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Smashing Pumpkins and the Wu-Tang Clan Deliver the Hits at Virgin Festival Day Two

Day two of the second-ever U.S. Virgin Festival opened with a shrieking “Hello, Baltimore!” from Lovefoxx of the Brazilian band CSS, just before she began aerobic exercises in her rainbow-striped sequin unitard. The band tried to keep the energy up with songs like “Alala,” but fell victim to a small and low-energy morning crowd.

Inside the Dance Tent, Girl Talk had no such problems. The mash-up pro greeted a rowdy audience and managed to throw a kick-ass party at 12:30 PM by playing remixes of nearly every popular hip-hop song from the last decade (“Whoop There It Is” even snuck into the playlist), including a blend of Wu-Tang and the Police, an ode to two of the festival’s main attractions. Aside from minor technical problems caused by dancing too hard on stage (skipping files and accidentally unplugging the computer), Girl Talk’s Greg Gillis got the crowd hyped for the full day ahead of them.

Matisyahu drew the first huge crowd of the day with his performance on the South Stage. His dub vibe was perfect for a hot daytime set, and crowd members could not help but dance around and share stories of his past performances as they sweated along. Luckily, a cool breeze blew in just as Spoon took the stage for what was possibly the most impressive and consistent set of the day, stocked with songs from their new album including “Don’t Make Me A Target” and “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb.” Playing large crowds seems like second nature to Britt Daniel and the gang, and these guys could be a major single (or an iPod commercial) away from closing out festivals instead of being a mid-day gem.

Next up, Panic! At The Disco did what they do split the audience in half. Fans usually on the younger end of the crowd danced and sang along to every word, while the rest of the audience seemed to be reminding themselves to be patient and wait for the Smashing Pumpkins. But for a moment the Vegas group managed to unite almost everyone with a cover of the Band’s “The Weight.”

Richard Branson himself came out to see the Wu’s late-afternoon set. The Virgin founder (and man responsible for the weekend’s festival) stood on the side platform as the crowd threw up the Ws and chanted “Wu-Tang” at a deafening volume while awaiting Shaolin’s finest. Wu-Tang seemed to be the reason most people came to Pimlico (there were more Wu-Tang shirts at the fest than tees for any other act) and the Clan did not disappoint, as the whole crew showed up to perform all the classics (“C.R.E.A.M,” “Protect Ya Neck,” “Ice Cream”). Once early mic trouble was fixed (after Method Man had the crowd scream “get it right” to the sound engineers), Meth took over most of the talking (he also covered most of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s verses), and all of the crowd surfing, rapping full verses while standing on fans’ shoulders like he recently did at New York’s Rock the Bells. But Raekwon, Ghostface, GZA, Inspector Deck and the rest of the crew still smoked on the mic.

You know times have changed when an O’Doul’s bottle is prominently displayed on an amp at Slash and Duff’s show. As rain began to fall, Velvet Revolver took the stage, opening with “Let it Roll,” the first song on their new album Libertad. Fans stuck it out through their soggy but solid set (which featured a strong rendition of “Fall to Pieces”), then migrated to the North Stage for Smashing Pumpkins’ headlining slot, which was a great reminder that Billy Corgan and Co. are still built to rock hard and loud in front of tens of thousands at epic outdoor concerts. The set, which included Corgan’s chilling version of “The Star Spangled Banner,” was powerful and striking, and classics like “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” “Today,” “Tonight, Tonight” and â”1979″ served as reminders of the Pumpkins enduring dexterity and power on the big stages.


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