Live Review: Radiohead at Golden Gate Park
There are a few givens when going to an outdoor festival: there will be a lot of people, and there will be long lines, and anything else is fair game. The first Outside Lands Festival was like any other outdoor festival on steroids/crack. I’ve been to Coachella twice, the second year (and arguably the best lineup) of Lollapalooza, and this was an entirely different beast. This seemed twice as crowded as Coachella, and there were reportedly 20,000 less people. That’s a lot less people, like the amount of an average Giants game.
We arrived just after five, and saw a few songs by classic rock act Howlin Rain. They were playing on a solar powered stage and the sun wasn’t out! Impressive! They sounded good, but we needed to get to another stage to see Cold War Kids. I was hoping I could make it back to see one of my all-time favorite live acts, Black Mountain, who was playing around the same. Making our way through the sea of people, we were able to catch a few songs from Steel Pulse. They sounded amazing and the speakers were bar none the best sounding speakers I had heard at a festival.
I finally met with the other writers in some incredibly boring press area where we received free bottled water. Bonus! But by the time we were ready to go see some actual music being played, both the Cold War Kids and Black Mountain were finishing their sets. Again, this place is huge. Walking from stage to stage in these crowds can take 45 minutes. The average set was 45 minutes! We figured it would be best if we got to Beck early. Upon finding out that Beck was playing on an off shoot stage, I saw the most horrifying scene: a wall of 2,000 people trying to make their way through a 10 foot wide corridor while 10,000 other people were coming from the opposite direction!!!!! It was panic inducing. Upon my impossible descent, I spied some fellow concert goers running free to my right. I froggered my way through the folks saying “sorry” and “excuse me” as I made my way towards free pastures. People were in good moods and as I passed giving my apologies, one girl even laughed, “I don’t believe you, look at the look on your face!” I must have been smiling as freedom was in my grasp. Once I found some free space and an alternative route through the eucalyptus forest, I jumped towards joy and ran with pack. Unfortunately, I had completely lost my fellow writers.
I stopped for a cheese steak. The line took twenty minutes. Thank god I had my free water to wash it down as they weren’t selling sodas or beer. I wanted a beer, but there was no way I was waiting the additional hour that it would require for the wristband (a half hour line) and the beer itself (a separate half hour line). I sat down with my grub as Beck sang “Girl” from Guero. Everyone stood up around me, but I stayed seated and bobbed my head as I ate garlic fries. Beck was so far away, I would estimate there were 40,000 just to see him. I finished my food and stood up to see the stage. He was the size of an insect from where I was. Why do people feel like they need to see the stage when it’s hella far away? A concert goer that went to Altamont and was a Fillmore regular in its heyday told me that everyone used to sit. How much nicer would this be? “Loser” holds up surprisingly well for its age and people were getting a serious groove on. I began to make my way back towards the main area so I wouldn’t miss Radiohead. On my way out, I noticed “the people had spoken” and decided two corridors between the stages were far too few. That’s when fences started coming down. It was like the animals escaped from their cages, and were running through the eucalyptus trees. People gleefully trampled the fences. I posted up at a picnic table to finish Beck’s set and observe the crowd. People celebrated their arrival at the Beck area as if they had completed a life long trek, arms raised to the air in victory, only to see just two more songs. They had no clue. If they got to see and hear “THEGHETTOCHIP MALFUNCTION REMIX” of “Hell Yes” their epic journey was not in vain. Beck repeated over and over, “My beat is correct.” Indeed it was.
The only current act to maintain relevance for as long as Beck (besides Bjork), is Radiohead, who after the success of In Rainbows may have solidified their position as the greatest rock band ever. I know, I know. But think about it. Who sounds this good and relevant after 18 years? No one. Not the Stones, not U2. Maybe Wilco, but they never “broke out” like those other bands. Radiohead exist in a class alone at this point in history. What’s really strange is that for an album focused band, their songs sound just as good live, and played at random. They find a way to update their songs and make them sound current with minor tweaks (timeless song writing and sounds that are way before their time doesn’t hurt either). “Exit Music” got a fat modern sounding bass line. “Just” sounded edgier than on The Bends. “Karma Police” felt more country. “Pyramid Song” was more haunting and methodical.
The sound cut out. Twice. Completely silent. I looked at some other concert goers and we shared the “oh shit, we’re about to get swept up in a riot” face. People kept their cool as the outages were brief. Thom Yorke said, “Okay, who stepped on the plug?” And after the second stop said, “I don’t know what the fuck is going on.”
The crowd went crazy for “Talk Show Host” from Romeo and Juliet soundtrack, and enjoyed the mellow “House of Cards” and the confrontational “You and Whose Army.” They let “Videotape” play out with its awkward, lonely drum as the bay breeze kept everyone comfortable. The first band to play at night in Golden Gate Park left the fans happy with their two hour set, unconcerned with what felt like millions of people stepping on shoes, and thirsty for beer that had long since run dry.
- Review submitted by Jeff Bracco.