A Respectable Virgin

The American debut of Britain’s V Fest, dubbed the Virgin Festival, drew a respectable if not necessarily blockbuster crowd of 40,000 to Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course September 23rd.

The audience was treated to a lineup including The Who, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gnarls Barkley, The Raconteurs, Scissor Sisters and about 15 other acts across three venues on the track’s infield.

Promoter Seth Hurwitz of I.M.P. didn’t have the final numbers on the show at press time, but said his goal was to make some money on what is hoped to be the first installation of an annual event.

“It’s very uncommon for festivals to make money the first year, but that’s my goal. We’ll be very close,” Hurwitz told Pollstar. The race course capacity was estimated at 60,000, according to the Washington Post.

Billionaire mogul Richard Branson, who brought the Virgin Festival west of the Atlantic for the first time to Toronto in August, was on hand for the Baltimore show – the only American date on the fest’s current schedule.

There are options to take the Virgin Festival to different U.S. cities in future years, according to Hurwitz, and traditionally a festival takes a couple of years to really take off as a branded event such as Coachella and Lollapalooza.

And Hurwitz knows plenty about Lollapalooza, having worked on the touring version of the festival in its early years – which prompted him to bring in Mo Morrison to produce the Virgin Festival at Pimlico.

“We hired Mo Morrison to produce it, and he did such a thorough, fantastic job that I was able to just walk in and enjoy the show all day as opposed to what I did when I worked on Lollapalooza. That was like riding a bucking bronco, and you’d look at your watch and count the hours until it ended.

“I remember being there with the walkie talkie, changing channels, and there was a crisis on every channel. But that was 10 years ago and we’ve assembled a bunch of people who love what they’re doing, and we’ve learned a lot. It made for a great day instead of a seat-of-the-pants crazy thing.”

– Deborah Speer