Whether San Francisco planned for it or not, the fall season crept up early. If Saturday begged for suntan lotion, white cut off shirts, and bottles of Honest Ade assorted juices, then Sunday demanded sweaters, scarves, and trendy slacks. Though the chilly sabbath couldn’t have come at a better time, as the third and final day of any festival is always the toughest to trudge through, considering everyone’s tired and typically on their last breath.
Sadly, Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival would come to another end, finishing off its second year with a hug, a shot to the gut, and some laughter to take home. Festival goers who braved the icy winds, the David Lynch-esque overcast, and the settling nightly mist were enlightened with one of the most entertaining schedules of the weekend. Everyone who is anyone these days hit the stage, from indie-delights to pop-culture misfits alike, Sunday would please even the most cynical in attendance.
This was the day to write home about.
Cage The Elephant
Twin Peaks: 12:45-1:30 p.m.
Finding a good punk rock show is a dime a dozen these days, so when Cage the Elephant rocked the Twin Peaks stage this afternoon, they not only shocked their audience but left them completely paralyzed with uncharted happiness. Marked by an uncontrollable energy frontman Matt Shultz sent his body into multiple spasms; unwilling to stand still and simultaneously incapable of ceasing his body from shaking violently. It was almost as if Shultz was in a completely different world all together as he jumped on and off the stage, grabbed at fans, displayed a “zombified” appearance and crowd surfed time and time again.
Chaotic behavior aside, Cage the Elephant proved they could successfully create a punk rock show by keeping morale high and the punches frequent even if that meant Shultz had to dive in and start the pit back up again himself. Midway, Shultz divulged on his experience in San Francisco the evening before claiming, “Last night I was out sitting with my friend smoking a cigarette and this guy walks by and gives me a slice of pizza and says I hope things get better for ya’. So, apparently I look like a bum, but hey I think I’m o.k. with that”. The show carried on for awhile until Shutlz jumped into the crowd a final time, standing on someone’s shoulders with his microphone in tow only to later drop down in the middle of the crowd and sing the final chorus amongst his fans. Needless to say the crowd was left satisfied, but yearning for more and unsure if any other show could top the one they just experienced. -A.F.
Twin Peaks: 2:15-3:05 p.m.
“Say God loves ugly,” rapper Sean Daley, aka Slug of Atmosphere, asked of his audience. “This is where they keep all the ugly in California.” How quaint, huh? While the Minneapolis-born rapper might have come off as rude — especially to those walking in nearby — he was only singing “GodLovesUgly” off his 2002 sophomore album of the same name. People “got it” as fists pounded the air, choruses were sung aloud, and fans stuck together like a lollipop on a sidewalk during a Florida summer. Sorry, the guy’s bouncy lyrics and catchy allusions rub off, even hours later. Early in the set, Slug brought out fellow rapper Brother Ali before jumping head on into cuts off of last year’s rather exceptional, When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold. In retrospect, the early set was quite a relief. With the Beastie Boys off the line up, the festival lacked some hip-hop or rap acts, and having Slug and DJ Ant around kept things “real,” even if they are just a couple of white boys from the Midwest. -M.R.
Presidio: 2:10-2:50 p.m.
As the wind sent shivers down our spines, John Vanderslice gave the Presidio Stage a taste of their own medicine, which seemed surprisingly fitting during the afternoon’s stormy weather. Even Vanderslice made note of the gloomy weather, pointing to a young girl near the front and asking, “Are you cold? What’s that? Can someone please get Jaime a sweater.” Armed with witty commentary and his usual quirky demeanor Vanderslice continued to keep the show alive, despite the murky weather, while wearing a fake smile and acting cool. Then just before jetting into “Keep The Dream Alive”, Vanderslice observed a nearby aroma and remarked, “Few things smell better than pot. Am I right? I’m usually the paranoid guy, but today just seems like the perfect day, so let’s all get stoned”. A beautiful observation on his behalf and according to his crowd’s response, it was an apparently wonderful suggestion for accompanying the experience of Vanderslice’s mellow indie-rock songs. -A.F.
The Avett Brothers
Sutro: 2:55-3:55 p.m.
Scott and Seth Avett just might be sitting on a gold mine. Sure, their last album, 2008’s The Second Gleam, peaked at #83 on the charts, and yes, they’ve opened for both Dave Matthews Band and Widespread Panic, but really, they’ve yet to break it big. It’s only a matter of time, though. With mind warming lyrics and a penchant for strong instrumentation, The Avett Brothers will charm just about every kind soul interested in keeping those spirits high. Opening with “Paranoia in B Major”, the two Avett’s, backed by bassist Bob Crawford and cellist Joe Kwon, immediately won over the crowd. When the PA sonic boomed, thanks to the intimate Sutro Stage slowly falling apart, Scott screamed out an “Oh yeah” without skipping a beat.
