The first thing we noticed about the second day of the Outside Lands festival was all the people. We're still waiting on official figures to back this up, but here are our impressions: On Saturday afternoon on the polo fields felt laid back, with blankets sporadically arranged and plenty of green in between. Enough wide-open space was found to keep games of frisbee going into Furthur's evening set. Sunday, however, the fields were saturated with people by 4 p.m. With a stage on either end of the huge arena, the conclusion of one band's show would set off a migration en masse to the other side of the field. And pity those who tried to move against the flow -- that giant green was full
The larger crowds didn't detract from the second-day Outside Lands experience -- they may have even added to it. Gazing out over the fields during the main-stage sets of Phoenix, Kings of Leon, and the Temper Trap was kind of amazing. Phoenix, in particular, had a wide swath of the crowd waving and bouncing along to its hooky, groove-happy French indie-rock. The hundreds of arms waving during "1901" looked like tiny fingers vibrating out of a turf of humanity.
Most of the shows benefit from the larger, and thus more lively, audiences. On the big Speedway Meadows stage, Nas and Damian Marley got their massive fan blob shuddering like wet, stoned noodles to the massive, slow beats. We caught just the end of their rap-reggae set, but when the first notes of Damian's father's "Could You Be Loved" twinkled forth from the P.A., the sprawling pool of people started bouncing, waving, and getting down almost in unison. That's how a reggae show should be.
Bands didn't need big crowds to blow minds and shake hips, though. Closer Empire of the Sun drew a surprisingly compact group away from the apparently magnetic pull of Kings of Leon, but that crowd tripped balls at the Australian duo's psychedelic electro-pop. The projections of planets, star systems and other spacey themes on the stage background set our interpretive mode to "Sci-Fi," which made the gold-swathed dancers and ridiculous feather costumes of Empire's live show feel totally reasonable. Our physics-and-art-class-instilled pretensions thus excused, we -- and most everyone else -- set about to dancing our asses off.
Walking out of the park when the festival ended, the river of people was noticeably thicker than it had been Saturday. That's not terribly surprising given the superiority of the second day's lineup. Choosing acts to watch on Saturday wasn't too difficult until the very end, but on Sunday, we were inclined to rush around constantly, trying to catch everyone -- an effort which the large crowds did obstruct.
But the bigger Sunday group was always tolerable, even when leaving. Despite all the people we somehow got a seat on the inbound N-Judah returning from both days of Outside Lands this year.