It’s that time again in August when San Francisco hosts the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in lovely Golden Gate Park. The fifth annual festival looked to start off with a bang with Neil Young and Crazy Horse headlining the Friday, August 10, 2012 event.
The festival started at noon and there were more festivalgoers than I’d ever seen on their first day. Generally, there’s no more than a few hundred people at the festival’s official start, but it seemed that a few thousand people wanted to take advantage of the city’s unusually sunny afternoon weather. However, as I got closer to the park, a layer of fog and clouds settled just over the park. Fate was not kind.
I hadn’t anticipated the crowds and traffic so I was late, but I managed to catch the last song of Sharon Van Etten’s set when I got to Golden Gate Park. After, I headed to the main stage to see Two Gallants, who have a much different sound now than when they first played the festival many years ago. A former folk sound is now a more rock and punk, which the crowd really enjoyed.
The New York-based trio Jukebox the Ghost performed a crowd pleasing feel-good rock pop set. It almost never came to be, as the band experienced a hiccup with their keyboard. Luckily the band borrowed one from Tennis, who was scheduled to play after them. If you like The Kooks, then you would probably like Jukebox. Their cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” was pleasant with its beach rock vibe.
Denver-based indie pop band Tennis was next. There was definitely something wrong with the sound system, as a loud feedback disrupted the band’s ’60s pop throwback sound. This problem didn’t happen in the last set, which was odd.
The cloudy and foggy weather really became noticable. Frontwoman Alaina Moore lamented that it was “too cold” and that the set was brought to you by the down jacket she was glad to be wearing. Then she invited the crowd to sing along to the chorus as they played the popular “Marathon” for the eager audience.
It wasn’t even 5:00 P.M. yet, but the field grass was already suffering from the hordes of people walking back and forth between stages. I noticed this mostly since I was caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic on my way to see Icelandic indie pop band Of Monsters and Men. Along the way, I heard the Sea Change portion of Beck’s main stage performance, which included his relatively more mellow songs “Lost Cause” and “The Golden Age.”
Of Monsters and Men was very excited to be performing, even tossing candy (Skittles, I believe) into the crowd. The band played an unreleased song “Beneath my Bed” that sounded incredible, and even solicited much audience participation in the form of handclaps and sing-alongs during “Slow and Steady” and “Mountain Song.” The band even dedicated “Hold On” to their Icelandic friends in the audience. “Little Talks” brought the crowd to their feet before the band ended the set with “Yellow Light.”
I managed to catch the tailend of Foo Fighters’ performance, which included “Best of You” and “Everlong.” Frontman Dave Grohl thanked all of the festival’s headliners for being so awesome, and also proclaimed the crowd to be “the best f*cking audience” as they left the stage.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse was definitely the main attraction as the crowd that had just seen Foo Fighters basically refused to leave the main stage area, even for a few moments. The crowd roared when the band took the stage and offered song after song of their hits and with, you guessed it, extended instrumental solos and long jams. Young even spent a portion of the set playing solo tunes.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to visit as many tents as I wanted. There was the Toyota tent, the AT&T lounge (with a well-timed wine tasting), a fun Pacific Gas & Electric tent with a human-powered guinea pig wheel, and Wine Lands with more different wines. There’s always tomorrow to visit the rest of the tents, including—for the first time ever—Beer Lands.