Virgin Mobile FreeFest: 2009 CM&P Award Finalist

The National at the Virgin Mobile FreeFest. Aug. 30, 2009. Merriweather Post Pavillion.
Jessica Letkemann

Tapping into the economic realities of the country, Virgin Mobile USA teamed with Washington D.C. promoter I.M.P. to offer the third annual Virgin Mobile Festival for free, creating Virgin Mobile FreeFest on Sunday, August 30, at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md. The move to a free event celebrated both a giveback to music fans in a bad economy as well as an effort to solicit donations to homeless youth agencies in need around the country via the RE*Generation, Virgin Mobile's charitable initiative.


Previous Virgin Mobile Festival ticket buyers and Virgin Mobile customers had the first crack at securing the 35,000 free tickets, which were scooped up in minutes. Virgin Mobile then made thousands of additional tickets available to encourage people to volunteer time to homeless youth shelters and other community causes. Volunteers were given free transportation from Boston, N.Y., and Philadelphia -- and Virgin America even donated a plane to fly west-coast volunteers in for free.

Music lovers paid the good karma forward for our nation's homeless youth: Attendees performed more than 30,000 hours of volunteer time, about $80,000 was raised for homeless youth shelters, 7,000 hygiene kits for homeless kids were created, and Converse donated 1,000 pairs of Chuck Taylor sneakers.

The grounds and facilities of the Merriweather Post Pavilion were expanded to accommodate the multiple stage and dance tent set-up from previous festivals. The event featured full-length sets by Weezer, Blink-182, Franz Ferdinand, Public Enemy, Jet, the National, Girl Talk, the Bravery, the Hold Steady, St. Vincent, Wale, Taking Back Sunday and Sundays Roulette, as well as a dance tent that included HOLY F*CK, Pete Tong, Danny Howells and Lee Burridge.

Added to the day were such memorable moments as Sir Richard Branson, Flavor Flav of Public Enemy and Tom DeLonge of Blink-182 guest bartending together, with a dollar from every drink sold going to homeless youth. Also on hand were Redbull skydivers who landed on the Pavilion roof, greeted by Sir Richard and a bottle of cold champagne. The Lucky Layoff Lounge was a huge hit, with prizes given away every 10 minutes, including Sony Playstations, Gibson guitars, roundtrip flights on Virgin America, and Kyocera cell phones with free Virgin Mobile service.