Monday, August 25, 2008

REVIEW: Outside Lands Festival (SF)

[Photo credit goes to llamacafecom.]

So, down goes a long weekend of music in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. I would classify the inaugural Outside Lands Festival as an overall success, but not without the expected hiccups. Since I attended without a press pass, my photos ended up being fairly pedestrian, so I've culled the beloved flickr for some good ones. Sanjay Suchak has loads of other good shots, that I can't imbed here, but you can take a look at if you want to get a better feel of the festival. I won't go into a full-on festival recap (which you can find here, among other places), so here's some odds and ends from my end.

[Photo credit goes to whalesharque.]

+ The first night crowd, most of which were there for Radiohead, pushed the capacity limits of the festival. Everything was crowded (food, beer, bathrooms, etc) and the moving around was pretty limited.
+ One of the main "side" stages, where Beck played had a pretty horrible viewing angle, so unless you were on the hill along the side, or within 50 feet of the stage, it was hard to get a view of the performance.
+ The Radiohead show was excellent, as expected, aside from when the sound cut twice for about 30 seconds. Bad timing for a technical malfunction, when your headliner is on stage. Overall, though, the sound was pretty good. Per Radiohead standards, the visuals were excellent. (Funny side note: KEXP is playing a Radiohead song as I write this)
+ Jack Johnson, who closed out the festival on Sunday night, surprised me. I was wondering if his sound would be able to fill out the huge main stage area (in the Polo Fields), and it certainly did. I think it was a good choice as a closing act, as it sent everyone off on a positive/calm note.

[Photo credit goes to blurb.]

+ I know that Devendra Banhart won over a number of new fans with his performance. He's just a force of a performer, and I think that once you see him live his recordings take on a new dimension. Plus, he had on a rad old school Lakers t-shirt, which was funny. (Side note: I first ran into Mr. Banhart at a Ratatat show a little over 2 years ago at Great American Music Hall. He was chilling in the back, as a fan, which I thought was cool.)
+ Beck's set was great and eclectic. Although I'm really into his new album (my friend calls it a "creeper", as in it gets better with each listen), the highlight track for me was "Que Onda Guero" for some odd reason. Never been a huge fan of the track, guess the wind was just right at the time.
+ One complaint commonly heard, concerning the festival at large, was the corporate nature of the event. Although they made many "green" efforts, it seemed like everything (and I mean everything) was sponsored. Now, I get that they've got to do in order to cover costs, but it does get a bit tiring. (C'mon, a Visa Signature Series VIP Lounge??!?!). Since the 3-day pass was $225.50 (plus all the service charges), you'd think the sponsorships would be a little less prevalent. Probably just wishful thinking on my part.
+ Wilco were amazing, seemed like the stage they played on (not the main one) had the best sound. The crowd was definitely into it.

[Photo credit goes to ppparasol.]

+ Tons of folks jumped the fence into the festival the first night, so security was beefed up the next couple of days. I even talked to a few people who just walked past the ticket-takers. (Side note: As we were leaving the first night, one guy stole a huge flagpole, which there were lots of, and was running out the exit with it. A security guard yells "Hey, slow down, stop running!" and didn't even care/notice the flagpole.)
+ Saturday and Sunday were much more mellow than Friday night, probably around 40,000 folks instead of 60,000. Made getting around alot easier for sure.
+ My personal favorite set was The Cool Kids, someone who I enjoy but probably wouldn't catch outside of this kind of setting. Rap is hard to pull off live, and I've seen some horrible sets in my day, so I was duly impressed. Plus, the stage banter is damn good. (So, if you run into them, tell them they did a good job.)
+ Bon Iver also was able to pull off his sound live, which I was curious about. Really humble guy, it seemed.
+ Set I wish I saw: The Black Keys. Even though I've seen them about 6 times, I love their live performances. Too bad they were running parallel to Beck, who I hadn't ever seen (I know, how does that happen?), so I'll catch them next time around. Also heard good things about The Walkmen's performance, but I've seen them alot too. Oh well, can't see everything.

It'll be interesting to see if they make this into a yearly event, haven't read anything from the organizers about their expectations. If you also were at the festival, I'd love to hear your thoughts as well. Here's some tracks, while we're at it.

::: The Cool Kids - Black Mags
::: Devendra Banhart - Sea Horse
::: Radiohead - Nobody Does It Better (live)
::: Jack Johnson - Wasting Time
::: Wilco - Sky Blue Sky
::: Bon Iver - Skinny Love

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