The free tickets may already be snapped up for Virgin Mobile’s FreeFest, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still get in free.
You just have to work for it.
In an unusual charity-benefit twist, promoters for the day-long music festival Aug. 30 at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., set aside 3,000 more tickets as rewards to fans willing to volunteer time for the homeless.
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Thirteen hours of service at select homeless organizations gets a VIP pass; eight hours earns general admission. (Volunteering details will be posted today on virginmobilefestival.com.) And those who already have tickets are being asked to donate $5.
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“Social giving is at an all-time low,” says Virgin Mobile USA’s Ron Faris. “There are 2 million young people out there ages 12 to 24 who are homeless. So we’re willing to eat the cost of a $100 ticket, if people can just donate $5 to help homeless youth organizations that have been decimated by this economy.”
Other concerts this recession-ravaged summer have looked for innovative and economical ways to fill seats. Rothbury and Bonnaroo festivals enticed fans with layaway plans. LiveNation offers four-packs (buy three tickets, get one free). No Doubt ticket buyers get free downloads.
But the 17-band concert, headlined by Weezer, Blink-182, Franz Ferdinand and Public Enemy, is one of the rare major music fests to go completely free.
“Free gets more publicity for Virgin and the bands,” says Pollstar editor in chief Gary Bongiovanni. “From the band’s perspective, Merriweather is a great place to play, the fans are appreciative of the free tickets, and that goodwill will transfer to the bands’ performances. And the charity component should be commended. Virgin didn’t have to add that.”
The 35,000 “free” tickets went “on sale” Saturday and disappeared immediately.
“The idea of a FreeFest that focuses on helping other people on such a massive scale, especially in this economy, is very ambitious,” Blink-182 singer Tom Delonge says. “My other band, Angels & Airwaves, did a thing in New York City where we had kids do community service to get into our show.”
“My fiancée worked in mental health for years, and homelessness can happen to anyone,” says Cam Muncey of Australian rock group JET. “Just because someone has hit a hard patch doesn’t mean they should be forgotten.”
Can music fans look forward to more free festivals? “This kind of gesture isn’t going to be replicated anytime soon,” Bongiovanni says. “After all, not many people can write a check that big except for (Virgin founder) Sir Richard Branson.”
Most people choose the instrument they play but in Mark Hoppus’ case, the bass chose him. Although he writes most songs using a guitar and can find his away around a keyboard, becoming a bassist was his calling. He sees the bass as the ultimate connector – a bridge between the drums and the guitar. “The bass sets a foundation for all the melodies laid on top of it – it requires a lot of taste,” he says.
A native of Ridgecrest, CA, Mark experimented with music in his childhood but it wasn’t until he heard the music of The Cure that he knew he wanted to be involved in the industry. It helped him develop his musical taste which presently includes everything from Kayne West to The Beach Boys.
Mark made his claim to fame as one third of the infamous trio that made up multi-platinum selling punk band Blink 182 that released the acclaimed album “Enema of the State” which produced hit singles such as “All the Small Things,” “What’s my Age Again?” and the controversial “Adam’s Song.” Mark, Travis Barker and Tom DeLonge used the popularity of these songs to spearhead their “anti-boy band movement” in the late 90s, recruiting millions of youth that became devout fans. Unlike most bands that broke up in their heyday, the members of Blink 182 went on to take part in critically successful side projects thanks to unwavering fans.
During their hiatus, Mark and Travis went on to create + 44 and Tom started Angels & Airwaves. While both bands made reputable impressions on the charts both endeavors were put on the backburner to focus on even more personal projects, with Mark concentrating on music production.
An avid supporter of new bands/artists in music whose styles are both similar and vastly different than his own, Mark has found time to produce a number of albums throughout the years such as New Found Glory’s “Not Without a Fight,” Socratic’s “Spread the Rumors,” Koopa’s “Lies Tell Stories,” Something For Rocket’s “One Track Mind,” The Matches’ “Decomposer” and co-produced Idiot Pilot’s “Wolves” with Ross Robinson. He’s also written tracks including Less Than Jake’s “The Rest of My Life,” MXPX’s “Wrecking Hotel Rooms” and “Until the Stars Fall” from the Fired Up! Soundtrack with Richard Gibbs.
Most recently, Mark has been in the studio with the band Motion City Soundtrack, producing their fourth album for Columbia Records. Hoppus last worked with the group on their 2005 sophomore release, “Commit This to Memory.” He also recently remixed the Fall Out Boy hit, “America’s Suitehearts” that peaked at # 5 on the Top Songs list on iTunes.
Mark takes his job as a producer very seriously while finding a sincere gratification in helping other artists. “I enjoy finding bands that have a lot of talent and helping them direct their music in the best way I can. I love being in studio, having an idea and being able to evolve their idea. The moment an idea they had becomes an actual song – that’s an amazing thing to witness,” he says. And even though he produces and writes music for other artists in his same genre, Mark insists he doesn’t see them as competition. “Music is music, bands don’t compete with each other, they inspire one another.”
After being immersed in the music industry for about a decade Mark knows he hasn’t done it all. Above and beyond all the successes Blink 182 has helped Mark accomplish, it has only inspired him to do more. “Every step feels like the best thing. From our first club date where we felt like we were on top of world, when we finished our first album, when we got signed to label, to our first platinum record, I’m always surprised at what we’ve achieved and I’m humbled. I hope truly hope that I haven’t reached my greatest achievement yet.”
As an artist himself with a hand in the work of so many others, Mark has been juggling the hat of musician and producer for quite some time. He notes, “It’s a balance between the two, but first comes being in a band and playing our songs on stage,” which is part of why he’s so passionate about his role in Blink 182.
On February 8, 2009, Blink 182 announced their reunion at the 2009 Grammy Awards, leaving a lot of pondering minds asking, why now? Mark answers this simply, “A lot of things led to this…time for us to talk to each other, but mostly because it felt natural. We all had time to do our own thing, work on our own projects to bring us back together as a better band.”
Once again united, Blink 182 continues to be a band that hopes to push themselves artistically more so now due to the space and new influences they’ve all been exposed to. “All we wanted to do is play as loud and fast as we could – we still love doing that but now we’re open to trying different ideas and instrumentations.”
In the process of trying new approaches, Mark has been enjoying spending time with his bandmates. “It’s great to be back in the studio with the band bouncing ideas off one another. It’s the collaborative effect,” he says, “That’s where the magic really happens.”
As for this latest project with Blink 182 Mark assures his fans, “We’re going to record an amazing album, have a great tour this summer and we’re going to continue doing what we do best, write the best songs, have a great time and invite everyone to come along with us.”
Mark lives in Los Angeles with his wife Skye and their son, Jack.