Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival 08/12/11
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
Over the past few years, I have come home to the Bay Area on Outside Lands weekend. Yet instead of watching historic performances by the likes of Pearl Jam, Widespread Panic and Ween I have watched friends get married. With no nuptials planned for 2011 I purchased my three day pass the second they went on sale.
My friends and I hit the park Friday afternoon as New York based Phantogram were performing on the Sutro stage. Most of their set was spent waiting in line for an alcohol ID and then of course for the first of many $9 beers. With a large crowd gathered, I enjoyed what I heard of the duo (who performed as a trio live) and confirmed that I indeed need to dig deeper into the group. Highlight for me was walking up just in time to record the one jam I actually know from the group – “Mouthful of Diamonds.”
The Original Meters
Having caught The Funky Meters around the Bay a few times in the late 90’s, I knew that my proper Outside Lands 2011 kick off would be the main stage performance from The Meters. The set started out great with a tight run through “Fire On The Bayou.” Yet it was during “Struttin’” that the entire performance fell apart. The amplifier of guitarist Leo Nocentelli died and for at least 15 minutes various tech heads did everything they could to get it back up and running. With a festival running on a tight schedule, the remaining three members of the group jammed while joking with the crowd. Sadly by the time the problem was fixed many in the crowd had moved onto other stages. I did enjoy what little of the set was left, but talk about a tough break for some true living legends that deserve much better.
Foster The People
It was perfect. I was able to hear the rock radio summer jam of 2011 “Pumped Up Kicks” from a porta-potty. Let’s be honest here folks (and if time proves me wrong, then feel free to mock me) but I get the feeling this jam is a lot like “Sex and Candy” by Marcy’s Playground or “Handlebars” by Flobots. Here today, gone tomorrow and a perfect soundtrack when pissing into a plastic urinal while surrounded by other people’s excrement.
I have no doubt in my mind that 9 out of 10 individuals who packed the Polo Fields for MGMT’s set will tell you that the band sucked. I am not one of those individuals because not only did the groups second record Congratulations make my top 10 list last year, I understand that this band has blown up before they had time to mature as a band. Opening with “Flash Delirium” the set was heavy on the more challenging material from Congratulations. While I feel the band works better in a smaller venue, jams like “It’s Working” and “Siberian Breaks” still managed to get me moving. Where fans in every city get down to “Electric Feel” one can’t deny that it feels a bit more special here in San Francisco as our two time Cy Young Award winner (and not to mention World Fuckin’ Champ) Tim Lincecum warms up to this song. Looking across the Polo Field (and really anywhere at Outside Lands) you can’t escape the sea of Black and Orange gear which is a bittersweet feeling for a lifelong Giants fan who has defended his team for a decade now at Dodgers Stadium, but I digress.
While I have never heard of the band England’s Glory, MGMT does a mighty damn good job rocking their song “Broken Arrows.” With some slight jamming at the end of the song, it was the perfect treat for those who gathered at the main stage all day in hopes to secure a sweet spot for Phish. Perhaps the best part of MGMT’s set was the fact they didn’t play “Kids.” Yes I know this upset the masses, but the song simply would not have fit in with the overall mood of the set. I’d rather see a band try to make a solid cohesive statement with their slot versus making the crowd happy by simply going through the motions and playing the hits.
I can’t think of a more perfect way to end my west coast Phish run then a Friday night in Golden Gate Park. The day was already off to a good start when despite no “lot scene” I managed to find my “I’m Just a Little Phreaked Out” SF Giants/Phish West Coast Lot shirt (thanks James) a few hours before the boys hit the stage. I once again ended up Page Side Rage Side (4 for 4 in 2011) and was shocked when the band hit the stage at 6:30pm sharp with the opening “Kill Devil Falls.”
While it may have been advertised as two sets, I knew going into this one that Phish would have to walk the fine line of appeasing phans while creating an enjoyable set for noobs, hipsters and those who wandered over to the main stage after Big Boi failed to perform his set. From rockers like “Wilson” to covers like Frank Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia” it was clear Phish was walking the line perfectly. For the hardcore phans, while the band didn’t break out anything too crazy, you can’t really complain when “Mound” “Tweezer” “Suzy Greenberg” and “Mike’s Song>I Am Hydrogen>Weekapaug Groove” all find their way into the first set. Oh, and for those who have seen multiple shows, when was the last time you saw drummer Jon Fishman rock a hoodie under his Muumuu?
Set II kicked off with a balls to the wall “Rock and Roll.” While it never reached the madness that was the Gorge version this one was solid from start to stop. With thick fog choking Golden Gate Park all day, the third ever performance of “Steam” added a lot more fluffiness to the marine layer. Having just heard the band cover “Roses Are Free” by Ween for the first time a week ago at the Gorge, I was beyond pumped to hear this one again (as was my non Phish loving friend James). Speaking of covers, I got my first take on the recently dusted off David Bowie gem “Life on Mars?” Keyboardist/vocalist Page McConnell sounded great leading the charge into one of the more serious sections of the night.
With the crowd now in their pocket, the second set closed with “Birds of a Feather>Fluffhead>Backwards Down The Number Line>Also Sprach Zarathustra>Chalkdust Torture.” “Fluffhead” was technically perfect impressing all walks of music fans and for the new folks, once they realized they were hearing the theme from 2001 – well let’s just say many were converted in that moment. While a “Chalkdust Torture” closer may bring tears to the eyes of old school phans, it was the perfect way to wrap the second set. One would have thought Guitarist/lead vocalist Trey Anastasio was performing in a band like Mastodon or At The Drive-In he was rocking so hard on stage. With a massive crowd spread across the Polo Fields, it was a great exclamation point on a successful night.
With a strict curfew of 10pm, the band came out with just enough time to tear through an encore of “Cavern>Tweezer Reprise.” Knowing that the over-the-head clapping of “Mound” and jumping during “Fluffhead” had already brought smiles to the face of both old and brand new Phish phans; the little leg kick that Anastasio and bassist Mike Gordon perform during “Cavern” was lovingly imitated by some hipster gals in Native American head dresses next to us. With such a huge PA, I am pretty sure the bass bombs from Gordon during “Tweezer Reprise” tipped over at least ½ of the porta-potties (good thing I used it during Foster the People eh).
While I was sad that my mini Phish run was now over, I was at least excited that my friends who did not enjoy some of the Shoreline shows I dragged them to back in the day enjoyed the show. Phish managed to please long time phans and make some new ones in the process. Now, I sit and wait for the band to once again return to the West Coast in 2012 for more face melting action.