Last weekend was Outside Lands 2012, and it was a doozy. By Sunday morning we were relating to our friends what an odd day-to-day lifestyle festivals put you in. Wake up, eat some breakfast, ride public transport to a park, sidle your way in, consume overpriced food, scurry around from stage to stage for eight hours, then stream out with thousands of other people and collapse in bed. Repeat. Not to say it wasn’t fun – we will be looking back on last weekend fondly for months to come.
Outside Lands in particular brings something completely new to the tried and true festival formula. Besides the great music, attendees are dosed with a great deal of San Franciscan culture, be it food, art, people, or beer. I [Phil] had never been to Outside Lands before this year, and after the weekend I’m kicking myself for not jumping on it sooner. Outside Lands should be a required experience for all music lovers, SF local or not. We here at Metrojolt are going to break down why:
Reggie Watts was a perfect way to start Outside Lands. Watts is a fusion of comedy and music. He layers loops of beat-boxing and other vocally-created sounds together to create unique auditory experiences. Between his musical performances, he smooths and enhances the gaps with some casual standup. I am not a comedy critic, but the jokes served as a perfect entryway to the festival. He jested about everything from hygiene products to weed and acid. He set the mood for the creative and lighthearted weekend ahead.
We arrived at the Die Antwoord stage with high hopes, yet little idea of what we were in for. Anybody remotely familiar with the act or their music videos would do the same, and from the packed crowd is was obvious that many were. Outside Lands attracts a very diverse age range, but this performance did not have many old people or children nearby-and rightly so. From Ninja’s expletive ridden raps to DJ Hi-tek’s ridiculous beats, Die Antwoord is not for the faint of heart. Hi-tek swaggered onstage in his ridiculous toothy halloween mask and started strong, scratching in the refrain of “DJ Hi-tek gonna fuck you in the ass” amongst a phat beat to the crowd’s delight. (Turns out it’s an actual song from their album Ten$ion, appropriately titled “DJ Hi-Tek Rulez”) Then on came Ninja and Yo-landi dressed in orange jumpsuits, although it only took a few songs for those to evaporate, with Ninja ending up in nothing but Pink Floyd boxers and Yolandi in gold leggings and a pimp coat. Amidst pec-jiggles, many grimaces, and a few lifted shirts, the two kept the crowd energetic and involved in the performance throughout the entire hour long set. Definitely a highlight.
After most sets, the crowd sticks around hoping for an encore and then slowly streams away to find some other stage with an artist currently on it. But at the end of MSTRKRFT’s set late Friday, hardly anybody moved, despite the hourlong delay until the next act. This was no surprise, as the next act was Justice. The closest thing we’ve had to Daft Punk since 2007, and what some call the reincarnation of Jimi Hendrix, was definitely going to draw a crowd. Watching the stagehands set up only increased the hype, as each one wore Justice leather jackets from the “Stress” music video, and slowly assembled the monolithic speaker wall crowned with the iconic cross, instantly recognizable even under the curtain it lay. The duo used this wall to great effect, as each speaker had LEDs impregnated in them somehow, not to mention the giant LED wall that the DJ table sat in front of. Two walls of LEDs, a strobing yellow cross, and innumerable stage lights made for quite a show. Justice did their job well, mashing up both their new and old albums enough to keep fans of either one happy. My only complaint would be that in their mix and mash frenzy, some of the great sing along power songs like “DVNO” lost their power, as the lyrics only stayed around long enough to be recognized, before quickly switching out to another riff or chord. That aside, any fears I had about their new album not being energetic enough for a festival atmosphere were put to rest. We streamed away from the stage at ten pm exhausted but satisfied.
Explosions In The Sky
Explosions In The Sky lived up to their name. Many of the acts on the main stage had a difficult time fulfilling expectations due to anything from the difficult setting, to over hyped popularity. Their blissful shredding translated perfectly to the live environment. Songs such as ‘Birth and Death of the Day’ and ‘The Only Moment We Were Alone’ spread peaceful and relaxing vibes throughout the expansive crowd, which had gathered for the bands performance. The wailing guitar worked me into a semi-hypnotic state, which I imagine many other members of the audience experienced. An hour long set only allowed Explosions In The Sky to play a handful of songs, as most of their tracks span upwards of nine minutes. When their time came to a stop, I couldn’t help but to yearn for more. I am eagerly awaiting the next opportunity to hear them perform.
