Concert: Outside Lands in San Francisco, Day 1
A capacity crowd of 60,000 ventured onto a huge expanse of Golden Gate Park for the opening day of San Francisco's fourth Outside Lands gathering, taking in an eclectic mix of music, food and sights. Really, this day felt like two festivals: there was Phish, and there was everything else.
Last year, promoters booked Grateful Dead spinoff band Furthur to headline opening night, and this year the Dead's closest modern-day parallel, Phish, had the honor. Led by a spry and smiling Trey Anastasio, the jam band played two sets -- beginning at 6:30 p.m. and ending at 10 p.m. -- to the assembled mass of fans. The crowd up front was bouncing from the first notes of the opening set's "Kill Devil Falls," and the jam-rockers got fan favorite "Wilson" out of the way early.
The Phish-heads and the indie-pop/rock fans that seemed to make up most of the rest of the festival's opening-day crowd occupied different worlds, with few if any dreadlocked white guys seen at Ellie Goulding's set, for instance. But the jam-band booking was a smart one -- the festival was cut down from three days to two last year, and no doubt Phish's clout was a big part of the reason Outside Lands is back up to three days this year.
As Phish played their marathon set on the main Lands End Stage, the reunited Big Audio Dynamite was tearing up the distant Twin Peaks Stage. Perhaps it's because BAD hasn't put any miles on the odometer in more than a decade, but the group flat out rocked at points, with ex-Clash member Mick Jones leading the charge by bringing huge energy to the proceedings. BAD's sound is more influential than you think, and by the end of set-closer "Rush," the younger fans onhand seemed to be thoroughly impressed.
Judging by the enormous number of fans who crowded the Twin Peaks Stage for The Shins, the indie-pop band's forthcoming album is going to be huge. Unfortunately, without big screens onstage and auxiliary speakers deep in the crowd, many of those filling Speedway Meadow couldn't get a look at the band, and a good chunk of the sound was carried away by the light coastal winds. Though The Shins haven't played much since 2009, the band seemed well oiled as they delivered their well-crafted, melodic pop.
Earlier in the day, L.A. dance-pop buzz-band Foster the People weren't quite as big as the venue they played -- from the rear of the festival's Sutro Stage, it was hard to discern whether there was a band up on stage or if recorded music was emanating from the sound system. Up front, though, they gave hints of the force they're reputed to be on the club circuit. Faring better on the Lands End main stage was MGMT, perhaps thanks to the bigger sound and lighting system. One of the day's better sets was put in by indie-rockers Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, who built up a huge head of steam while displaying a sound they've seemed to have fleshed out considerably over the past few years.
Weatherwise, it was a typical summer-in-San Francisco day, with cool temperatures and a light fog (or was that a haze of cannabis smoke?) rolling in early. Things started to get pretty chilly as the sun went down and winds picked up, leaving lots of kids in short pants shivering under the souvenir blankets smartly sold at the event's official merch shops.
Organizers did a fantastic job assembling the festival's non-musical elements -- so much so that even someone who wasn't into the music could find plenty to enjoy. Aside from top-notch people-watching, there were lots of interesting food choices offered up by local restaurants and caterers (including a section of food trucks and a "Choco Lands" desert area), a wine-tasting tent and a sports bar tent, among dozens of other attractions, mostly brought in by sponsors.
Though the crowd exuded a general air of happiness, the feel-good vibes no doubt weren't entirely shared by fans of rapper Big Boi, who evidently was hanging backstage with comic Dave Chapelle among others, and burning up his Twitter account as fans waited for more than an hour for him to take the stage. "My man Dave Chapelle came to see ya boy kill shit," Big Boi tweeted at one point.
Big Boi eventually came out to explain that his DJ went to the wrong stage and that he'd be on in a few minutes -- 7 p.m., instead of the scheduled 6:20. According to Examiner.com (this reporter was elsewhere at the time), Chapelle came onstage for awhile to calm the crowd, but Big Boi's reps later said there would be no show at all because he was only left with 20 minutes to perform before Erykah Badu's set.
The incident ended a particularly bad week for Big Boi, who was arrested on Sunday (8/7) on felony drug possession charges after he reportedly was found carrying ecstasy, MDMA and unprescribed Viagra while exiting a cruise ship.