« Some news, some notes, some whatnots | Main | Wild Light, Matt Duke to headline WTMD's First Thursday Concert in May »

April 6, 2009

Virgin Mobile Festival could move to Merriweather Post Pavilion

merriweather post pavilionVirgin Mobile Festival organizers are considering moving the annual festival to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia (pictured).

Festival promoter Seth Hurwitz is eying the pavilion, which he currently books, as a new home for the festival, according to Howard County Executive Ken Ulman.

"We'd be thrilled to host it in Howard County," Ulman said.

"Seth has done a wonderful job resurrecting Merriweather over the last few years. We're really pleased with the work he's done there."

A move to Merriweather could mean big changes for the festival ...

First off, Merriweather is a much smaller venue than Pimlico Race Course, where the festival is currently held. Pimlico's infield holds about 60,000, give or take. Big stages and vendor tents like the ones you'll find at Virgin Fest reduce that capacity. But Pimlico can still pack in a lot of people.

Merriweather holds close to 20,000 people. But in May 2006, when it hosted the HFStival, it added stages in Symphony Woods and a pavilion parking lot. That upped the capacity to 27,500, The Sun reported at the time.

With this setup, Merriweather could potentially hold almost 60,000 in two days. That's not far off from the kind of numbers Virgin Fest has pulled in recent years. So it's certainly feasible.

But if the festival were to move to Merriweather, it would most likely have fewer massive A-list headliners (Kanye West and Jack Johnson, etc.) and more semi-A-list acts (Bob Dylan, Wilco, etc.).

Also, the Baltimore Business Journal did a thorough piece about the possibility of a Merriweather move a couple days ago. BBJ writer Ryan Sharrow even spoke with the Maryland Jockey Club and area hotels to see what kind of impact the festival has on the local economy. Check it out.

(Sun photo by Elizabeth Malby)

Follow Midnight Sun on Facebook and Twitter @midnightsunblog
Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:45 AM | | Comments (26)
Categories: Virgin Mobile Festival


That would be the suck. I went to the HFStival the year it was there. The "main stage" doesn't feel like a festival at all, the seats kill the vibe, and the sound on the lawn is terrible.

And the other two stages they had set up had a total minor-league feel.

It's pretty sad when Jack Johnson is considered an A-list act and Bob Dylan and Wilco aren't.

Hmm, not sure it's big enough for such an event.

But wow, Merriweather has recently gone from "almost dead" to having a whole new life. That's good news.

- brad

they should have a massive Virgin Festival at Patterson Park in the city like they do for VFest

This is a poor decision, but maybe they'll lower the ridiculous 100 dollar a day ticket prices if they move it to MPP. Virgin Fest has gone downhill every year.

Maybe Animal Collective will headline and perform Merriweather Post Pavillion at MPP.

Doubtful, but I'll cross fingers.

And an agreement with Chris's comment, did you really put Jack Johnson above Bob Dylan. Ouch.

honestly, it's better than nothing. hopefully the amount of a-listers will reflect ticket prices.

Anon, that's not a bad idea. But where would 60,000 people park?

Brett, yes, I did. Regardless of what you think of his music, Jack Johnson is a bigger draw than Bob Dylan.

I hate to toot my own horn, but close to a year ago I did publicly state that it was the last year of Virgin at Pimlico, explained why M&T/Camden aren't viable options, and mentioned that the only permanent solution would be Merriweather.

-Virtual- pat-on-the-back

Mark, I couldn't find that particular comment, though I vaguely remember it. I did find this one, though:

So long Baltimore.... Plans are already underway to have next year's Virgin Festival, and subsequent festivals in D.C.

Posted by: Mark Twain | August 12, 2008 5:25 PM

Whoa! Jack Johnson a bigger draw than Bob Dylan! You may be right, but it's sad and I don't think Bob Dylan could ever be a "semi-A-list" act, no matter the category.

Anytime they have thousands of virgins at a festival it sounds ok to me.

the festival was beyond amazing last year. the best i've ever been to. if virgin fest moves to merriweather it will be awful...i don't even know if i could go. the fact that the venue holds much less people will work out for virgin fest because they are going to loose a lot of fans

VFest would be great at Merriweather except the sound pretty much sucks, there isn't enough parking (no, the mall doesn't count), getting to and getting out of Merriweather is only slightly better than a barium enema, and Howard County's finest aren't exactly the friendliest. Other than that, it would be great.