Granddady (Most Nostalgic Award)
Seeing a childhood favorite live is always a fun nostalgic experience. Grandaddy’s performance was made even more special due to their recent reforming after splitting in 2006. This was a performance no Grandaddy fans thought they’d ever see, and you could feel the excitement and positive energy for every track. The straight synth lines of ‘Stray Dog And The Chocolate Shake’ complemented the setting of the Sutro Stage beautifully. ‘Crystal Lake’ and ‘Summer Here Kids’ were also wonderfully played and the emotion behind every track was more clear than ever before. Between sample launching, lo-fi guitar lines, and simple basslines, the eclectic looking band played an incredible set that brought me and many other members of the audience back to our early youth.
I spent my time during Passion Pits performance pleasantly swaying in the trees. Every stage at Outside Lands has its own distinct feel and vibe and Passion Pit was the perfect fit for Twin Peaks. After opening with ‘Take a Walk’, from their new album Gossamer, they continued with a energetic and feel good set. Their live performance, while unique compared to the rest of the industry, had not shifted much since I saw them at San Francisco’s Warfield years prior. Frontman Michael Angelakos has an incredible amount of energy, and he transfers it to the crowd in the best way possible.
Sigur Ros (Phil’s Weekend Favorite/Most Endearing)
I have a really hard time describing this performance because I was so engaged the entire time. Something about the minimalistic projection and lighting mixed with frontman Jonsi Birgisson’s angelic voice and orchestral band makes something click both mentally and audibly. The man truly is an angel – his lanky frame, violin style guitar playing, and introverted demeanor is incredibly endearing and beautiful, and the crowd feels and responds to this vibe brilliantly. A favorite moment was when Birgisson sang into his guitar, resulting in perhaps the dreamiest and most ethereal moment I have ever experienced in a concert setting. San Francisco fog poured onto the stage at seemingly timed moments, and with Golden Gate Park providing the perfect backdrop, Sigur Ros stole my choice for weekend favorite.
The headliner of headliners for the festival, listed first no matter which lineup you looked at, was Metallica. These heavy metal legends have far more of a following than you might imagine, although it makes sense if you stop to think. Metallica attracted angsty young people 30 years ago, and has continued to pick them up through the decades. Add them all together today, and you have almost a half century worth of fans. They were out in full force for all of Saturday, and it was clear who they had come for. Metallica shirts were everywhere you looked, and it made even more of an impression given that on Friday there was nary one to be found. The band’s two hour closing set cemented this feeling of festival dominance, but that was only the beginning. The promoters pulled out all the stops for these guys. The backdrop of a LED screen that functioned as a third closeup television screen, dozens of Metallica beach balls released on a key moment, and dazzling pyrotechnics released on the culmination of heavy guitar riffs made their performance incredible no matter your music taste. My knowledge of Metallica is mostly limited to “Enter Sandman” (thanks to Rock Band) and “Master of Puppets” (thanks to Justice), but I could definitely appreciate the performance. Live, in front of a massive adorative crowd, these guys killed it. From the lead singer’s shouted vocals to the drummer’s manic jumping around, they acted far younger than their 50-something frames would have you believe. And the crowd was eating it up. No joke – there were at least two mosh pits going on non stop through the entire two hour set. People just throwing themselves around with little regard for the consequences, again and again. I participated for a bit – it was quite fun, as long as you aren’t the smallest person in there – but I can’t imagine doing it for two hours. It’s a testament to these guys’ performance.
I can’t say it was a surprise that Big Gigantic’s jam-band/electronic fusion created an absurd amount of energy so early on in the day. Jazzy saxophone lines complemented their dubstep influenced sound in the best way – the duo is very expressive, and this in turn leads to a wonderful amount of crowd expression. People were going insane, as was the band, but hanging out on the side of the stage provided an equally enlightening experience. Something about that saxophone…it’s quite mesmerizing, and serves as a unique sound appropriate for any sort of mood.
