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Landmark Music Festival brings something new to DC


The year was 2013. I was sitting next to my cool new high school friend in the backseat of her car with Vampire Weekend blasting through the speakers. Excitement was running through our bodies, which were dressed in frilly crop tops, high waisted shorts, and oversized cardigans. Her dad was giving us a ride to our first-ever music festival, Virgin Mobile FreeFest, which was taking place at the Merriweather Post Pavilion. We were both pressed as heck to be hip enough to not only listen to indie bands, but be so invested that we payed $50 to go see a bunch.

FreeFest is one of my most cherished memories. My friend and I had a blast, running back and forth from stage to stage in hopes of catching every band possible. We met Sky Ferreira, saw MGMT and Icona Pop, and at the end of the day, waited three hours in the pouring rain to be in the pit for Vampire Weekend, who played an incredible set. It was amazing.

The next year, FreeFest was discontinued.

I tried to fulfill my musical spirit with Sweetlife- twice actually, I wasn’t planning on attending this year, but my previously mentioned friend stumbled upon a pair of free tickets. Both years, despite some outstanding performers, I got the impression that no one was there for the music. It was more like a massive scale high school party than a festival. The sense of respect and appreciation for the performers that I loved so much at FreeFest was nowhere to be found.

When the inaugural Landmark Music Festival was announced, I got my hopes up that maybe, just maybe, the ticket I so rapidly purchased would bring me to a fun festival that made the music a priority. This past weekend, these hopes were met.

Landmark took place in West Potomac Park, which runs right along the Potomac River. It was refreshing to have a festival that was metro accessible, only a 20 minute commute away, as oppose to having to cram in the car with my friends for an hour while reading Google Map directions to my dad. The location itself is beautiful. It’s minutes away from the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument could be seen from many of the stages.

A shining star of the festival was the food selection, which featured DC favorites such as Ben’s Chili Bowl, Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza, and The Big Cheese. When I got to the front of the Amsterdam Falafel line, I encountered the same guy who serves me my deep-fried chickpea balls in Adams Morgan, and I felt right at home.

The festival featured 40 artists on five different stages, over two days. Alt-J, CHVRCHES, Wale, and The War on Drugs were all present, just to name a few. Drake and The Strokes headlined. It’s been far too long since so much talent has been in the District all at once, and I felt a strong sense of DC pride walking along the grounds of the National Mall.

From what I got to see and what I heard from friends and fellow concert-goers, the performers were for the most part consistently stellar. TV on the Radio, who I had never heard of prior to the festival, showcased some of the most musical talent I’ve ever seen in person. Wale gave Wilson a shout out. Alt-J gave an exquisite performance, the combination of their lighting and their hauntingly beautiful songs made for a magical experience. Drake show was bursting with an energy that was reflected in the crowd, and despite being Canadian, he ended the show with exciting patriotic fireworks. The Strokes, who have been my favorite band since 6th grade, surpassed all my expectations. I’m obviously biased, but their set was the best concert I’ve ever attended. The performance was genuine and passionate, the set list was unexpected, and from what I observed, the fans I was surrounded with felt the same connection to the music that I did.

However, the festival wasn’t a total success. When I arrived on Saturday, I met my friends in the line for Shake Shack, and found out they had been waiting for over three hours (I came in at a clutch time– I only had to wait in line ten minutes with them before a delicious red velvet custard was in my hands), and I heard similar stories from other friends throughout the day. The lines for the porta potties were better, but not by much, and the toilet paper ran out very quickly. The biggest problem lied in the aim of Landmark: raising money to restore the National Mall. After doing a little reading, I learned that there was probably very little profit for the cause due to all the money spent on the festival itself, as tends to happen the start up year of a charity festival.

At least some awareness was raised for the issue– thousands of people left Landmark sporting a golden temporary tattoo reading #MakeYourMark (a hashtag used to inform people why the festival was taking place), along with a little drawing of the Mall.

Flaws were to be expected given that this was the festival’s first year, and despite these problems, Landmark brought something that was badly needed to our nation’s capital. I’m proud that such a wonderful showcase of talent happened in my city, and I hope this was the first of many.