Live Review: Outside Lands (Day 3) - Golden Gate Park - San Francisco, CA
Tue, 02 Sep 2008 16:23:53
For Outside Lands' final hurrah, the shroud of clouds that shaded the first two days finally dissipated. Sunburns were already appearing on the napes of some unprepared patrons when Bon Iver took the stage. Flanked by a three-piece backing band, frontman Justin Vernon had the seemingly impossible task of invoking the gelid seclusion that haunted his astounding 2007 debut, For Emma, Forever Ago, for an overheated festival audience. The songwriter's earnest falsetto on the opening song, "Flume," immediately dispelled any thoughts of the overbearing sun. Vernon's voice fully entranced the audience as it entwined with the backing vocals to recreate the chorus's heartrending harmonies. Though the band's new track, "Blood Bank," had a Springsteen-esque verse that readily fit the festival setting, the sound didn't fully mesh with Vernon's signature croon on the slowed down chorus, revealing some of the possible missteps of their "full band" incarnation. Despite this slight disappointment, the rest of the set adeptly moved through some of For Emma's most poignant moments, including an unforgettable sing-along on the bridge of "The Wolves (Act I and II)" that drowned out the sound system and turned Vernon's forlorn masterpiece into a cathartic moment for thousands.
Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) | by Jay Watford
While Bon Iver's set closed with the tempestuous feedback of "Creature Fear," Andrew Bird was methodically weaving together his baroque folk on the other side of the festival. In front of a flowerbed of blooming gramophones, Bird looped violin parts into lushly orchestrated string sections that warmly cradled his wildly theatric compositions. On "Skin Is, My," the virtuoso sowed a lush backdrop of plucked violin notes before donning a guitar and tending to the song's lilting vocal melodies. Concertgoers had no time to catch their breath after the show of instrumental bravado, as The Cool Kids hit the stage early to meet the day's mandatory hip hop quota. "I thought I was just seeing things, but that really is a windmill over there," MC Mikey Rocks mused before the subsonic bass of "Gold and a Pager" shook the crowd. With the assistance of fellow wordsmith Chuck Inglish, the two volleyed verses back and forth with a hipster-friendly swagger on a handful of cuts from their EP, The Bake Sale, before sending the crowd into a frenzy with blog-o-sphere favorites like "88."
Chuck Inglish (The Cool Kids) | by Jay Watford
When the Chicagoans closed up shop, the festival fell into the 20-plus hands of Canada's Broken Social Scene. With more than ten musicians on stage, including a horn section and multiple special guests, the shoegaze supergroup kicked off the set with the tropical cadence of "Pacific Theme" before launching into the infectious break beat of "KC Accidental." Despite the rollicking jams the band of musicians delivered, the slow building "Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl" was the high water mark for the set. With Star's frontwoman Amy Millan on vocal duties, the song's subtle riptide of melodic hooks pulled the audience in before the group let loose a writhing storm of crashing cymbals and thundering chords that propelled the live version to new emotive heights.
Mikey Rocks (The Cool Kids) | Broken Social Scene | by Jay Watford
"We'd like to thank Broken Social Scene for opening for us tonight," Zach Schwartz, leader of Rogue Wave, humbly joked before kicking off their set. The four-piece presented a number of hook-laden songs built on a ubiquitous mix of country, folk and pop that was welcoming but quickly lost charm. Though the singsong choruses of tracks like "Chicago X 12" are palatable on their own, when taken in succession they tend to smear together into a bland monotony.
Zach Schwartz (Rogue Wave) | by Jay Watford
Rogue Wave's set was further marginalized when it fell under the shadow of alt-countries most celebrated practitioners, Wilco. For many of those who bemoaned Jack Johnson's spot wrapping up the weekend, the group served as a de facto closer. Led by Jeff Tweedy, they graciously filled the slot with a performance that faultlessly shifted between the desperate tones of their decade-spanning library. Though the group has always been a formidable presence live, the addition of guitarist Nels Cline's pristine riffs and evocative slide guitar pushed them to another level. The interlocking, three-part guitar harmonies of "Impossible Germany" drew some of the loudest cheers of the set, while the schizophrenic noise jams in the middle of the tame folk serenade "Via Chicago" drew vexed looks that quickly turned into fascinated appreciation. Wilco bowed out with an overdriven version of "I'm the Man That Loves You," featuring a revamped solo section that had Cline and Tweedy trading incendiary fretboard work.
Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) | Nels Cline (Wilco) | by Jay Watford
With tired feet but blissfully satiated ears, many concertgoers exited the festival to the sound Jack Johnson's beach-dwelling, acoustic pop weaving through the trees and echoing down San Francisco's banking streets. Walking home through the Victorian architecture and sea air that earmark the city, it became clear that concert promoters had not just offered a festival that can stand toe-to-toe with the summer's finest, they had created a musical experience that could only happen in San Francisco.
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3