Phil and Ben were lucky enough to chat with Dominic and Jermey of Big Gigantic. Keep an eye out for that interview in the coming days.
Self-branded New York band Caveman was phenomenal. Their dreamy sound was the perfect fit for the Panhandle stage early on in the day. They mixed their bigger songs into long, beautifully composed jams in which the band was completely and totally in sync. You really feel the positivity the band feels towards each other, and this leads to a great vibe that will continue to draw me to their music, live or no. Be sure to catch these guys as soon as you can – I have no doubt that we’ll be seeing them in everyone’s spotlight in the near future.
We were lucky enough to get a personal dose of their positivity the day before their performance. Check out their thoughts on performing, writing, and space sounds here.
Rebelution (Highest Energy At A Chillin’ Set Award)
I always knew that Rebelution were Bay Area favorites, but I didn’t realize just how beloved they are. There were constantly thousands of hands in the air for every track, and between laid back dub/reggae guitar lines and SF shoutouts from frontman Eric Rachmany there was never a point when the crowd wasn’t completely engaged in the performance.
Wolfgang Gartner (People Go Stupid Dumb Award)
People were going batshit insane for Wolfgang Gartner. I was surprised at the decision to put Wolfgang at the Panhandle stage, seeing as it was a smaller stage than the others. Once to music got started I understood the decision perfectly. Forearm sized glow sticks flew through the air, atop the four or five people who were surfing the crowd the entire set. Guys rolled back and forth atop the excited audience, but the female crowd surfers pinballed here, there and everywhere. Wolfgang kept the energy elevated throughout the short set with classic favorites such as ‘Illmerica’ in addition to a large selection from his debut album Welcome to America. I am by no means shocked by the overwhelming reaction to Wolfgang Gartner at Outside Lands, but I’m pleased it was so strong.
Phil and Ben were lucky enough to chat with him immediately before his set on music festivals, production, and DJing. Keep your eye out for our conversation later this week.
Magical. Loving. Experience. Out of all the words in the English language, those are the only three that can accurately describe Stevie Wonder’s performance. Decked out in a shiny blue dress shirt, Stevie walked out on the stage somewhere between 7:30 and 8:00, bearing his Ax-Synth Roland keytar in hand and singing his cover of Marvin Gaye’s ‘How Sweet it is to be Loved by You.’ We watched anxiously as Stevie played with as much soul and love that we had come for, but Stevie hadn’t started yet. As he brought the song down to a murmuring hum and roars of applause could be heard over the music, Stevie took a minute to speak to the crowd, expressing his love for everyone and asking for “unconditional love” for your neighbor, yourself, and for our President Barack Obama. “We gotta be together as a nation for real” he said to us “not talk about a buncha bull”. Stevie touched an inner chord with that statement. While Stevie urged the reluctant crowd to join in singing along, we begun to realize that during Stevie’s School of Wonder (as he calls it), we weren’t allowed to simply watch. Minutes later, the polo grounds were all together singing ‘How Sweet it is to be Loved by You,’ and when we were singing to Stevie’s content, the band switched it over to ‘Masta Blasta (Jammin).’ From there, Stevie played all the favorites including Superstition, Higher Ground, Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours), My Cherie Amour, Living For the City and I Just Called To Say I Love You, as well as his cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘The Way You Make Me Feel.’ He also took the time to remind us that everything was for the children and with a beaming smile, led all the men (and eventually women) in singing the chant “making children is gooood”. A man full of unconditional love, Stevie ended his School of Wonder with his song ‘Happy Birthday,’ stating that everyone in the crowd could save this song for whenever their own birthday came along. Stevie then walked off stage but returned due to shouts from the crowd and begun to sing his Beatles cover “She Loves You” but, in forgetting the words, switched over to a song that everybody knew.
As it began to drizzle onto the polo fields in cloudy San Francisco, Stevie ended his encore with his cover of the Temptations song ‘My Girl’ and magically, tens of thousands of people in San Francisco joined him in singing the words, “I got sunshine, on a cloudy day.”
-Ben, Phil, Cyrus, Corey