FESTIVAL RECAP: Outside Lands 2012

SATURDAY

Street Art @ Outside Lands 2012 || Photo by Wesley Hodges

Although Sunday ended up ridiculously strong, the weekend’s most enchanting offerings came on Saturday, which offered an overflowing platter of ridiculously powerful and buzzworthy artists. The middle day’s schedule ran an impressive gamut from the dreamy and intoxicating early set by Tame Impala (a long overdue first chance to finally see the Aussie psych band), Father John Misty’s slithery, Lizard King dance moves (J. Tillman was wearing a Freedom Now! Legalize LSD shirt), a massively crowded Alabama Shakes set and the sure-thing, always flooring guitar assaults of Explosions in the Sky all packed nicely into a four-hour window.

Of that bunch, Tame Impala floored the most, there’s just no frills, smoke or mirrors with these guys – its all about the really, really, ridiculously headswimming music they produce and the sky’s the limit going forward there.

Alabama Shakes @ Outside Lands (Sutro Stage) – 8/11/2012 || Photo by Wesley Hodges

ALABAMA SHAKES

Despite their massive buzz, few could have foreseen a crowd of ^^that^^ size for the Shakes, and their placement on the Sutro Stage made it abundantly clear that the already have a main stage size draw. Similar grumblings came after they played a tent this year and this beast just appears to be gaining popularity at an epic rate right now, similar to what Mumford & Sons accomplished in 2010-11. The inability to even catch a glimpse of Brittany Howard and the rest of the Shakes made their set a wash and difficult to hear, although we caught a few nice anecdotes from Brittany and “Boys and Girls” before moving elsewhere.

METALLICA –> SIGUR ROS

Following that impressive run, the 1-2 punch of METALLICA and Sigur Ros was one of those rare, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that made attending Outside Lands a no-brainer. Although many would’ve liked to have seen all of both sets, the ability to thrash and mosh to speed metal and take in the over-the-top fireworks-laden display of a legendary hometown Metallica show, before traipsing into an ethereal wonderland created by the Icelandic wonder band at Twin Peaks is something I’ll never forget and if my neck doesn’t recover from headbanging at Metallica, I’ll also never stop feeling the effects of this show. Would do it again, when in the pit, one must Ride Thou Lightning.

Early on, James Hetfield exclaimed: “We’re playing for the whole Bay Area” and his band was unquestionably and expectedly the loudest to play the main stage all weekend. Hetfield added, “hope you can hear us” and the added dose of ferocity that the band delivered early on during classic songs like “Master of Puppets,” “Fuel” and “Ride The Lightning”, was more than even most hardcore fans could have asked for. There truly is, and likely never will be again, anything in the world like a Metallica concert.

James Hetfield of METALLICA @ Outside Lands 2012 || Photo by Wesley Hodges

On the way to Sigur Ros, we also managed to catch the tail end of Dr. Dog’s set, who were ecstatically hopping around to “The Rabbit, The Bat, and The Reindeer” at the Panhandle Stage. Dr. Dog, Metallica and Sigur Ros is almost about as bad as a festival conflict can get, so glad to have been able to catch at least a glimpse of their set while booking it over to Hopelandia.

Sigur Ros @ Outside Lands 2012 || Photo by Wesley Hodges

Sigur Ros’ set began with the stark and quiet bells of “Í Gær” (if there was a peak moment to pinpoint during the weekend, this was it) on a shadow-filled stage before a massive explosion of guitar and light sliced through the fog and elucidated an indescribably beautiful scene in Hellman Hollow amongst mountain-moving music. The tension-and-release of the first 60 seconds encapsulated not only the band’s swell-and-peak tendencies, but it also set the tone for the remainder of the set – one that included the new single “Varuo,” “Svefn-g-englar,” “Olsen Olsen,” and the impossibly soaring “Popplagio” (the final song from Sigur Ros’ essential ( ) album).

Their songs come from [a] vein that almost seems holy. Its like their music has always ‘existed’ and they are just revealing it or channeling it to us. [perfect YouTube comment on "Poppalgio" video]

For coverage of Sunday, continue on