And so another year brings three more days of eclectic music, overpriced food, and of course, that lovable California mentality. Back to defeat that age-old sophomoric slump, Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival opened its gates Friday morning to happy would-be campers, all ready to savor the best in music from today, yesterday, and the day before that. Festivalgoers arrived at San Francisco’s nature-friendly Golden Gate Park early, though in short enough doses to keep things relaxed, unlike last year’s nightmarish fiasco — then again, the rain and that British quintet didn’t make things easy for anyone, either.
Instead, the weather’s been happy — sunny with a side of overcast — and the line up hasn’t brought upon any exaggerated crowd control. Even with a headliner like Pearl Jam, fans managed to steal a patch of land amicably close to the stage, and settle down on an Outside Lands-endorsed blanket. The term we’re reaching for here is “chill” and just about everyone kept true to its roots. In other words, that California mentality which starts with the flip-flops, continues with the blankets, and ends with a waxy smile and a pair of glazed eyes. If you’re still not getting the picture, just imagine hundreds of Jeff Spicoli‘s running or floating about everywhere. Voila, there’s the crowd for ya.
So, what about the music, huh?
Panhandle Solar: 1:45-2:25 p.m.
With the sun clocking in at full speed, SambaDá began one of the day’s best dance shows up on the Panhandle Stage. Dressed in white and ready to rock the party, the Afro/Funk/Samba group initially captured our eyes and ears with a spunky cover of “Misirlou” and then a slower cover of Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved” before jetting into their personal repertoire of jazzy and soulful Brazilian melodies. As the crowd grew in size, frontwoman Dandha Da Hora involved the audience in a series of dances and timed leaps, while encouraging each of us to grab a partner and have our own fun, shouting “C’mon let’s live together, everybody!” Then, during “Cade Cade”, Da Hora began a tribal gypsy dance, which ended in a series of continuous twirls. Shortly after, “Capu Funk” came on and one of the members broke out into a fitting Capoeira dance. Overall, SambaDá played a raucous set of intoxicatingly funky and rhythmic beats that brought everyone together in a merry celebration of laughter and dance that no one ever wanted to end. -A.F.
Sutro: 3:20-4:10 p.m.
“This is our home!” shouted Meric Long of The Dodos before embarking on a heart-wrenchingly heavy progressive rock journey filled to the brims with spacey guitar riffs, trumpet solos, pounding drums and a few subtle hints of xylophone in the backdrop. Choosing to start heavy with a few older songs, such as “Park Song”, The Dodos slowly brought things around to their more recent single “Fools”, which was marked by its slowly built introduction. However, as the heat increased, many fans found themselves camping out on the sidelines underneath the shade, as the band continued to pour their hearts out. Then, Long pointed to a girl near the front and shouted, “This one’s for you, pretty” as they prepared for their final song, ”The Ball”. -A.F.
It’s only been a few weeks since we last ranted and raved about their punchy hour in Chicago, and little else has changed since: Los Campesinos! build and tear the house down. The brats from Wales pulled in about a quarter of the crowd they entertained at Lollapalooza, but they’re hardly to blame (an early Friday set time is the ultimate death wish). Still, with hundreds of freshly energized fans scattered about, Gareth and co squeezed out a powerful set, filled with fan favorites (“Death to Los Campesinos!”, “International Tweexcore Underground”) and even a new cut off their forthcoming third outing. Titled “Rips”, the fresh track sounds oddly enough like the group’s past material, only a tad more down-tempo and a bit dirtier. Tom channels the late Kurt Cobain (think “Scentless Apprentice”) and scratches out a raw, unkempt solo. “I would like to take this time to apologize for us playing opposite Built to Spill,” Gareth admitted, kicking off the endless hat tips to the apparent indie sensation. “Thank you for choosing us over them.” Before the set wrapped up, which was cut short as the previous band borrowed time, Gareth hopped into the photo pit and sang with the crowd. While all good-natured fun, this time around, it seemed rather provoked — as if the erratic singer felt inclined to make up for the lost time. Oh Gareth, you with a glockenspiel for seven minutes is a gift unto itself. No need to compromise. -M.R.