That’s a trend with the band: going with the flow. When one of the strings snapped on Scott’s skull-emblazoned banjo, smack in the middle of new song “Laundry Room”, the cognizant singer simply switched the capo in the meantime, and then re-tuned it…to the beat of the song. By the time they hit the very lovely “Die Die Die”, Scott had already played just about every instrument available on-stage — piano, drums, guitar, banjo, etc — and the audience had magically somehow learned all their lyrics, as everyone sang each chorus with both ease and pleasure. Near the end of their set, during “Murder in the City”, when Scott belted out, “I wonder which brother’s better…”, everyone in the audience gave a different answer. But the truth is, we love ’em both, and what’s more, we love this band. -M.R.
Matt & Kim
Panhandle Solar: 3:05-3:45 p.m.
For a second things got silent and then the sweet sounds of Notorious B.I.G.’s “Where Brooklyn At” filled the speakers as the young New Yorkers Matt & Kim dashed for the Panhandle Stage full of energy and ready to party, but only after Kim got to booty dance on her drums for a bit. Shortly after, the duo raised their right arms high and pointed to the sky, signaling the start of their show. Throughout their entire performance Matt & Kim couldn’t ditch the huge grins pasted on their faces as they sought for every opportunity to jump around and get involved with the crowd. After a few numbers, Kim got up and said, “I gotta tell you something very important. There are only two times to take your hoochie hoops off. When you’re gonna fight and when you’re gonna play drums, so that you don’t get the sticks in there”, referring to her large hoop earrings. This signaled the removal of not only her earrings, but also her jacket, a recurring theme for the pair who removed all but one of three layers each during their performance.
Matt had a habit of stopping the show so Kim could entertain the crowd with here booty or intense crowd surfing abilities to “Sweet Child of Mine” (thaaanks Gordon), while the crowd went nuts as bubbles, beach balls and confetti decorated the sky. It appeared Matt was having a ball dishing out hilarious one liners to the crowd such as, “Yo sun! What the fuck better do you have to do than go to Outside Lands! Now repeat after me, c’mon everybody” before jetting into the next song. And just when we thought they’d be getting tired, Matt announced “So, we decided not to buy health insurance this month so we could get a t-shirt gun” which they had their friend shoot off as they continued to rock our socks off. When their time was up, everyone was sad to see them off, but the instrumental remix of “Final Countdown” was a fitting was to go. Afterwards, the rap music came back on, this time an Outkast song, and Matt & Kim boogied off the stage into the darkness beyond. -A.F.
The Dead Weather
Twin Peaks: 3:50-4:50 p.m.
When Jack White’s in town, everyone’s on their toes. That’s just how it is, and that’s just how it always will be. So, when Sunday rolled around, his new little band, The Dead Weather, had festivalgoers interested, intrigued, and willing to skip out on indie-favorites Modest Mouse. Even 20 minutes before their set began, thousands gathered around the Twin Peaks stage, huddling side by side as if to keep warm, though that idea wasn’t too far off given the oddly temperate weather. When the PA clicked on and fuzzy Delta blues screeched out in its place, fans knew the Nashville supergroup were coming around.
Before Jack Lawrence could even reach his bass, the thousands watching screamed bloody murder at the sight of Jack White behind him, who took a seat at the jazz-styled drum kit. Hundreds of girls reached out for vocalist Alison Mosshart who, in typical rock ‘n’ roll fashion, spit on the stage and snagged the microphone from the stand. Within seconds, multi-instrumentalist Dean Fertita started up Horehound opener, “60 Feet Tall”, which had Mosshart creeping out on the stage and sizing up the infinite crowd.
Keeping with the band’s funeral-bound dress code, Mosshart slinked around in a pair of skinny black jeans, writhing, gyrating, and bending over throughout teeth shattering performances of “Hang You From The Heavens”, “Cut You Like A Buffalo”, and new single “Treat Me Like Your Mother”. Even behind the drums, and a pair of “too cool for you” shades, White commands the band, either through popcorn fills or this engaging presence that even the audience could feel. The tension between White and Mosshart is remarkable, and the two play off eachother as if the whole performance is less a rock show and moreover a piece of opera. What starts subtle, with off the collar glances, ends with the two of them sharing the microphone. Hell, these two get so close to one another that to others far off, they might as well be locking lips. Throughout set closer “Will There Be Enough Water?”, when White took up the guitar and Mosshart shied away some, everyone in the audience asked the same thing, “What’s going on between those two?” Act or no act, something’s there between them, and so far…it sounds spectacular.
As if he knew he just nailed the set of the weekend, White strolled to the edge of the stage, this time without glasses and in its place a devilish grin. When he pointed to their stage sign, which featured the band name, he asked, “¿Estás bueno?” People cheered for another minute or so. But what they should have screamed was, “Si, Senor White! Estas muy bueno!” That would just be telling the truth. -M.R.
Lands End: 6:05-7:05 p.m.
Unsurprisingly, M.I.A. chose the most ridiculous and atrocious attire for her performance on the main stage; a shiny jaguar print dress featuring a brightly outlined jaguar face and large red sleeves in the shape of hearts. Behind her brightly colored pixilated images of San Francisco cityscapes, Nigerians, cell phones, dogs and an assortment of linear designs flashed continuously, as the crowd was distracted by her dorky male back up dancers who ran about humping just about anything they could get their hands on; including the ground, amps and of course each other. Meanwhile, M.I.A. was shuffling from side to side with her female cohorts, while choosing to shout her lyrics rather than sing them.
