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The best performances of Virgin Festivals past

weezerWeezer on a "best" list? How about that? (Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

By David Malitz

As we approach Saturday’s Virgin Mobile FreeFest we thought we’d take a look back at the first four years of the festival. I wasn’t at the initial edition of the annual rock bacchanalia (TM J. Freedom du Lac), so these top five performances are culled from the past three years, including last year’s reinvention as FreeFest. Will any of this year’s acts be able to crack the list? We’ll find out on Saturday.

1. Kanye West, 2008
Festivals can be a good place to sample acts you’re unfamiliar with and see bands you’ve always been meaning to see. It’s also a good opportunity to see if the headliners can rise to the occasion and prove themselves to be true superstars. Kanye did just that a couple years ago, making it feel less like a festival and more like a Kanye West show with a whole bunch of opening acts.

2. LCD Soundsystem, 2007
The best live band touring in support of their best album playing in the sweltering late-afternoon sun made for an extremely sweaty and satisfying performance.

3. Underworld, 2008
I was stuck covering Foo Fighters/Dave Grohl almost-comedy hour during this set so I only managed to catch about 30 minutes of thumping dance-rock bliss. But that included “Born Slippy (Nuxx)” and “Moaner,” two of the band's most epic and frenzied songs.

4. Weezer, 2009
For a band that so often seems to exist only to infuriate, Weezer played a nearly-perfect set last year. Lots of hits, no dead spots, overwhelmingly loud and crunchy, done in an hour.

5. Public Enemy, 2009
Chuck D continues to be one of the most commanding figures who takes a stage and that helps keep Flava Flav in check. Mostly. Together, they throw a mean party, but there’s still something important going on.

By David Malitz  | September 21, 2010; 1:54 PM ET
Categories:  Lists  | Tags:  Kanye West, LCD Soundsystem, Public Enemy, Underworld, Virgin Mobile FreeFest, Weezer  
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5. Chuck Berry and the Silver Beats (2008)--Berry still has it, and the Silver Beats are one of the best Beatles cover bands in the world.

4. NIN (2008)--Amazing stage show that played well in a festival setting.

3. The Police (2007)--They managed not to kill each other and played some great songs while they were at it.

2. Franz Ferdinand (2009)--The extended version of "Ulysses" was incredible!

1. Swell Season (2008)--Glen and Marketa were amazing as they shunned the engineers and climbed down onto the field to finish an unforgetable set!

Weezer in 2009 was straight off the album, and nothing spectatular.

Kanye in 2008 was good, but his performance had been hyped for months. I preferred watching the entire NIN set than the last 25 minutes of Kanye.

Public Enemy is a caricature of themselves, especially the overly annoying Flavor Flav.

I missed LCD Soundsystem in 2007, but they're the one of the few reasons why I'm holding a ticket for this year's show.

I rarely venture into the dance tent, so I missed Underworld in 2008. I hope to catch Chromeo and Sleigh Bells in the dance forest/tent this year depending on the schedule, but unfortunately because a convicted felon was booked as a headliner, we have to wait until Friday to see the schedule and whether or not the felon will actually be allowed to play (not that I care to watch him).

Posted by: Russtinator | September 21, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

you HAD to cover the foo fighters? you shouldve put them as #1 on this list. they were better then every other band i've ever seen at v-fest and you put them as if they sucked. the only bands that actually even plays here is weezer and under world so the others shouldnt even be on the list. foo fighters #1, this list blows

Posted by: getsharty | September 22, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

4. NIN (2008)--Amazing stage show that played well in a festival setting.


That is the correct answer.

Also The Stooges that year were amazing. Glad I left the Lil Wayne waiting game that was concurrently taking place to catch their set.

Posted by: M__N | September 22, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Peter Bjorn and John were amazing in 2007. So was the Dan Deacon/Girl Talk early Sunday double-bill.

Posted by: gocaps2 | September 23, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

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