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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Outside Lands, Day 1: Calibration

Posted By on Sat, Aug 9, 2014 at 1:52 PM

click to enlarge ANDREW DALTON
  • Andrew Dalton

Let the public transit tremble, for Outside Lands has begun. The sixth year got off to an auspicious start, with clear skies, mild temps, and a generous outlay of skin and flower crowns, such that out-of-towners were seen to be fumbling with comically oversized maps and asking passersby if this wasn't actually Los Angeles and "Which way to the foggy concerts?" And perhaps the fog will keep its scheduled appointment with the festival, but this day, at any rate, was a solid one, with strong performances by Chromeo, Arctic Monkeys, and the United States Postal Service.

The first day of a festival being one of calibration, of getting adjusted to sharing grass- and Muni-space with revelers drinking tequila smuggled in Perrier bottles, our account of the festival includes observations not just of the music, but of the environs all around, plus a look at the festival by the numbers. (For updates on the best things eaten, head over to our SFoodie blog for the best of the first day's foods.) — Brandon R. Reynolds

On Arriving Earlyish: 
Out of morbid curiosity and a complete lack of anything better to do, I arrived early to see what kind of festival-goer shows up at Noon on a Friday. It turns out hardly anyone arrives at noon because it takes 20 minutes to get from Fulton Street to an actual stage. Still, the fenced-in walk through the park provided a good time to bond with a youth who was strolling in, swigging Cabernet from a bottle in a brown bag. Around 12:20 p.m. a small crowd was sitting on the grass around the Panhandle stage gently enjoying some lite arena rock provided by Night Terrors of 1927. It was a little too early for anthemic pop. — Andrew Dalton

Phosphorescent: Phosphorescent had attracted a crowd as full and humble as singer-songwriter Matthew Houck's bedroom folk. Phosphorescent's latest album Muchacho is a sparkling, electro-flecked work that set the tone for some gentle mid-afternoon swaying and whiskey-swigging out in Lindley Meadow, followed by a trip to Cheese Lands for some truffle burrata. — AD

On Musical Philately, Sobriety: 
Over at the official U.S. Postal Service tent, the post office celebrated the release of a Janis Joplin commemorative stamp, which dads in cargo pants and smart layers were buying up in sheets and carefully tucking away into their backpacks. There is apparently a crossover between the festival crowd and the stamp-collecting crowd that I was unaware of. A short walk away, there was already a line at the celebrated Del Popolo pizza truck next to the Toyota Space Disco, which is just a temporary show room for hybrid vehicles. At the Sober Lands tent, a sign written in sharpie on a piece of cardboard announced meetings at 1, 4, and 7 p.m. Only an hour into the festival, the crowd was about five deep around the Land's End stage. Kanye was still seven hours away. — AD

click to enlarge Chromeo - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • Chromeo

The crowd had filled in the Polo Fields by the time Chromeo took the Land's End stage to play through their glossy, Autotuned set of dance-pop. People moved, but in that not-gonna-move-too-much way that people do when they haven't quite ingested enough substances yet. The crowd was dotted with signposts so friends could find each other in the scrum: a smiling poop emoji on a stick, a giant picture of Nic Cage's head, a balloon 40 feet in the air telling "Jeff" where his friends were.

Chromeo was maybe the festival's first real wake-up call, though, and if there was a moment that really began immersing people in the Outside Lands experience, it was the the soaring "Come Alive" midway through the set, capped by commercially ubiquitous yet still fun show-ender "Jealous." — AD

The Tedeschi Trucks Band: 
There are some very deep, very weird strains of American music running through Tedeschi Trucks Band. A traditional, kind of reverent appreciation for the blues is overlaid by flamboyant sax, guitar virtuoso Derek Trucks' sometimes-trippy noodling, and Susan Tedeschi's voice, a really pretty flawless instrument that gets compared to Bonnie Raitt but still probably isn't appreciated enough. Given that Tedeschi has been teased with nominations by the Grammy folks for years and finally won her first, for Best Blues Album in 2012, with this band's first album, Revelator. Tedeschi and husband Trucks put their own bands on hold to join forces and produce (one man's opinion), their strongest work.

