Indie rocker Jack White, dubstep king Skrillex and rapper Nas will headline the 2012 Virgin Mobile FreeFest at Merriweather Post Pavilion, organizers announced today.
Scheduled for Oct. 6 at Merriweather Post Pavilion, the festival's lineup also includes M83, ZZ Top, Santigold, Alabama Shakes, Ben Folds Five, the Dismemberment Plan, Das Racist, Portugal The Man, Trampled by Turtles and Allen Stone.
"Its our version of the best and most real acts out there," said Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P. and Virgin Mobile FreeFest producer. "Relevance is the biggest key [to booking FreeFest.] It's people we think are going to be the most entertaining."
Hurwitz says he "drives everyone crazy" with how long he waits to announce the annual event's lineup. By waiting, Hurwitz allows himself time to see which artists are making the most headlines leading up to FreeFest.
"We wouldn't have booked Nas six months ago" but the success and praise of his recently released album ("Life is Good") changed that, Hurwitz said.
Some acts emerge as good fits for FreeFest after Hurwitz sees them live (Allen Stone and Trampled by Turtles fit that bill), and some are easy decisions based on track records. Jack White falls into the latter.
"Jack is always great," he said. "He's always pushing boundaries and that's the kind of act I personally identify with. He's always taking chances. And a lot of people wanted to see him. There were a lot of requests and guesses for him."
Tickets will be available at noon Aug. 24 at TicketFly. A presale will be held Aug. 23 for Virgin Mobile Live's Twitter followers. Those who attended previous festivals, as well as Virgin Mobile customers, will also get access to the presale.
There will be no surcharge for tickets printed at home or picked up at Merriweather or the 9:30 Club in Washington.
Again this year, organizers are asking fans to donate to REGeneration, Virgin Mobile's effort to end youth homelessness.
The artists will perform on two stages, and in the dance forest. The lineup spans multiple genres, and features a handful of local acts, including Baltimore's Future Islands and D.C. singer/songwriter Justin Jones.
Rounding out the dance forest's lineup will be Above & Beyond, Porter & Zedd, Thomas Gold, Nervo, Alvin Risk and Penguin Prison.
This is the festival's fourth year at Merriweather. Last year's event drew a crowd of about 50,000, organizers said. Before moving to Merriweather, the festival charged admission and took place at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
As has been the case since FreeFest began, Hurwitz says he's taking the event one year at a time, with no indication whether or not there will be another one in 2013.
"With the changing world of budgets and things like that, it's hard to get a company like Virgin pindowned for too long of a time," Hurwitz said. "But they've come back each year saying they want to do it again and we hope they do next year."
Hurwitz says FreeFest is his favorite event to plan and book each year. He says it's "very flattering" to have Merriweather host the event.
"[Virgin founder] Richard Branson and everyone involved just loves Merriweather," he said. "Everyone's very proud of [the show.] It's a world famous event that we get to host. It's an honor really. ... With the tickets given away, it's not a huge moneymaker but it's certainly the most fun show we do."
Baltimore Sun editor Sam Sessa contributed to this post.