Mother Nature seemed to be enjoying the fourth annual Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park because it gave festivalgoers a second straight day of sun and warm weather on Sunday (August 14, 2011). And maybe Mother Nature was rewarding the City by the Bay after San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee proclaimed a day earlier that this weekend (approximately the second weekend in August) would be “Outside Lands weekend forever!”
Whatever the reason, experiencing Sunday’s festivities on a cloudless day was joyful, only enhanced by a mellow atmosphere and similarly lively and passionate music as carried over from the previous day. And I wasn’t disappointed.
East Bay natives The Fresh & Onlys began the day with a relaxed noontime performance at the Sutro Stage. The band’s garage rock stylings set a good tone, especially in “Feelings In My Heart,” for the start of the festival, sharp yet pleasant contrast to the following act, Merrill Garbus’ eclectic musical project tUnE-YarDs, complete with unadulterated grooves and raw beats (“Real Live Flesh” was a treat). Garbus tried to prepare the crowd for the remaining festivities by providing people with a brief exercise—hand waving and knee bouncing. Consider yourself prepared.
Those who saw Mavis Staples at the Lands End Stage were treated to a wonderful showing by the legendary gospel singer, highlighted with her being joined onstage by Arcade Fire‘s Win Butler for a cover of The Band’s “The Weight.”
Los Angeles-based indie pop band Grouplove introduced crammed patrons at the smaller Panhandle Stage to much of the band’s upcoming and mostly upbeat and poppy full-length debut Never Trust A Happy Song (“Spun” was especially good). It was fun to hear when lead singer Christian Zucconi noticed that someone near the front received an explosion of pineapple juice to the face.
Sacramento-native dance-punk band !!! (pronounced chk chk chk) had the most lively and energetic performance of the day, as lead singer Nic Offer jumped both on and off the stage numerous times. It was hard to miss Offer’s unorthodox dance moves, which can be best described as a cross between half-pelvic thrusts and air grinding. Whatever it was got the crowd completely into the music as they joined in the head-bopping and body-shaking beats.
Portland-based indie folk rock band The Decemberists did what it could to encapsulate its thematic music (hint: think rock opera) into an hour-long set. For the most part, the band did well, weaving between the band’s many works, such as “We Both Go Down Together” from 2005′s Picaresque and “Won’t Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)” from 2009′s The Hazards of Love. In a kind gesture, lead singer Colin Meloy dedicated one song to Michelle Bachmann’s 2012 Presidential Campaign.
Zachary Condon, lead singer of Beirut, was especially excited to see such a huge crowd to see his band perform. He explained that he “was really happy that you chose to see us over Gallagher” (whose last comedic performance coincided with theirs). Beirut’s worldly folk stylings (“Nantes,” the timeless “Postcards From Italy,” and “Mount Wroclai”) coincided perfectly with the sun setting; even a young gopher was moved, as it poked its head out to enjoy the music.
Headliner Arcade Fire got the festival’s final performance off to an immediately raucous start with the mega hit “Ready To Start.” I was dumbfounded to hear the song so early in the set, but that just meant that the band had something special lined up for the crowd.
The Canadian indie rock band literally wowed the crowd for its entire 90-minute set, including songs from their Grammy-winning album The Suburbs like “Month of May” and “We Used To Wait,” and from Funeral like “Rebellion (Lies)” and “Haiti” (but not before Butler took time to bring the crowd’s attention to Haiti’s continued need for aid and support). Arcade Fire truly saved the best for last with “Wake Up” which got everyone singing along (it was really something to experience) and an extended version of “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).”