Outside Lands 2013 - A Walk In The Park - By Volume

Gotta get out, before my heart explodes. Candy Says - Not Kings
OUTSIDE-LANDS-2013

Outside Lands 2013 – A Walk In The Park

Occupying Golden Gate Park for 3days, Outside Lands is excellent fun in a gorgeous city. Author: on August 20, 2013
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There really was no fog on the first day – strange for San Francisco in August’s beginnings. The sky was clear, the sun was gleaming bright and the heat was intense just walking through Golden Gate Park to the festival grounds in the center. The famed city park is a near-perfect setting for a massive three-day festival, and besides the labyrinthine walk one must take to the entrance gate once they’ve entered, there was little to complain about when it came to how Outside Lands was organized and undertaken. Staff were wishing you good luck and fun as you made your way towards the gate while San Francisco EMTs reminded you to be safe. And unless you were one foolish enough to try and hop a fence, the staff was generally very warm and helpful. Entrance searching was minimal at its height and the ticket check/VIP authorization process was one of the easiest I’ve experienced at an event of this caliber. Simply put, if you can withstand a little walking and an expensive (albeit absolutely exceptional) menu of local SF food and booze then Outside Lands will probably offer you endless enjoyment over the course of three days.

Golden Gate Park -- Outside Lands' venue.

Golden Gate Park — Outside Lands’ venue.

Rather than play-by-play recapping Outside Lands’ three days, instead we’ll hand out a few mock awards of sorts, along with their applicable honorable mention(s). As is frequently the case with multi-day musical events, there were multiple anger-inducing overlaps – and while we couldn’t see everything we would have hope to cover, I feel pretty confident in saying that every band, performer or artists I saw on display were in top class form. No one skimped on their routine – in fact most of the festival felt devoid of one. Every wildcard was flashed in full view during every performance, which makes my disappointment in missing what I had to that much more intense. I doubt there was a wasted second during the festival.

Pre-Game Award: The Men

The Men ripping riffs.

The Men ripping riffs.

Nestled in on the east side of the park, near the much larger Twin Peaks stage, The Panhandle was a surprisingly rewarding area for investigation when one was either bored, or simply over in Beerland enjoying a brew and some fine food. On Friday afternoon, The Men took the Panhandle by the throat and for forty minutes belted out drunken yelps and ripped killer riffs. That is, of course, excluding their touching rendition of Open Your Heart’s excellent “Candy” which echoed through the festival grounds early the first day.

Honorable Mention: The Heavy

Tucked near the entrance, The Heavy romped the Sutro stage early on Friday, absolutely pummeling the audience with jams and lead singer Kelvin Swaby was practically dripping with a suave cool.

What Are They Doing Here? Award: Young The Giant

Young The Giant showcasing their class live.

Young The Giant showcasing their class live.

I won’t lie: I was surprised to see this band on the main stage. Even more so when you consider they had fourth billing out of six – or maybe it’s just me, as they had quite a full-bodied following and put on one hell of a performance. Vocalist Sameer Gadhia gyrated about the stage belting entrancing melodies via an angelic croon as guitarists Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata ripped away, frequently dueling off. Admittedly this was the band’s first live show together in quite some time as they had been recording quite a bit recently, but you couldn’t tell. They looked primed for explosion and that raw energy translated to one of Outside Lands’ finest sets.

Honorable Mention: D’Angelo

Oh wait, he dropped out, and he wasn’t there at all. Thankfully Neil Rodgers and CHIC filled in.

Executioner Award: 3-Way Tie

Bestowed upon those bands whose heads were taken by Sir Paul McCartney during a schedule overlap Friday night –The Chromatics, Yeasayer and Pretty Lights were probably excellent – I just can’t imagine many people made their way out to see them once “Eight Days a Week” began blaring through Golden Gate.

