Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival 08/14/11
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
After a wonderful breakfast with my parents, my crew and I were en route to the city for the final day of Outside Lands. A weird day in the sense that I only wanted to see three bands (of course two were at the same time), but the two I wanted to see were the biggest draws at the festival for me not named Phish. With hardly a cloud in the sky, we entered the gates and enjoyed every last minute of our day together in Golden Gate Park.
My wonderful hosts for the weekend (thank you again for everything James and Kelly) had a friend who was performing at some point in The Barbary. What is The Barbary you ask? Well The Barbary was a tent set up on the polo field that featured comedy, vaudeville and as one person was overheard saying “a shit ton of carny’s.” Some of the bigger names to grace the tent (who I was unable to catch) included Paul F. Tompkins and Gallagher. Here is a rundown on what I did witness.
Renegade Rockers – a four piece break dancing crew who can move their bodies in ways I can only dream of.
Bullwhip Tango – two gals with some serious snake dancing and sword balancing skills. Oh and then this dude with a bullwhip came out and destroyed a bunch of flowers held in various positions.
Ethan Law and his amazing Cyr Wheel.
I also was lucky enough to catch two quick songs from The Barbary house band Jazz Mafia. I have been told that Jazz Mafia has hundreds of members, but on this occasion they only had four. The four rocking the tent were not only insanely talented, but a lot of fun to watch.
With time to kill, I suggested we check out Los Angeles up-and-comers Grouplove. The good news is that there was a massive crowd surrounding the tiny Panhandle Stage (the smallest stage at Outside Lands, it runs 100% on solar power). The bad news is we were so far back; we were unable to hear them. So we did what most folks did; sat down drank a beer and enjoyed the company of each other.
Still enjoying the company of each other, I decided to run (and yes I ran and yes my shorts almost fell of and yes I almost took out a three year old which is why I stopped running) over to the Twin Peaks stage to see what !!! is all about. Yeah, much like STRFKR the day before, not my thing so I headed back to my crew for more lounging in the park.
Little known fact – John Fogerty and I share a birthday. It is this reason and this reason alone that I went to check out his main stage set. OK, that’s a lie; I went to check out his main stage set so I could get closer to the bands that performed after him. Well that and the fact the man is a living legend.
As far as the set goes, Fogerty did a great job of rocking the ever-growing crowd. He did a fine job of walking the line between playing material from his solo career and hits from CCR. Some of the bigger hits that I recognized included “Lodi” “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?” “Fortunate Son” and “Down On The Corner.” Chances are I would have never gone out and see Fogerty on his own, but at the ripe age of 56 I have to say the man can still rock.
Back in 2007 I saw The Decemberists perform at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. While I wanted to see the band perform again, I just had this fear that nothing could top that magical night under the stars. With The Hazards Of Love in heavy rotation these days I was finally ready for round two with the Portland Oregon based band.
The group got the massive main stage crowd up on their feet as soon as the opening notes of “July, July!” For the next 70 minutes the band made the crowd laugh, fight, scream and check their dictionary.com smart phone in order to decipher the lyrics of front man Colin Meloy. As a matter of fact, Meloy was in fine form on this Sunday afternoon. When not begging the Michele Bachmann 2012 Presidential Campaign to use the groups “Calamity Song” out on the campaign trail, Meloy was encouraging fans to camel fight during “The Soldiering Life.”
I felt the highlight of the set was “Won’t Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)” which featured former Nickel Creek member Sara Watkins on lead vocal. Watkins (who is currently filling in for keyboardist Jenny Conlee while she kicks the crap out of breast cancer) somehow managed to make her vocals sound better live than the original vocals on the Hazards record.
After great takes of “We Both Go Down Together” “O Valencia!” and “This Is Why We Fight” the group closed with “The Mariner’s Revenge Song.” Part performance art, part rock opera and some serious crowd participation made this the perfect closer for the quirky yet loveable Northwestern rockers. While a 70 minute festival set can no way compare to a night at the Bowl with the LA Phil, The Decemberists not only outshined Arcade Fire, but were the best set I caught at Outside Lands by a band not named Phish.
It was basically a year ago when The Suburbs dropped into my lap after a trip home to San Francisco. There is always a depression that comes over me in the days after I visit my home town and return to Los Angeles. Not really an Arcade Fire fan, The Suburbs not only helped ease the pain that comes from giving up The City for a life in Los Angeles, but made me realize that perhaps there was something truly special about Arcade Fire. If my extended trip home had to come to an end, I felt good knowing that it would end with another round with the life changing musicians who call Montreal home.
Taking the stage a few minutes before their announced 8:10 pm start time Arcade Fire got the crowd going with “Ready To Start.” The early part of the set was filled with songs from The Suburbs including “Empty Room” and “Rocco.” Much like Colin Meloy of The Decemberists; Arcade Fire front man Win Butler was very chatty. When not sharing his love of San Francisco while making sure to get some jokes in about the high cost of living, he was encouraging folks to donate to relief efforts in Haiti before playing the song that shares a name with the struggling nation.
As the 90 minute set progressed the band rewarded the young rabid fan base who had waited up front all day for their heroes with their biggest numbers. While it may have been lost upon the Grammy audience, “Month of May” is the perfect Polo Field rocker while “Rebellion (Lies)” actually caused the crowd to pogo up and down like one would see at a European festival. The biggest highlight of the set was the closing song “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out).” Some kids crowd surfed, others freaked out as group rocked the masses hard while swallowed by bright red lights.
With a few minutes remaining before the strict 9:45 pm curfew, the grateful band returned with 1-2 punch of “Wake Up” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).” While the day job may have ruined “Wake Up” I was thrilled that the entire weekend would end with the powerful “Sprawl II.” From the pulsating drums to the hypnotic vocals of Regine Chassagne this song is why Arcade Fire is one of the most powerful bands of their generation.
So with that my first trip to Outside Lands was complete. Sure there were a few hiccups, but overall a truly magical event that I am thankful I was finally able to be part of. Hope to be back in 2012.