VANCOUVER — After a one-year hiatus, the Virgin Festival returns to B.C. this month with a mixed line-up of talent including indie rock stars, hip hop icons and up-and-comers.
Oh, and lets not forget the pole dancing, fortune-telling, yoga, autograph and video gaming opportunities that make the two-day event into what organizers call a “festravaganza.”
It’s a formula so popular that the 14-year-old UK version, coined V-Fest, attracts about 175,000 people each year — tickets for the annual event sell out in about an hour.
But B.C. still has a way to go before we catch up to the British hype.
In spite of a successful 2007 kick-off — acts like The Killers, Hot Hot Heat and Billy Talent lured 25,000 fans to UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium for two rainy days in May — the event didn’t return last year.
And many wondered if it was a one-time deal.
“Last year the stars just didn’t align,” says director of Virgin Festival Canada Andrew Bridge.
“We had originally hoped to return to Vancouver in 2008 but didn’t feel that we could deliver a great line-up and experience comparable to 2007,” he says.
Putting on a major rock festival involves many different factors, he says.
“The main challenge of putting any major festival together is getting all of the pieces together to create a festival that delivers a full experience to the festival-goer — from the line-up right down to the venue and on-site experiences,” Bridge says.
“We’ve always said that we don’t want to go to a market just for the sake of it, but want to be sure that we bring the full Virgin Festival experience to that market.”
But even though it didn’t pan out last year, he says, organizers were optimistic about establishing the event in B.C.
“We always hoped to bring it back,” he says.
Besides that, the success of the first-ever Pemberton Music Festival last summer — it saw 40,000 people head to the mountains for four days and 120 acts, including Coldplay and Jay-Z — affirmed that there is a big market for outdoor festivals in B.C., he says.
He adds: “B.C. loves their music and there’s a great energy to this province.”
Things came together nicely this year too, he says.
After touring Deer Lake Park, Bridge says, he was impressed by the natural setting and thought it seemed like a fit for the family-oriented festival. (Kids under four years old are free.)
“They’ve done some great events there recently and it’s really come to the forefront as a large music venue,” he says, adding they’re expecting to fill it with about 20,000 festival-goers.
Organizers hope to make it a regular event, he says, adding they’re taking it one festival at a time. And he says, it would be great to find a location that allows for camping too.
“We’re looking forward to bringing the festival to life at Deer Lake Park this year and are focusing on making this year a success before we move on to planning the years to come.”
This year’s line-up includes a real mix of music. There are headliners like Ben Harper and The Roots as well as indie hitmakers like Metric and Broken Social Scene as well as lesser-knowns like Mute Math or Future of the Left.
“People come out for the talent,” Bridge says. “People want to go to a festival and learn about new music.” And they also come to hear bands they know andlove, he says.
This year’s party offers plenty of both.
Let’s just hope it doesn’t rain again.