Golden Gate Park hosts the Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival again this year, and the experience seems to be much better this time around for the now two-year event.
What would make Saturday a more enjoyable experience is any decrease in temperature. What Mother Nature brought was about as close to a perfect day as a San Francisco visitor could ask for. A warm day, a cool breeze, and cold beer are all part of the makings of a nice festival.
I walked onto the festival grounds in the middle of Zion I, which I must say was quite packed for one of the first acts of the day. A 12:30 start didn’t deter many people from enjoying, and quite possibly staking a claim on a particular valuable piece of concert land.
I attended a press conference with a variety of festival participants, from members of Portugal, The Man and Dengue Fever to the owners of local restaurants Maverick and Dosa and to representatives of both Facebook and YouTube. The latter two websites have been proactive in featuring Outside Lands (Facebook with its popular 14,000+ official fan page and YouTube with its dedicated webcast page), especially with both companies having such close ties to the Bay Area.
I then decided to wander the grounds to simply follow the crowds to see where they take me. I caught some of funk band Extra Golden at the Panhandle Solar stage that featured much interaction and participation from the very enthusiastic crowd.
I then wandered to the Presidio stage where reggae project Groundation provided some much needed mellow music to better relax and lounge to enjoy the very nice day. The group’s front man mentioned that they “don’t play pop music, but conscious (or conscience?) music” so people can enjoy but also can become enlightened and impassioned. I wasn’t expecting any social message but it didn’t seem too condescending.
After, I had a hard choice between seeing Portugal, The Man or Dengue Fever who had the same start times. Unfortunately, I was feeling lazy so since Dengue Fever was on the opposite side of the Lindley Meadow field, the answer was obvious. DF had a ton of energy that infected many in the eager and body-moving crowd.
Boyishly-handsome Jason Mraz was up next, and geez was that section of Polo Field packed. The press tent seemed a like a nice place to catch some of Mraz, while I took pictures of the enormous crowd.
I skipped out a little early to speedwalk my way to the other side of the festival grounds to get a brief look at metal rockers Mastodon. They definitely weren’t like the other festival acts, but a very welcomed change of pace (see concert footage here). They too had a ton of energy and took the stage’s sound system to the limit.
The next two acts were the sole reasons I wanted to go to Outside Lands this year. Natasha Khan’s Bat For Lashes and rock group TV On The Radio. Having seen some of Khan’s taped performances (see her performance on David Letterman), I was expecting a more theatrical performance, but she was very mellow and still very animated (like on opener “Sleep Alone” and “Daniel”). I had never seen the Panhandle Solar stage so packed to see an artist there, and I definitely had to switch my spot for better views. TV On The Radio was my highlight of the day, playing some (“Crying” and “Dancing Choose”) from their most recent album Dear Science and choosing much in the way of extended jam tracks. They ended their set with an industrial and pseudo-electronic version of my favorite “Staring At The Sun.”
Unfortunately, I had to miss Black Eyed Peas who rocked the main stage at the same time. I was told the crowd seemed endless and adored the seemingly brief hour-long set.
I wanted to see Atlanta indie rockers Deerhunter before I scrimmaged for a spot to see Grammy Award winners The Mars Volta. Deerhunter’s set featured a couple of delays. One at the start because most of the band had to take a bathroom break, as well as another during because there was a situation with the drummer. I hesitated to scream wardrobe malfunction, but the situation was more instrument-related that involved a foot pedal.
I’m not going to deny that from this point onward my memory is a little foggy. No, it’s nothing substance-related, but more from a surreal out-of-body mindset. I seemed to float as I listened to Mars Volta and got basically hypnotized from the well-choreographed lights. Somehow I made it to the press tent to watch the rest of Dave Matthews Band.
While not a huge fan, I definitely enjoyed the performance. One of the constant pluses for the band is that they supremely rock at concerts (which run in the hours, not minutes), and Outside Lands seemed to benefit from that expectation. At one point, the band was joined onstage by Fergie and at least one member who isn‘t Fergie (and I want to say apl.de.ap). That sounds terrible, I know but my view wasn‘t great nor was anyone around me soliciting their knowledge nor did Dave Matthews, at least I could understand, comment.
I didn’t realize how raspy Matthews’ voice was until tonight. Lucky there was so much going on around him that his vocals weren’t the biggest part of the music. I also couldn’t help but notice that both the video screen and sound seemed more clear tonight than last night for Pearl Jam’s performance. Eh, fog can have its effect I guess.
And as a couple of side notes, I poked my head into the Outside Lands salon, and some girl was singing (although not really performing) her heart out with the awesomeness of Journey. I also poked my head into the The Beatles: Rock Band tent, and caught a mixed-bag of enthusiasm from a group of wannabe Beatles. I managed to accomplish the impossible: cheer and cringe at the exact same time.