Heineken: Breakfast of Champions
Bands seen: Steel Pulse, Manu Chao, Radiohead
Bands (regretfully) missed: Beck, Black Mountain, Cold War Kids
Well, folks. Yr Gurl is back from San Francisco and I think I'm still picking bits of grass out of my hair. The inaugural Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival thundered through Golden Gate Park this past weekend, and if it could have been better, I'm fairly certain I'd have died from heart failure. In all, ten of us (plus a surprise Sunday guest) mustered the energy, the courage, and the monetary funds to bust up to the Bay Area for three glorious days. And I have to say, all the pre-planning certainly paid off, because despite a few minor glitches (to be detailed in later posts), the entire shebang went off nearly without a hitch.
First glimpse of the grounds
On Friday we drove up from Santa Maria and, after a train ride and a trip on the Muni #5, we made a beeline across the polo field to the Land's End stage to stake our claim for Radiohead. The festival grounds were grassy and expansive, with narrow chutes leading to more meadows, more stages, and always more Heineken (the omnipresent alcoholic beverage sponsor of the weekend). Oddly, the crowd was a gleeful mishmash of aging hipsters, Portland hippies, and Middle Earth ex-pats. The ball-busting trou of typical Summer fest patrons were conspicuously absent, or at least partially sheathed in striped hoodies. When honest-to-goodness ironic mustaches or lensless grandma frames were spotted, they were mostly ignored. (If not treated with utter derision, but maybe that's just me. Yep. That's just me). After all, the vibe wasn't one of sartorial superiority but rather of ganja, love, and recycling. Usually in that order.
Clint and Ben express their excitement for Steel Pulse
Mike contemplates life
The lineup itself reflected the odd amalgamation of mid-30's Gen X nostalgia and exuberant up-and-comers: late-90's guitar crunchers Cake vs. Franc-Anglo-slang boy Bon Iver; Brodeo favorites Primus vs. Long Beach art stars the Cold War Kids. Performance fleece vs. Flex fleece. Hash vs. Parliaments, and so on.
Flanked by a drooping perimeter of cypress trees, Radiohead took the stage in front of an industrial fluorescent curtain just after the failing sun was all but snuffed out by a blanket of fog. The hyperactive proclamations of the previous act, Manu Chao, had whipped the crowd into a fist-pumping frenzy and despite the manic expectations for Yorke & co.'s typical squalling syncopation, the boys were surprisingly subdued. That's not to say that Yorke didn't twitch frenetically or that they didn't completely annihilate the crowd with a blistering rendition of "National Anthem." Oh, they did. Rather, the subtle nuances of slower tunes like "Karma Police," crowd-favorite "Talk Show Host," and "Videotape" took on a eery, elegiac quality. If the crush of bodies near the front of the stage didn't kill ya, the mournful "Exit Music (For a Film)" certainly would.
The first few chords of "Talk Show Host"
Oh, Thom. Oh, heart.
The best part of the night, however, was when we wandered in a daze back out into the San Francisco evening and realized, hey, hey guys? Yeah, this is just the beginning.