I know that Sam Sessa covers the Baltimore night scene...I was sorry to hear that he was on vacation in Hawaii during Saturdays (April 4th) concert with world reknown Jazz pianist Mulgrew Miller at Baltimore's Caton Castle. What a rewarding music event to have missed...

Get ready for a traffic nightmare. Little Patuxent Pkwy will morph into a parking lot, as will Rts 29 & 70.

Some type of park-n-ride should be offered if MP3 is the chosen host.

Remember hearing horror stories from DC friends stuck on Rt 29 trying to get to the sold-out Radiohead show. They missed the opening act and about half of the headliner, due to a multi-car accident on 29. Total cluster****.

Bob Dylan and Wilco aren't consider "A-list" for two reasons: this author isn't sure what good music is and these "semi-A listers" aren't top notch because the Virgin Fest caters to the 15-24 yr old crowd that also has crappy taste in music.

Old Man, it's not about the quality of music so much as it is the artists' drawing power. Bob Dylan/Wilco play amphitheaters, while Kanye West and the Red Hot Chili Peppers play stadiums. Does that make Dylan's music any less influential? Of course not.

actually, Old Man, I happen to know the author knows quite a bit about music, today's and yesterday's. you are right, however, about the 'fest's demographic, and if you walk up to most 16 year olds and ask about Bob Dylan, you would be greeted with a very blank stare then quizical (sp?) look.
Dylan was 60's & some 70's
after that he's only relevant to us old farts.

And when Old Man was a young man, his pappy was referring to Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones as "crappy music"

Some things don't change.

SS2, as a 25-year-old music lover (and there were a lot of people like me at last year's festival), I really wanted to see Bob Dylan.

I've wanted to see Dylan for years, but I didn't want to sit through two hours of his gravely, incoherent grumbling. His band is awesome but you can't understand a word he says.

So a shortened festival set was perfect -- I saw a living legend play a few of his older songs and then I wandered over to the other stage to watch somebody else.

I think Dylan's stuff from the '60s and '70s is still relevant -- with the exception of some of his wackier stuff like this one

I absolutely love this video of dylan playing "shelter from the storm" in 1976:

Dylan's fan base is nothing to shake a stick at. But Dylan doesn't fill stadiums.

This is a horrible idea... Seth Hurwitz is an idiot.

Kanye was actually one of the headliners of HFStival when it was held at Merriweather...but damn, horrible idea to move there. This will signal the end of Virgin Mobile Fest just as it was the end of HFStival. The pavillion will be a god awful stage for a main stage, not to mention tiered pricing of tickets for those that want access to the seats and those that don't. Lame. An empty field in the middle of nowhere is better than MPP. I still really like the idea of the Maryland Fairgrounds that someone mentioned in another thread.

aren't the fairgrounds set up to do stuff just like this?

I love VirginFest and would hate to see it move to Merriweather.... wouldn't have the same "festival" vibe!

I don't know why it was necessary to insult Bob Dylan in this story, and it is insulting whether you meant it to be or not.

I was at VF 2008 and saw both Bob Dylan and Jack Johnson ( both of which I was excited to see) and I remeber one thing clearly the Dylan crowd was huge, which is amazing since he was up against STP in the time slots, Jack Johnson's crowd was smaller, not tiny, but smaller, why? He was put against argueably the best part of VF 2008, the Foo Fighters.

The Arguement that he's a bigger draw than Dylan is lost when you see who they were put against, sure STP popular but the Foo Fighters were a headliner, had a brand new album and kicked a$$.

To the actual topic at hand, I've never been to MPP but I've heard its worse than Nissan and if you've never been to Nissan. let me tell you its a NIGHTMARE! If something not's broke I don't understand fixing it, Pimlico is a great venue for VF. Leave it there.

From Virgin website here it says the Baltimore fest is at Pimlico and the venue for Vancouver one is still TBA. Sooo if it wasn’t at Pimlico I would think it would still say TBA

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Please enter the letter "b" in the field below:
About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

Most Recent Comments
Recent tweets
Sign up for FREE nightlife alerts*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for nightlife text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Weekend Watch newsletter
Plan your weekend with's best events, restaurant and movie reviews, TV picks and more delivered to you every Thursday for free.
See a sample | Sign up

Photo galleries
Stay connected