow, it's gonna be the hottest festival of 1998."
If you're the type whose musical tastebuds tingle to Tom Jones or The Wiggles -- both with upcoming Calgary shows -- then it probably doesn't matter who plays Virgin Festival Calgary or even if there is a Virgin Fest on June 21 and 22.
But for the rest of us, the announcement by billionaire Brit Richard Branson was a promise of musical greatness to come.
Virgin Festivals have been held since 2006 in North American cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Baltimore, attracting acts so big as to make fans jelly-kneed with joy.
The Who, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Smashing Pumpkins, The Killers, Gnarls Barkley, Bjork, Arctic Monkeys, The Police, Beastie Boys, Modest Mouse, Amy Winehouse, Billy Talent and My Chemical Romance are all acts that have headlined past V-Fests.
When the flamboyant Branson rode in on a chuckwagon to make his Calgary concert announcement last October, music fans in this city were a-flutter with anticipation.
Who would play Branson's festival, the first major music event ever held at Fort Calgary?
Giddy rumours flew; Facebook groups started.
Radiohead, Linkin Park, The Racontuers, Led Zeppelin, Coldplay, Jay-Z, Muse, REM, Brian Wilson -- fans dreamed of the kinds of acts that might play Calgary.
And then they waited.
It was a long wait, too, but it seemed like it might be worth it -- especially when Oasis, Paul Weller and the Foo Fighters were announced as Toronto's headliners, and Nine Inch Nails, Jack Johnson and Kayne West were named as the big acts in Baltimore.
And then, yesterday morning, the wheels fell off the chuckwagon.
The Tragically Hip, a band that's played Calgary more often than the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Stone Temple Pilots, a group that's also been here many times before, will headline.
It's not that they're bad or unpopular bands -- the Hip attracted 10,000 fans to the Saddledome last year -- but the Hip and STP simply aren't worthy of headlining a Virgin Festival.
Put the two together and it would make for a decent Saddledome show -- but a Virgin Festival?
As another Facebook fan said: "What a massive letdown after all the waiting..."
The festival saves some face with its B-list bands, including legendary live act The Flaming Lips, but again, artists such as the New Pornographers and Matthew Good pass through Calgary every few months.
Local music pundits are greeting the lineup with a bemused shake of the head, wondering why Calgary is drawing the same old, when other Virgin Festival fans are treated to the very best.
"For an event as big as this one, it's a bit disappointing," says Brad Simm, editor-in-chief of BeatRoute, a local music scene magazine.
"They're both good, solid bands, but they don't have the kind of pizzazz that normally comes w ith a concert of this size."
But Chris Baines, a spokesman for Virgin Mobile Canada, begs to differ, saying the Hip and the Stone Temple Pilots are exactly the kind of bands Calgarians were asking for -- even though the Sun can find no mention of either band in the wish-lists of online fans.
"We asked Calgarians what they wanted to see at the festival and they answered through e-mails, letters and chat groups, like Facebook," said Baines. "Of course, there are lots of other bands we'd like to see, and you never know who might be popping up over the next few weeks -- but if you ask us, we believe it's a killer lineup.
"For the first Virgin Festival Calgary ever, it's a rocking lineup."
If that's the case, why are so many Calgary music fans feeling screwed?