The second and final day of Outside Lands was a pretty successful music-filled day for me and my crew. I saw some seriously great music, ate some great food, enjoyed some $8 Newcastles, and generally left completely primed for the Worship My Organ face-melt that was planned for the late-night show at the Boom Boom Room. Mission accomplished.
The festival was solid, though. We came away with tons of memories and a bit more energy compared to the two previous years when the festival was spread out amongst three different days. The streamlined fest felt efficient and it felt like it was logistically successful, so for that we had hardly a complaint in terms of food, beer and facilities. Plus the music was pretty sick.
We started our day off at Mayer Hawthorne & The County, a refreshing beginning of day two for me. The music had that funky, soulful vibe that was perfect for the sunny day that was blessing Golden Gate Park with some amazing festival weather. The music had people grooving and we weren’t so far back that we didn’t notice how stylish this band was. I immediately decided I would be downloading some of this upon my arrival home (which reminds me, I need to get on that). A perfect start to the day is accurate, though.
After that set wound down, I found myself walking to the other end of the festival grounds to catch Devil Makes Three. I asked my buddy Pete what they sounded like, and he said “it’s basically bluegrass music about drinking,” or something like that. Sure enough, I hadn’t even found my spot on the hill before I was hearing lines about “not seeing straight,” whiskey this, moonshine that. It was a dead-on description. I sat and chilled with friends while we took in some of the tunes, but we weren’t exactly needed that music at the moment. I’ll save my bluegrass in the park weekend for Hardly Strictly. So we cruised over to Temper Trap, an interesting drum-heavy indie rock band based on the grooves I was hearing. I noticed quickly how far back I would be compared to the day before. The crowd definitely seemed heavier on Sunday, and I overheard plenty of people remark that the festival lineup on Sunday was simply more enjoyable and more appealing to a larger set of people. Kings of Leon and Phoenix will do that to a festival, I guess.
Between the Temper Trap and waiting for Janelle Monae’s set at the other end of the Polo Fields, I was able to connect with a set of friends that I have connected with at each previous Outside Lands. That was an awesome moment, but sadly we got an announcement on stage that Monae’s flight had run late earlier in the day and that they needed another 10 minutes to set up. I waited until she came on about 25 minutes after that while those guys ran ahead to catch Edward Sharpe on the other end of the festival. I was immediately feeling the same opener and schtick that I remember vividly from the show I saw that Janelle Monae did at Cafe Du Nord earlier this year. It was cool enough but I definitely felt like I had already seen this show. The crowd was eating it up and loving every second of it, though.
I cruised to the other end of the festival grounds to get in ear shot of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes on the Twin Peaks stage. This was when I realized the mass of the crowd compared to the prior day, as this band had a huge draw and the crowd on the hill had swelled. Somehow, the weather was amazing, too. It was unlike almost every other day of Outside Lands I had ever attended. At one point the sky completely opened up and just let everyone really enjoy a beautiful summer day in the park. And I was rocking it solo when I found my way over to Garage a Trois on the Panhandle stage, easily the second top highlight of the weekend for me musically. The festival offered something for everyone today, and sadly that wasn’t on the main stage headliner talent area at all. I knew Phoenix was huge and it was going to be not too long after Al Green, which plenty of other people were at before the GaT mayhem that ensued right around 4:30pm. Soon I was 10 people back behind these mad geniuses of psychedelic jazz and loving absolutely every second of their set. I’ve only seen a proper Garage a Trois show once before, and this seemed to take all that and condense it into a 45 minute set of craziness in the middle of Golden Gate Park. I was so glad I didn’t miss this, and everyone in my crew slowly made their way over and into the midst of the crowd filled with people laughing and cheering along with Skerik’s crazy facial expressions and Mike Dillon’s all around craziness. The set ended with Dillon knocking down his mics, knocking over his drums, and doing a straight hurdle over his xylophone rig crashing straight into the center of the stage so he could mosh with Skerik. Serious insanity.
From there, it was going to be hard to follow that up and I assumed that nothing could even match the energy that I was feeling during that set. It turns out that was somewhat true, but later in the evening I would experience a lot more of this controlled and contained musical exploration and improvisation that easily match that set energy times a million. That said, Chromeo was up next. Straight-up fun music that was thrilling the big stage with so many girls dancing, so many hands in the air, and more vocoder jams that you could ever think would work in one set. But they pull it off, man. Seriously, this was a big surprise for me and not something I had ever gotten into before, maybe worrying that his stuff with Daryl Hall was a bit too gimmicky or something. I was floored, though. This was seriously great stuff and perfectly placed while the sun started it’s way to setting while the large crowd danced and danced before they headed back to the Polo Fields for Phoenix. As me and my buddies were chilling on the hill, we noticed these five dudes just cut through the crowd but running at full speed. At first it seemed like they were just trying to get a jump on the crowd that would be heading across the park at any moment, but then we noticed another stream of people running into the festival grounds and straight from the Twin Peaks stage to anywhere else their legs could take them. Gate crashers suck, man. Note to anyone that took part in this — don’t ruin it for the rest of us, you idiots. I know this has happened every year, too, but that doesn’t make it better.
We took our time after Chromeo and let the mass get ahead of us while we chilled out and walked slowly behind. Phoenix was a main stage act playing on the huge Polo Field stage where it’s just not that easy to get up to where you want to be unless you want to fight for it. You have to want it, and sadly Phoenix just doesn’t do it for me enough to get me going towards the front. I chilled back with my crew that ran into some nice friendly ladies, and we were all “Worship My Organ @ Boom Boom Room later…” They knew exactly what that meant. Heyo!
Really though, we headed right back across the field after watching Phoenix for like 15 minutes. I was a bit more interested in hearing the Nas & Damien “Jr. Gong” Marley set that would be rocking the sunset slow on the Twin Peaks stage. We saw the Jamaican flag rocking in the distance and knew we were in for some serious rastafari s*** (as if I even know what the hell that means). The set was fun and the real jam of the day brought tons of people to throw their hands in the air, the “Welcome to Jam Rock” groove that seemed perfectly placed to keep the sun flowing down on the crowd. This dude in front of us rolled the largest joint I’ve ever seen anyone roll at a show, too. A hilariously skilled technician, this guy also seemed perfectly placed at this show and this place and time. Kudos, random joint-rolling dude.
Thankfully, the final set that I really cared about seeing that day was only a short walk back to the Panhandle stage to finish the day with The Budos Band. They were a seriously grooving afro funk band that seemed straight outta Brooklyn, and they had this cool swagger, great sounds, and maybe one too many random percussionist dudes on stage. Okay, I’m only half kidding there — it all made this package that was a funky way to finalize my day. I would go see these guys again in a heartbeat.
On my way out of the park for the third incarnation of this over-corporatized yet high caliber music festival, we cruised through the Kings of Leon area to get home and get ready for Worship My Organ at the Boom Boom Room. I wasn’t all that jazzed on the idea of trying to watch Kings of Leon work a huge mass of an audience that clearly knew their songs better than I ever could vs. trying my luck at the Empire of the Sun set after the Budos Band, I realized that keeping some energy in me for the ride home and the show later proved to be a worthwhile investment. Outside Lands will hopefully be back next year, and I’ll likely see you strolling your way through the park on your way to the gates just like everybody else.
They should get Phish next year. Heh.