Assistant Spectrum Editor
It’s likely a number of your neighbors were crammed into two blocks of Shockoe Bottom last night to witness Girl Talk and Best Coast, headlining the first ever RVA Music Fest alongside a slew of Richmond’s best-loved bands. Perhaps you were there, as well.
As of press time, event workers placed the attendance tally at “a lot (of people).” Fittingly, by the time Greg Gillis, better known as superstar mash-up artist Girl Talk, stormed the main stage at 9 p.m., 18th Street had been rendered impassable by the pulsating crowd.
Gillis was accompanied by a small army of onstage ravers armed with glowsticks and leafblower-propelled toilet paper emitters.
Concert security guards braced the barrier that separated the crowd from the stage as it ominously swayed under the shifting weight of the ravenous concertgoers.
It was a literal pile of people.
The front gates at 18th and E. Main streets, an area which claims hotspots like Fallout and La Bamba Mexican Restaurant, opened at 2 p.m. with performances on stage one by The Silent Age and White Laces, and on stage two, by Proverbial and Luggage.
By 6 p.m., growing crowds for each successive act were forced into tighter, more compact masses of dancing bodies.
Amelia Kirby, freshman environmental studies major, commented on the representation of Richmond culture in the surrounding crowd. “This is more Richmond’s artistic, funky side,” she said, “I think RVA is very faceted … this is its more interesting side.”
Kirby, waiting on the asphalt by stage two with two friends, said that she had initially just been interested in seeing Girl Talk perform, but after reading a profile on local sensation Black Girls printed in the Commonwealth Times, she shifted her enthusiasm their way.
“They’ve gotten really popular really quickly,” Kirby said of the group, of which all the members are VCU students or recent graduates.
“It’s great for us here at VCU, because now when they get really big, we can all say we saw them when they were performing around Richmond, you know?”
With the smell of cigarettes and overpriced festival beer in the air, glam band Black Girls took the stage. A loyal contingent of fans sang the chorus of “So Sorry” as frontman Drew Gillihan channeled Freddy Mercury as he belted theatrically.
When asked about Black Girls’ performance, VCU sophomore psychology and anthropology double major Amber Gauldin responded, “I f****** … orgasmed, and whatnot.”
Other listeners were more critical of their listening experience.
“I thought they were pretty boring when I saw them,” said Patrick Wiley, a senior at VCU, of The Diamond Center’s performance. “I think you have to be really baked to enjoy them.”
Dreamy as they have been, The Diamond Center’s drift through mid tempo selections reached a climax in their set that expertly featured the group’s spacey rifts and reflective vocals. The group’s performance in the baking mid-afternoon sun drew as much audience approval as they have generated in house shows and venues across Richmond.
Christina Phillips, a junior communication arts major at VCU, enjoyed The Center’s performance. “I thought it was really good,” she said. “They had really good energy and the crowd interaction was really good.”
Richmond mainstay No BS! Brass was the last group to grace stage two. Drummer Lance Koehler hit his usual groove in “Boss Battle,” and the other members of No BS! followed suit. A flurry of earsplitting trumpet solos and the group’s trademark distorted megaphone vocals earned them more attention from Fest patrons with each passing song.
As No BS!’s performance wrapped up on stage 2, RVA Music Fest’s second headliner – Californian lo-fi pop outfit Best Coast – was in mid-set.
Frontwoman Bethany Consentino nonchalantly delivered simplistic lyrics in approximately two minute bursts, much to the delight of the crowd. Though having songs that blend together may be a valued quality in a recorded album, it made for a less than memorable live performance from Best Coast.
Consentino’s own comments to the crowd served, in their own way, as a fitting prelude to the remainder of the evening: “Is everyone drunk?”
The crowd roared. “Good.” It roared again. “Get … drunker.”