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.
Being green is a very big theme for Outside Lands, with public transportation and zero waste being stressed for all of its festival-goers. Getting to the park isn’t so hard so much as getting to the festival entrances is — an always stressful experience with the lack of signs still plaguing eager fans.
An uncharacteristically hot San Francisco day didn’t help things.
This of course pushed my schedule further out, which made me miss festival openers Autolux and West Indian Girl. Artist and band names are displayed on their respective stages that help clarify things for the uninformed and definitely for those that need a constant reminder.
My first band of the festival was Built To Spill, who immediately began laying into their set. Surprisingly, there were a lot of people out to see them play at the relatively early 2:30 performance. Built to Spill played a lot of fan favorites, and even a couple from their soon-to-be-released seventh full-length album There Is No Enemy.
Because of a slight overlap, I trekked late to see San Francisco-native trio The Dodos. It was refreshing to see so much energy from a young band that seemed pretty stoked to be playing for a large hometown crowd.
Los Angeles indie rockers Silversun Pickups came next and didn’t hesitate to please the audience with their radio hits like “Lazy Eye” and “Well Thought Out Twinkles.” I developed a better appreciation for the band, now that I’ve finally have seen them perform live with all of that energy. Brian Aubert was pretty ecstatic to be there, confessing his personal love for Built To Spill.
I had to high-tail it again to arrive late for the Brooklyn-based quintet The National. From afar, the band has a pseudo-electronic dance sound even though doesn’t use any keyboards or synths regularly. It must have been the atmosphere.
Coincidentally, all of the bands I ended up seeing Friday were either Lands End (the main stage) or Sutro (the anchor stage for the Lindley Meadow area.
Long-time California rockers Incubus (yes they’re still together) gave the crowd a refresher course on Incubus 101. Their brand of California rock got me through high school, and the hour-long set (filled with hits such as “Drive,” “Love Hurts” (including a brief crowd takeover of the song), “Pardon Me,” and my personal favorite “Megalomaniac” brought back so many memories from my adolescence.
It was nice to see people having fun at MLB’s Road Show (with both batting and pitching cages); the Outside Lands salon, which had plenty of patrons waiting to get their hair styled and karaoke (I saw a guy who pretty much has his rendition and performance for Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” down cold); the Experience Created by Heineken (with rotating DJs and a dance floor); and Toyota’s Spot tent that featured a raffle and free ink tattoos (I got a cool blueish updated design of the Toyota logo).
Organizers wanted to create a more well-rounded experience, but the music always seemed to be a more dominant aspect than the arts.
I caught a few minutes of Thievery Corporation located at the other end of the festival area. I’m still bummed the electronic duo shared a similar timeslot with Pearl Jam, but there were a surprisingly large number of people watching the D.C. boys.
Pearl Jam definitely was the day’s highlight. I decided to watch from the press tent (which thankfully is now located near the main field and not miles behind it), and it was cool to see such an enormous crowd on hand. By this time, the sun is setting, and it was an awesome feeling as Eddie Vedder warns “don’t take the brown acid” before darkness fell on San Francisco.
Pearl Jam mixed up their music, bouncing between more popular songs like “Even Flow,” “Dissident,” “Corduroy,” and “Daughter” and simple extended jams. I didn’t see much in the way of candlelight, lighters, or cell phone backlights during the ballads like “Black” or “Nothingman,” but there was the well-received crowd rendition of “Better Man.”
There was no political message from Vedder, although I think his cover of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” to end the show does count for something. It must be noted that a delayed set of fireworks, however, officially ended the evening.
Friday was a great first day at Outside Lands. There were makings for a somewhat filthy Saturday (i.e. discarded cigarette buts, litter) that makes me wish I hadn’t forgotten my Visa Signature card so I could use Visa’s private bathrooms and wish I remember to bring a blanket to sit on.
Live webcasts and archived concert videos can be viewed at YouTube (already available!). Why more concerts and festivals don’t utilize YouTube more is beyond me.
In addition to Autolux, Thievery Corporation and West Indian Girl, I wish I got to see Los Campesinos!, The Duke Spirit, Kinky, and of course Tom Jones. Fan photos and fan videos can be viewed at CrowdFire.