Old Geezer Award: Hall and Oates

This award could by all rights go to Paul McCartney, yet it was kind of understood that he was going to put on an excellent show. Daryl Hall & John Oates on the other hand were a bit more surprising. Far be it from me to deem them amateurs – these guys are rock stars through and through – but slated in the middle of the last day, they provided an excellent surge during the cold, grey Sunday afternoon. “Out of Touch”, “Maneater”, “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” and “Rich Girl” rocked a relatively short set (nine songs!) from the veteran pop band. Also, Charles DeChant absolutely stole the show with his virtuoso saxophone display and showman’s gusto.

Honorable Mention: Willie Nelson

San Francisco saw uncommonly gorgeous weather that weekend.

San Francisco saw uncommonly gorgeous weather that weekend.

That gentle old man from Texas serenaded the Sutro stage Sunday night, before the Chili Peppers took the Lands End stage. And while he played a lot of covers, mostly those he’s known for, the grandest moment was when Bob Weir joined him for “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die”.

The Invisible Band Award:  Surfer Blood

Couldn’t make it to them, but damn, getting stuck in line behind their stage for about fifteen minutes was well worth it – they sounded absolutely excellent and as my group and I were reaching The Heavy, we could only talk about how good Surfer Blood sounded from a far.

Honorable Mention: Kurt Vile and The Violators

“Wakin On A Pretty Day” sounded transcendental from around the corner.

You See It, You Eat It Award: Tie — Bacon Bacon/Chairman Bao

outside-lands

One of Outside Lands’ finest aspects was the sheer volume of incredibly tasty food and a very, very large drinks selection. Sure, you could treat yourself to a $7 Heineken, or you could spend an extra dollar or two and get yourself a pint of a fine California craft brew of much higher quality and alcohol content. Safe to say that both Beerland and Wineland were excellent and well-abused by the masses attending the festival. But as far as food was concerned, hardly a single establishment present (and there were tons) could top either Bacon Bacon or Chairman Bao. Situated in one of the two food-truck stations Bacon Bacon offers somewhat traditional smokey BBQ where every single item is accompanied by an ample serving of bacon, generally mixed right in – example: a pork belly taco, smothered in bacon, goat cheese and roasted peppers. Whereas Chairman Bao is inspired by traditional Chinese street food but instead is given a bit of an American twist — the Muscovy duck sandwich in particular was amazing.

The Crowd Drowning Award: Thomas Mars/Phoenix

During Phoenix’s closing finale to conclude Saturday night, Thomas Mars, in his usual fashion, proceeded to zip into the crowd – deep, deep into the crowd – as the band extended a reprise of “Entertainment” in the background. For about fifteen minutes Mars gallivanted about, slapped fives, gave hugs and proceeded to crowd surf, slowly, back to the stage. Once he finally made it back all he could do was thank the city and the festival for helping the band end their current tour on the highest of notes. Short of breath and collapsed onto his ass, Mars waved both hands before falling back in exasperation. It was endearing and extremely giving from a band who, at this point, just needed to simply be there and play their songs.

Honorable Mention: Matt Berninger/The National

The National.

The National.

As he is apt to do, Berninger hopped into the crowd during “Mr. November” as he declared, throat bare: “I won’t fuck us over!”, yet I feel like Matt had no idea just how far he had initially dashed into the mass. He made it back eventually, but it was great to see him pushed through the crowd like a man swept out to sea by an undertow.

It’s The Return Award: Jurassic 5

In their first show together in years, the LA group took control of The Bay in one fell swoop. Forever the showmen, they continued to back up their life-long claims of artistic purity and pure bad-assery on stage. And while their ability to engage and include the audience is exceptional, it is when they took the time to speak from their hearts and minds to a very willing crowd, that the set became something exceptional. These are very smart, experienced people and thankfully they can still articulate that so fluidly, so many years into their illustrious career. Also – props to DJ Nu-Mark and DJ Cut Chemist for absoutely throwing down during their “solo” performance.

The Even Split Award: Tie – Yeah Yeah Yeahs/Grizzly Bear

Karen O commands her crowd.

Karen O commands her crowd.