All of this was expected, if not encouraged; however the main problem with M.I.A.’s performance was that her music was always meant to be experienced in a small intimate club rather than a huge festival like this. So when the bass often completely overpowered the vocals and electronic backbeats and fans couldn’t hear much else besides the every pounding thud of the bass like a jack hammer to the head, M.I.A. just chose to shout at us, only further amplifying the problem. And just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, the band started throwing horns out into the crowd, which perfectly captured all of the obnoxious qualities drunken idiots on New Years Eve exemplify, minus the booze and consecutive drunken make out session; as some idiots chose to repeatedly toot their horns at every opportunity regardless of rhythm or relevance.
M.I.A. however, continued to jump, wiggle and shake about as if none of this was apparent and later remarked, “A lot has changed since I was last here. I got engaged here and I think I got pregnant here, so now I’m just a bit scared”. The sex fest continued as “Boys” played and the female dancers pretended to pile drive the males in the ass, who later ran their jackets back and forth across their genitals and dropped it like it was hot in a manner more primal than human. Then, at some point everyone on stage found themselves a Guitar Hero controller and proceeded to “rock out” to M.I.A.’s depressingly bland and repetitive new song “Born Free”. Overall, M.I.A. was a huge disappointment and left much to be desired. The only redeemable section of her performance was when she gave a shout out to the Beastie Boys who couldn’t make it out and ran through a few short remixes of “Intergalactic” and “Sabotage”. Let’s just hope for her sake that this was a one time faux paux. -A.F.
Lands End: 7:50-9:20 p.m.
Weeks ago, when Tenacious D surprised everyone as being the replacement for the Beastie Boys, everyone flipped out. People joked (“So, when’s the band that replaces Beastie Boys going to be announced?”) and others were just downright cynical (“Well, looks like we can go home early on Sunday”). Nobody realized the full potential of a two-man band, and one that carries a satchel of humor. More importantly, nobody realized that Sunday evening would be closed by the one and only, the proud and finest… KG and Jables.
Oh, how the tables turned. Five minutes after the set stage time, festival goers started getting antsy, chanting endlessly, “D! D! D!”, when Jack Black and Kyle Gass were yet to be seen. Finally, after two or three roadies strolled by and falsely surprised everyone, the unstoppable duo walked out and started up the always classic, “Kielbasa”, complete with an extended acoustic introduction by KG which only got the crowd rowled up even more.
“I’m fucking 40,” Black said in a daze, alluding to his recent birthday on Saturday. “I’ve never felt more powerful…more lubricated…more inebriated. I’m in the body of a 10-year old.” To defend this claim, Black performed five push-ups, and when that wasn’t enough, he did some cartwheels, which then turned into a few very surprising flips. KG called his bluff, however, and a fictitious stunt man came out, which led into a faux argument, ending with Kyle exiting stage left. “KG, come here, I want you,” Black called back. “Dude, I’m 40, it sucks — I took it out on you.” Thus, performances for “Dude (I Totally Miss You)”, “Kyle Quit the Band”, and “Friendship” followed.
That’s pretty much how the hour and 20 minute set played out; a scene and then the correlating performance, and mostly culled from the group’s ’06 film, The Pick of Destiny. During “Beezleboss (Final Showdown)” and “Tribute”, actor Jason Reed, who typically plays Lee, dressed up as Satan and filled in for the band’s studio drummer, Dave Grohl. On “Master Exploder”, Gass and Black screwed around on-stage while some pre-recorded music played, all of which ended with KG soloing off of the spread-eagle, double necked guitar and JB given, of course, the beloved pick of destiny. At one point, Black attempted to channel Phish, and fiddled about with a toy saxophone, while Gass danced nearby. In some ways, it felt no different than a stage show at Universal Studios, only with beefed up rock ‘n’ roll and some over the top yet nonetheless exceptional acting. After all, you’re dealing with professional actors here, and conscious ones, too. Black acknowledged the Beastie Boys situation, adding, “I wanna send all my love, all our love, to the great Adam Yauch. Get well soon, bro.” They may be crude, but they’re still human.
At its heart, the set did feature some epic moments. Everyone sang “Wonderboy” note for note, “Double Team” had people laughing and hollering, and the band’s encore of “Fuck Her Gently” proved how an asinine song could be as meaningful as, say, “Dust in the Wind”. However, nobody expected the real encore: a frantic medley of The Who’s Tommy. If you can imagine Black singing “Pinball Wizard”, you probably won’t be surprised to know he D-ified the chorus (“…sure plays a mothafuckin’ pinball!”). Given that the whole set felt like a rock opera of sorts, it only seemed fitting to end with the one that started it all — and with Black throwing his pick, shirt, and pants to the audience, too. Yeah, totally fitting. -M.R.