THE LO DOWN: Outside Lands 2010 Day 2
THE LO DOWN: Outside Lands Festival Day 2
Here’s the deal: I don’t really do festivals. It may be sacrilege for a music writer to say that rubbing elbows with ten thousand fans, but catching radio’s current flavor of the year on a jumbotron doesn’t, you know, do it for me â€“ well, generally speaking, it really doesn’t. That being said, Day 2 of San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival was rad! So, maybe you kids are onto something with your massive line-ups and $8 Heinekens. Maybe. Here’s The Lo Down take on the who’s-who of Day 2.
When the Reverend Al Green is playing somewhere, YOU GO SEE HIM. I don’t care if they’re wheeling the guy out with an oxygen tank and a voice box, if he so much as puts one soulful baby toe on that stage, YOU GO SEE HIM. Amazingly, not everyone at the park got that memo so we got some pretty good spots stage left to watch the Reverend do his thang.
His thang: Swagger-tastic cover of “(Oh) Pretty Woman” (as recorded on 1972’s I’m Still In Love With You); awesome medley of the Four Tops, Temptations, Sam Cooke, and Marvin Gaye; up-tempo arrangements of the classics, including “Tired of Being Alone”, “Let’s Stay Together” and “Here I am (Come and Take Me)”.
Points for: Hitting that high D in “Still In Love With You,” cracking shortly thereafter and laughing, “I can’t even get it!” â€“ so the audience sang it for him.
Lame because: What?! I’m not talking shit about Al Green. So maybe he stumbled across the stage and didn’t really sing, per se, for a lot of the set. Maybe he gave multiple random shout-outs to the city of Modesto. But it’s Al Green. YOU GO SEE HIM, and you like it, damnit.
We booked it to the other side of the park in time to catch this Canadian duo get funky on their second song (note: festival grounds = far, yo). With keyboards on splayed mannequin legs and an arsenal of laptops and MPs, they got the crowd dancing like a 1986 disco (hard, yo). Hands down, best dance party of the day â€“ even when hitting lesser known songs from the upcoming September release, Business Casual.
The business: The audience rocked the two-step as instructed in “Fancy Footwork,” sang along to “Bonafied Lover,” and cheered every time P-Thugg and Dave 1 did, well, anything. [Tangent: does anyone else feel like “Needy Girl” and Timex Social Club’s “Rumors” is the same song? All good, but have we established this?]
Points for: Singing the vocoder chorus of Tupac and Dr.Â Dre’s “California Love” â€“ because if you have a vocoder, and you’re in California, you have to.
Lame because: The visual aesthetic was lacking, as is the pitfall of many electronic bands whose musical performance consists mostly of pushing teeny-weeny buttons. The major light rig would have clearly been more effective at, you know, night â€“ but when you’re playing jams that recall the best of 80s funk, I tend to expect a visual splendor to match. Luckily the music was poppin’ enough that the audience didn’t seem to mind.
After another trek to the opposite side of the grounds (awesome planning, Lo Down) we arrived for the second or third song of Phoenix’s pop-rock set and traded in the Chromeo fist-pumps for the more traditional jump-around-with-hippies festival dance. Truth? I heart Phoenix. Vocalist Thomas Mars looks like my first grade teacher and sings with equal innocence and enthusiasm. I was wondering if their live show (and the festival sound team) could nail the interesting balance of Mars’s pop sensibility, and the band’s more rockin’ edge â€“ indeed, all parties totally delivered.
The delivery: A nice spread of popular material, including “Long Distance Call” from It’s Never Been Like That and all the goods from Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, appropriately closing with gigundo hit “1901.”
Points for: Sounding awesome and demonstrating a gracious humility and fun on stage. These guys are pros and seemed genuinely happy to be there. I also scored a free pretzel during this set. Sometimes you just really need a pretzel, and sometimes the pretzel dude just doesn’t feel like making change.
Lame because: I dropped the pretzel. Phoenix was great!
Full disclosure: to this day every time Kings of Leon comes on the radio, even after a year plus of solid airplay, I find myself cranking the volume and screaming “This sex is on fiiiiirrreee” out of my sunroof like a crazy person. That being said, as the Nashville quartet hit the stage (right on time â€“ well done, OSL!), I readied my ears for appropriate wailing-like-a-crazy-person from the entire 10K audience. I also tuned in to the extensive challenge of the sound team â€“ can you capture the depth of Caleb’s raw vocals, Nathan’s rolling toms, and Jared’s driving bass? Can you capture it over 10,000 drunks screaming “USE SOME-BAHD-AY”?!
Captured: all of the above. It’s a testament to the sound peeps, the band, and their consistent album production that KOL sounded exactly like their records. They wisely ripped through the hits of Only By The Night and dabbled in a few popular tracks from previous albums (“Knocked Up” and “On Call”) with Caleb switching to acoustic guitar just enough to remind us of their family roots in southern rock. After a long day of fist-pumping and hippie-bopping I especially appreciated their choice to forgo the leave-and-come-back encore, letting us know that they were going to “play on through” and launching into “Use Somebody” with the audience’s crazy-person response as predicted.
Points for: Jared’s bass playing, which I definitely consider to be the driving force behind the band’s sound (doesn’t hurt that he’s also so gosh darn pretty to look at). Caleb also talked about the festival’s amazing line-up, and how pleased they were to have been able to see the other bands of the day — kudos for a sincere shout-out to their fellow rockers. Oh, and did I mention the Pixies cover of “Where Is My Mind?” Yeah. ‘Nuff said.
Lame because: Oh man, I must admit that my night ended with the perfect festival experience — sandwiched between Sing-Along Super Fan and Rhythm-less Hot Chick. The Super Fan didn’t disappoint and sang every word at full volume throughout the entire set, but fortunately he could actually keep up with Caleb’s baritone and my urge to kick him in the face was suppressed by what a great time he seemed to be having. Rhythm-less Hot Chick decided to “raise the roof” through the show — an interesting and misguided alternative to general rock concert choreography — pausing only to take 800 self-portraits that no doubt flank the pages of Facebook at this very moment (“KOL!!!!! LOL!!!!!”).
But truthfully, not even these stereotypical festival-goers could dampen the mood Sunday night. All in all, a great vibe, good shows, impressive sound, rocking company, decent weather, free (dropped) pretzel. Remind me of all of this next year when I return to hating on festivals, ya hear?
What was your favorite part of Outside Lands?