How much music can one person listen to over the course of a long weekend? On the other hand, how many feet can Golden Gate Park handle throughout a long weekend? Hopefully the answer to both questions is one more day of either, as Sunday, August 12, was the last event of the fifth annual Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in San Francisco.
Generally the last festival day is the mellowest since most festivalgoers got their fill of alcohol and whatnot on the day and night before. Being chill and relaxed are usually written on people’s faces, and Sunday was really no exception.
The first performance of the day was British teen singer-songwriter Birdy (Jasmine Van den Bogaerde) who sang and played piano throughout her set. This being her first festival performance, she smiled whenever there was a shout-out from the crowd and looked very excited to be performing at the Panhandle stage. Her cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” brought out the biggest applause from the audience as well as the most camera phones to record her.
Immediately after Birdy, I went toward the Twin Peaks stage where a sizable crowd had already gathered for electronic/dance/hip-hop duo Big Gigantic. Lead singer Dominic Lalli was instantly a head-turning musician as he rocked out on a saxophone (not really a common occurrence in his genre) while his partner Jeremy Salken rocked the drums to a surprisingly boisterous crowd. Watch a live video clip from the band performing a remix of Kanye West’s “Get Em High.”
Bluegrass band Trampled by Turtles performed at Sutro stage to many listeners eager for traditional tunes to hear while waiting for the sun to pierce through the afternoon clouds. The latter didn’t really happen, but the audience still raved during each and every banjo solo. San Franciscans must love their banjos.
New York-based indie band Caveman was a pleasant surprise, building off the laid-back bluegrass mood from Trampled with a more dream-like atmosphere. The quintet created an ambience that fit perfectly with that moment in the festival where you wanted to just follow the harmonies instead of being dragged along like some incredibly long instrumental solos heard elsewhere during the weekend sometimes felt like. The sweeping melodies were incredible, like a mix between Porcupine Tree and M83, which was especially strong on “December 28th.”
Regina Spektor was next, beginning her set with an a cappella tune with accompanying self-microphone beats. Spektor looked generally humbled to be at Outside Lands (see the album cover for Live in London for a similar expression), and the crowd embraced her quirkiness on her hits “On The Radio” and “Fidelity.”
I raced past Los Angeles-based indie band Electric Guest on my way to see Santigold and her lively back-up singers. At one point through just the opening song, the backup singers pulled Santigold across the stage with a gold scarf. The crowd roared and eventually sang along as she followed that up with “L.E.S. Artistes.” At this time, the weather was similar to the previous two days: cloudy and cold. Santigold remarked about the contrasting weather between San Francisco and her earlier show in Las Vegas, which was about 108 degrees. Nevertheless, she saw this as the perfect opportunity to get the crowd dancing, even inviting a few lucky people onstage. During “Disparate Youth,” a few ladies even took to crowdsurfing along the many hands already waving in the air.
Unfortunately, Jack White’s set overlapped with Santigold, and I managed to only catch him conclude his set with his rendition of The White Stripes’ hit “Seven Nation Army,” sans former bandmember Meg White, which the crowd loved.
Stevie Wonder was definitely on a lot of people’s minds as soon as White’s set ended. Wonder got the crowd excited early with his cover of James Taylor’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” which slowly evolved into a massive singalong. He stated that he was both blessed to have seven children and to also be performing in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Much of the audience danced throughout Wonder’s set, bolstered by songs such as a cover of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “I Wish” (which was sampled by Will Smith in “Wild Wild West”), and his signature songs “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and, of course, “Superstition.”
I wish I could have seen Skrillex, but I found it hard to leave Wonder at the main stage. All in all, the August 10-12, 2012 weekend represented another fun (but tiring) Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival. Hopefully, next year’s festival will be held under sunny conditions.