Trucks' guitarwork throughout led the band in and out of these traditional and less-traditional tunes (one hates to invoke a jam band comparison, because while Trucks will soar way out there, it's not the hourslong wankery of certain other festival mainstays who shall remain nameless. The way he wields his slide produces some trippy and downright sleazy effects, and then bang here comes Tedeschi with her roadhouse croon to walk us through blues both Delta and moderne. The crowd at the Sutro stage, for its part, favored pizza and indulged, here and there, in swaying, punctuated by skipping. The music invited a variety of physical responses.

And it is what you might call challenging, which not all blues music necessarily is. That is to say, there is some smart stuff at work here, as you'll see with for example this clip (not from OSL unfortunately) in which the Trucksian noodling and the Tedeschian croon marry nicely. — BRR

On Backstages, Free Drinks: Thanks to some chef friends, I ended up backstage at Gastro Magic, the food-centric operation out of the way in the woods between Cocktail Lands and Bacon Lands and the porta-potty lands at the edge of the Polo Fields. They have their own sponsored bar back there and they will gladly hand you free shots of bourbon. Backstage at Gastro Magic is the music festival equivalent of an industry bar. Or the food industry equivalent of the media tent, which is where freeloaders such as myself down free Red Bull and Heineken from a kegerator. — AD

click to enlarge Arctic Monkeys - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • Arctic Monkeys

Arctic Monkeys:
 Sometimes life just goes at a different tempo than you're ready for. Or at least, sometimes a band's album production would have one believe that they move perhaps a bit faster than they in fact do. That, at least, was the case with Arctic Monkeys, whose set of jangly guitars and Sheffieldian accents progressed a couple of beats slower than expected. This heroin chic setting did not, however, appreciably diminish the enjoyment of the 17-song set, even though characteristically quick, pounding tracks like "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair" got a little sludgy.

Nevertheless, the band played on high and fine, some of the noise and grit of their early years polished out and replaced with a classier kind of snarl. — BRR

click to enlarge Who is that diamond-masked man? - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • Who is that diamond-masked man?

Kanye West:
 Full disclosure: The best part of the performance was the audience hollering "Where's Kim?" at him, because at least there's honesty in the fact that this Kanye thing is becoming some big cosmic joke. Early enthusiasm from the audience at the diamond-masked man playing through red light, smoke, and nothing else on stage waned as he got on a rambling tirade about lovers and haters and then proceeded to muddle "Blood on the Leaves," giving it a few tries mid-set before passing on it, game-show-style, and then finally figuring it out as his finale.

There's talent in the guy, and hints of it appeared onstage, but one is left to wonder whether his musical output is just what he does to amuse himself in the breaks among a career-long tantrum.

And as to the Kim question, the answer is, indeed, "There, somewhere, keeping the story going." — BRR

Outside Lands, Day 1: By the Numbers

13 million: Number of people who visit Golden Gate Park each year

65,000: Approximate number of Outside Lands attendees

56: Number of citations issued by SFPD Friday to people for public nuisance or trespassing at Outside Lands

50: Approximate number out of those 56 that were specifically for public nuisance, which includes both public intoxication and gate crashing

17 (probably): Number of couples fighting within festival grounds at any given moment

35 US $: Cost to purchase a crown of flowers at the flower crown kiosk
  • Andrew Dalton

90: Amount of minutes it takes to pick up the flower crown you just ordered

6,210: Amount of hot dogs (and buns) Joey “Jaws” Chestnut could hypothetically eat while he is waiting for his flower crown

2.5: The number of times on average your Muni vehicle will be rendered immobile while someone explains to someone else that the doors will not close if they are standing on the stairs

Too many to count: Young women wearing cutoff jean shorts that show the bottom part of their butts!

30 million US $: Reported net worth of Kanye West in June 2014, according to Forbes Magazine

470 US $: Allegedly the cost of this Uber ride from the festival to S.F.’s Eureka Valley neighborhood, via the Great Highway

63,829: Approximate number of those Uber rides Kanye could afford to take, just for fun. It is a Great Highway!
-Emilie Mutert
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