What did the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s sound like the second portion of their set? Don’t know. How about the first half of Grizzly Bear’s timeslot? Same basic deal really – didn’t catch it. In one of the many shit-luck scheduling overlaps, both bands were playing during the same time period on Saturday evening. Thankfully both groups are exceptional performers and thirty minutes of hour(ish) long sets were more than enough to satiate an admirer. Departing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs after “Maps” and entering Grizzly Bear’s atmosphere to “Ready, Abel” was one of the most exceptional moments of Outside Lands.

Honorable Mention: Vampire Weekend/Willie Nelson

While we didn’t leave Vampire Weekend’s rousing set early – you really just couldn’t, it was too excellent – we did only miss a fraction of Mr. Red Haired Stranger, which in the end was needed reprieve on the final day of the festival.

Total Conversion Award: Vampire Weekend

Contra sucked – still does really – but those tunes could not be denied in person. This band absolutely kick ass live, plain and simple, and while I certainly wasn’t arguing that fact before seeing them, following it, I’ll sing their praise from upon high. They played a pretty even smattering of music from all three of their records, ending with the glorious “Walcott” imploring us all to get out of Cape Cod that night. The entire band sound pristine vocally, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more naturalistically charismatic and skilled frontman than Ezra Koenig. In what was their first show in San Francisco in apparently years, the boys from the North East once more solidified themselves as one of modern music’s most talented live acts.

Honorable Mention: The National

I didn’t hear another band praised as much the entire weekend – through hearsay and general eavesdropping – than The National. Berninger’s plunge into the crowd and Bob Weirs’ guest appearance during “Terrible Love” swayed a great many hearts that night.

Complete Showman Award: Paul McCartney

Mr. McCartney and that piano.

Mr. McCartney and that piano.

From his anecdotes about Hendrix calling into a crowd for Eric Clapton to tune his guitar, to his discussion of The Beatles’ time spent in San Francisco during the 60s, all the way to bringing a pair of young women on stage to sign their wrists (he had to wrap both arms around them to get the angle) – Sir Paul is still ever the showman. He played forty songs over about three hours to end the first night of Outside Lands and was probably the festival’s single best performance. He still sounds immaculate and can put on a spectacle on display that will burn itself crisply into your memory.

Honorable Mention: Tie – Red Hot Chili Peppers/The National

Sir Paul's firework heavy, confetti laden finale.

Sir Paul’s firework heavy, confetti laden finale.

The Chili Peppers’ on-stage antics and Matt Berninger’s awkward sincerity were equally entertaining and made the moments between songs as impactful as the music itself. Keidis and Flea’s goofy interactions and the frequent jam sessions between band members helped accentuate their intense groove. And Berninger’s little quips, day-in-the-life stories and miscues (mistook “This Is The Last Time” on the setlist for “I Need My Girl”, then proceeded to apologize to his daughter/wife – and his girl’s teacher, who was present that day) kept their set heartwarming and personal.

As three day festivals are concerned, you will not find much better than Outside Lands. While the food and drink can get a little pricey, you are at least not paying a high premium for complete swill – this is delectable food of an extremely high quality. And next year they could make you walk in circles a little less and add a few more more bathrooms (even VIP bathrooms take a while); but these are all fickle squabbles elicited through years of experience attending events like Outside Lands. Which is why I feel as though I can say with full confidence that this is a top tier experience, with a history of excellent lineups, a great entry fee, an exceptional location topped with the finest selection of food and drink (along with the easiest (lack of an) entry search) I’ve had the pleasure to experience at any music festival. Cheers San Francisco and Outside Lands – the pleasure was all mine.

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  • Rudy Klapper

    First show together in years?! Jurassic 5 were at Coachella bruv

  • Dylan Siniscalchi

    Just reiterating what they told to us rubes in the crowd.

  • Tayyab Amin

    Sounds really good.
    Shame about D’Angelo, in fairness he’s in hospital :(
    I’m glad Vampire Weekend got the conversion award – Contra totally doesn’t suck :P
    Surprised by the McCartney praise!

  • Dylan Siniscalchi

    Yeah we found that out later that D’Angelo had dropped out because of a sudden “severe illness”. Hopefully he recovers soon.

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