Lands End: 4:15-5:15 p.m.
Someone needs to teach vocalist Brian Aubert how to be gloomy again. Because if he continues to smile and bobble about, his band might turn into the next Zwan. “We’re called Silversun Pickups,” he declared, smiling like a baseball coach’s son in Cooperstown, NY. “We’re pretty fucking happy to be here.” This followed a solid, straight up rendition of “Growing Old Is Getting Old”, just one of a few winners off this year’s record, Swoon. Without scaring too much of the crowd away (arguably the weekend’s first large one), the band dove head first into the hits off of Carnavas, resulting in a rough and edgy performance of “Well Thought Out Twinkles” and “Little Lover’s So Polite”. Of course, no Outside Lands set would be complete without a shout out to the music industry’s favorite indie act, as the typically angsty Aubert exclaimed, “Built to Spill is the best fucking band.” Bassist Nikki Monninger, dressed in her ’50s Sunday best, added, “They even played “Cars”.” Some filler followed, teaching everyone that wavy distortion can only go so far, and finally bigger hits “Panic Switch” and “Lazy Eye” capped off the bouncy, jubilant alternative jamboree. Get these guys some valium. Stat! -M.R.
Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears
Panhandle Solar: 5:05-5:45 p.m.
With sex on their minds and a whole lot of soul, jazz and blues in their bones Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears took to the Panhandle Stage. Black Joe Lewis himself had a slew of bootylicious babes decorating his guitar as he sung and swayed with grace to the beat. The crowd ate up all of the saxophone and trumpet solos, but it wasn’t until Lewis’s harmonica solo during “Bitch, I Love You” that everyone really started hootin’ n’ hollerin’ for more. Halfway through their performance, Lewis mentioned the band’s brief appearance in Reno, CA the previous nice and in celebration of their festivities played “Humpin’” in memorandum. Then, after multiple shout outs were made the band finally buckled and played the hilarious funk song, “Get Your Shit” as their closer. As the song drew to its inevitable finish, Lewis shouted out, “See y’all later! We’re going to San Diego now.” -A.F.
Lands End: 6:00-7:00p.m.
Thankfully, Incubus decided that sticking to a majority of their older songs for this show would fare better with their audience, which was probably for the best. Kicking off with “Pardon Me”, featuring a nice and unexpected guitar solo, they quickly flowed into “Nice to Know You” up on the Lands End Stage. Then out of nowhere Brandon Boyd brings out this bottle of wine with a child’s grin strewn across his face and chuckling through his words as he announced, “If I loose my pants by the fifth song, don’t hold it against me.” Boyd continued to booze through the next few songs, before retiring the bottle just before “Megalomaniac”. Nearing their finish, Incubus made sure to play a few necessary tracks such as “Are You In?” and “Wish You Were Here” before sending us off with one hell of a surprise. Right when we thought they were through, Boyd starts chanting the opening words of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” before breaking into a mediocre rendition of the Purple one’s famous track. -A.F.
“It’s always a pleasure to be back in this beautiful city,” announced frontman Gil Cerezo, as the sun was setting near the Panhandle Stage. Shortly thereafter, Kinky riled everyone up with their funky Mexican electronic dance numbers and gave the crowd something to jump around for. Switching constantly between Spanish and English, Kinky had a party of their own on stage; spinning in circles, jumping off stage and performing odd stints with each other. At times their actions were hard to predict, but in the end it felt like all of this was part of a cheap gimmick to keep us from noticing their hideous outfits. However, the crowd seemed to enjoy themselves despite all of this, particularly during their more radio-friendly Spanish pop melodies like “Hasta Quemarnos” and “Those Girls”. After a brief stint of that, Kinky switched to some older material such as “Cornman” and “Mas”; which featured a lengthy percussion solo along with a couple of zany accordion and guitar solos thrown in here and there. Then, to our surprise Kinky cut out a bit early during their set wrapping up their set in just under 30 minutes. Regardless, those who made it out to their show that evening left both full and happy. -A.F.
