Live Review: Outside Lands (Day 1) - Golden Gate Park - San Francisco, CA
Tue, 26 Aug 2008 17:10:01
Even in its inaugural year, San Francisco's Outside Lands Festival had some very lofty expectations to fulfill. The city once served as the hub for a counter-culture that fueled the Monterey Pop Festival, and now, over thirty years later, Outside Lands marks the return of modern festivals to their spiritual provenance. Even under the veil of fog that blanketed Golden Gate Park, opening day seemed poised to etch its place in history.
Outside Lands | by Jay Watford
Well aware of their place in the annals of music, Steel Pulse opened the main stage with lead guitarist Basil Gabbidon wailing on a reggae-fied version of Henrdrix's classic National Anthem performance. Halfway through the homage, the British band dropped into the roots reggae groove of "Worth His Weight In Gold," their tribute to the Black Nationalist Flag. On the other side of the grounds, Black Mountain invoked a sound that would fit perfectly amongst the pantheon of classic rock bands in the '60s. Propelled by tight, overdriven bass lines, lead singer/guitarist Stephen McBean's sharply honed guitar riffs and vocals took on a palpable energy on standout songs like the epic heroin-jam "Druganaut."
Amber Webber (Black Mountain) | Stephen McBean (Black Mountain) | by Jay Watford
Despite the immensity of the festival grounds—which took upwards of 15 minutes to traverse—many concertgoers bolted towards the main stage when Manu Chao's signature mix of reggae, punk and ska filled the air. As their exotic cadences broke into breakneck power chord choruses, many patrons took short dance breaks with their preferred smoking devices to help blanket the crowd in a thicker fog than Mother Nature had provided. Like Black Mountain before them, The Black Keys served as a pure rock foil to the main stage's worldly vibe. The guitar and drum duo served up their distilled blues-rock with a wall of sound that belied their minimal set-up. "This is a historical night," singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach reflected, before launching through a set of amp-punishing fretboard work that would make his predecessors proud.
Manu Chao | by Jeff Kravitz | Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) | by Jay Watford
Though many had already started staking a claim at the main stage for Radiohead, Frisco native Lyrics Born managed to draw a large crowd of hip hop devotees. Backed by a live band that held down the beat with soulful precision, Born's rapid-fire word play sparked the crowd into a frenzy. On the girl-centric "I Like It, I Love It," the MC prowled the stage with a confident swagger, commanding wild cheers from men and women alike.
Lyrics Born | by Jay Watford | Thom Yorke (Radiohead) | by Jeff Kravitz
As the rest of the artists bowed out and the pall of clouds over Outside Lands dimmed, nearly 60,000 people gathered at the main stage. After a day of acts that often relived classic moments from the past, Radiohead offered a musical experience that future generations will attempt to recreate. As the syncopated beat of opener "15 Step" thundered over the park grounds, Thom Yorke's haunting falsetto knocked the breath out of the once deafeningly raucous crowd. In the wake of the astonished applause that followed, Yorke nonchalantly offered a, "What's up?" before diving back into the orchestrated chaos of a set list that spanned their entire discography.
Radiohead | by Jeff Kravitz
With the exception of the sound system cutting out twice—once tragically during the looming guitar lead of "Airbag"—every aspect of Radiohead's performance came together like clockwork. Their light show visually channeled Yorke's inimitable howls, while the live video feed featured music video quality cinematography. During "You and Whose Army," Yorke eerily sang to a fisheye camera in his piano for a spectacle of mad genius that enthralled the audience and forced the singer into a mid-song fit of laughter. Even with these expertly conducted nuances, the most astonishing aspect of the show was the way Yorke and Co. weaved together the seemingly dichotic tones of their albums. The band moved seamlessly through the stunning arpeggios of "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" into the electro-schizophrenia of a reworked "Idioteque" that emerged into an ominous "Karma Police" sing-alonghemming together over a decade of music into one mesmerizing sonic story that spanned nearly two hours. When the band walked off stage to a vocal loop from their final song, "Everything In Its Right Place," they had more than earned their spot as the first headliner to grace Golden Gate Park; they had created one of the defining musical experiences of the past decade.
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3