The fourth annual Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival got off to a strong start on Friday at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, despite the usually cloudy Bay Area weather that made for one cold day at the park.
Delayed by a surprising amount of traffic on the busy S.F. streets, I arrived at Golden Gate Park at just the right time to see the last 30 seconds of Release The Sunbird, Zach Rogue’s solo project (of Rogue Wave), at the Sutro Stage. In past years, the Sutro Stage was somewhat isolated, but this year one of the festival entrances was moved so that as soon as you walked through the gate you were in immediate (pleasant) sight of the Sutro Stage. I was more disappointed in missing Release The Sunbird since I also missed the band’s brief performance at the Toyota’s Free Yr Radio Broadcast stage.
I made a brief tour around the festival grounds to familiarize myself with the revamped festival layout. It now has a shortcut that includes food trucks and Choco Land (it should obvious what that entails). I made it back to the Sutro Stage to see the North Wales indie rock trio The Joy Formidable. There were technical difficulties, as the radio system wouldn’t shut off, which delayed the band’s start for a few minutes. When the band finally retook the stage (after leaving in noticeable frustration), the crowd gave them a roaring applause. “A Heavy Abacus,” “Austere,” and “Whirring” were crowd pleasers. Lead singer Ritzy Bryan berated drummer Matt Thomas for his usual fidgeting with himself and starting one of the songs with a funk rhythm.
Phantogram later provided the Sutro Stage with mellow electronic tunes. These tunes, such as “Don’t Move,” were perfect for those that grabbed places along the grassy hill and to just chill, but not for those struggling to find a spot closer to the stage.
Toro Y Moi was very excited to be at Outside Lands, as lead singer Chazwick Bundick thanked the crowd numerously throughout the band’s performance. The band’s usual chillwave music was juiced up with bits of funk that worked well. Bundick suggested the crowd “feel free to move around more [because] this is where it gets poppin’,” as the band cycled through songs from its two albums, Causers of This (2010) and Underneath the Pine (2011). It was hard not to get excited and feel the music as none of the band members stopped body-moving to their own music.
Unfortunately, in order to see Toro Y Moi, I had to miss up-and-coming band Foster the People. But a friend told me that a large number of people went to see the Los Angeles-based indie band. Lead singer Mark Foster mentioned that he ran into Rivers Cuomo (lead singer of Weezer), which persuaded the band to perform a cover of Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So.” Of course, “Pumped Up Kicks” excited the crowd even more.
Ellie Goulding, and her infectious spunk, was a crowd favorite, as people crammed into the Sutro Stage field to watch her perform songs from her ever popular debut album Lights. She had a throng of fans near the stage that flash letters that spelling something with “GOULDING” in it. Ellie was flattered, even asking the crowd to wave to her as she had someone take a picture of her with the Outside Lands crowd behind her, and then preceding to perform “Guns and Horses.”
She was very engaged in her performance, even performing on a small drum set near the microphone. A remixed version of “Lighs” and a performance-ending “Starry Eyed” got the crowd very excited.
I caught some Phish’s four-hour dual-set performance, but I raced to catch indie darlings Best Coast. I expected a more lively performance, but lead singer Bethany Cosentino lamented that she didn’t feel well. Bummer for everyone, but Cosentino barreled through “I Want You,” “Over the Ocean,” “Boyfriend,” and a new song, “When We Wake Up.” She confessed that even though she was going to see Phish after her set, she believed The Grateful Dead was better.
The last act for me was the indie band The Shins, which played a rather upbeat set despite being known mostly for their mellow tunes. The band excited the crowd by opening with “Caring is Creepy” from their debut album Oh, Inverted World (2001). Lead singer James Mercer explained the band was currently working on a new album, but was excited to get a break by performing at Outside Lands. Predictably, most of the crowd left after the band performed “New Slang.”