Sutro: 6:50-7:50 p.m.
“Tom Jones is too bad ass to sign anything.” “Tom Jones gets poon everyday.” Two fan written facts well-established 15 minutes before the Welsh legend graced the stage. For reasons unknown, organizers pitted the poor guy against the Seattle headliners and even worse…on the smaller Sutro stage, tucked away in the Lindley Meadow. At the time, it was questionable how many fans would show up, save for the dedicated many. “I still have no regrets waiting up here,” protested one fan. “We want you, Tom!” That’s precisely what happened five minutes later: Sir Tom Jones strutted across the stage, carrying a grin, a swanky chain, and some hefty soul.
“I’m alive,” he announced, and that’s the song he sang. Backed by three singers, a horn section, one hell of a percussionist, a lanky bassist, and his music director Brian Monroney, Jones surrounds himself with good company. The band pummels away, and in such a tight, concise manner, that it’s hard to believe it’s live and not on record. Let it be said these are professional entertainers, with one hell of a frontman — the knighted Las Vegas showman himself. Talented? Understatement. Sexy? Underwhelming description. Beyond comprehension? Close. Fact or fiction, Sir Tom Jones is entertainment.
“Are we alright,” Jones asked. He then staved off the hits for a bit, and opted for some future favorites off of his latest record, last year’s 24 Hours. “Give a Little Love” grooved about, especially the chorus that had him playing alongside his backup singers. He didn’t stray too far, however, and he soon dug out past oldies like 1968′s “Green Green Grass of Home”. Throughout the slow waltz, dozens of fans — both male and female — tossed bras, panties, and boxers on-stage. This continued and escalated as the set rolled on, especially during the four hit punch of “She’s a Lady”, “What’s New, Pussycat?”, “Sex Bomb”, and the all-time favorite, alien-slaying, hip-hugging, fever inducing, jaw dropping hit, “It’s Not Unusual.”
Fans refused to leave, despite Pearl Jam’s set starting nearby, and the musical knight strolled back to nail a rousing cover of Prince’s “Kiss”. Here’s one truth, Outside Lands found its secret weapon, and all they had to do was look to Vegas. Priceless. -M.R.
Lands End: 7:50-9:50 p.m.
Some might say Pearl Jam is an acquired taste. A good many despise Eddie Vedder’s coughy drawl, others revel in it. Then there are those who love the hits, namely everything off the band’s 1991 debut, Ten. These types seemed to accent the crowd Friday night, as few sang aloud to classic live staples “Given to Fly”, “I Am Mine”, and “Save You”. They did, however, attempt to push forward during classic radio staples “Black”, “Even Flow”, and the soft sing-a-along ballad, “Better Man”. This didn’t prevent the Seattle quintet from a sizable audience.
“There’s a hell of a lot of you out there,” Vedder examined. “At least it looks that way from here.” With a troubling cough in tow (“I’m a lil’ pissed off at my throat”), the ragged frontman slugged through a heavy-handed set, filled with driving numbers like “Animal”, “Do The Evolution”, “Severed Hand”, and new additions, “The Fixer” and “Got Some”. He even managed to squeeze out a few jokes, as he warned the audience, “Don’t take the brownies,” alluding to the people at the front selling the sketchy baked goods. Oh yeah, somewhere between “MFC” and “Down”, he also snuck in the third-and-final Built to Spill nod of the night.
It’s unfortunate the touring’s taken a toll on the guy, however, as the set suffered from it tremendously. The band, as tight as ever, pulled through, but Vedder showed his wear and tear. Throughout songs, he panted and hung from the microphone, cutting out in choruses, and at one point, leaving the audience to awkwardly sing through a verse — “Even Flow”, which the crowd seemed lost on for some reason. Still, this is one of America’s finest acts on the road, and he clawed and gnawed towards the finish line, a Neil Young-inspired encore that consisted of “Throw Your Hatred Down” and “Rockin’ In The Free World”. Thanks Eddie, but keep on rockin’ the Robitussin, and call us in the morning. -M.R.