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Monday, August 11, 2014

Outside Lands, Day 3: The Resolution

Posted By on Mon, Aug 11, 2014 at 1:51 PM

click to enlarge If Wayne Coyne could spend time in a bubble... - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • If Wayne Coyne could spend time in a bubble...

After three days all one can really say is "How much dust can build up in a pair of thigh-highs?" to which the answer is, "All of it." With that in mind, let's turn a sated, weary eye one last time to the events of Outside Lands and recall the highs and lows of Day 3.

click to enlarge cvoutsidelandsd3-022.jpg

Paolo Nutini: Despite his mumbly stage banter, dreamy British person Paolo Nutini turned out a triumphant set of love songs when it came time to put his voice to work. He’s got an inviting, soulful Otis Redding kind of raspiness, and his band fills the sound with rollicking bass riffs, big horns, and lots of shout-outs to various lovers that would make a nice backdrop to a wedding. Nutini's tunes cover a range of genres, even if none of them manage to stand out completely. "Cherry Blossom," for example, veers dangerously close to hair metal territory and even cops a bit of swagger from Warrant. — Andrew Dalton

click to enlarge Jenny Lewis - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • Jenny Lewis

Jenny Lewis: On the Sutro stage Jenny Lewis jumped right into the YouTube-friendly single "Just One Of The Guys," off of her latest solo album, The Voyager. Lewis has always been an impressive songwriter and storyteller, dotting folk tunes with a playful sense of humor, and, judging by the way the attractive crowd of fashionable girls twisted along to Rilo Kiley tracks like "The Moneymaker," she has a range people can identify with. — AD

On Break-Dancing, Pork: During a break between sets, another walk through the woods took me back to the Gastro Magic stage, where I watched break-dancers spin on their heads while two local butchers broke down entire pigs. It was weird and awesome. Like a carnival sideshow that could only come together in foodie-friendly San Francisco. — AD

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

Spoon: Spoon drew a big wave of people back to the Land's End stage, as if everyone simultaneously underestimated the band's drawing power. The band stretched out a bit, indulging in some good old American showmanship on the electric guitar while frontman Britt Daniel wailed and yawped through the their punchy rock songs. Crowd pleasers "I Summon You" and "The Underdog" slipped in between highlights from the band's stellar new collection, They Want My Soul. In this writer's opinion, Spoon is one of the best American rock bands at the moment, but that was an honor that Daniel himself deferred to The Flaming Lips as he waved his goodbyes to the crowd. — AD

click to enlarge Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips:
So let's assume that there's a magic number, known only to God Himself, and the number corresponds to the ideal crowd size for each and every band and performer on Earth. There's really a range of numbers, of course: Paul McCartney can play for anywhere from zero to 7 billion people (proper amplification notwithstanding) and do a really just great job of it. Most others fall somewhere in between. Point being that a festival challenges those numbers, puts bands that came up in clubs in front of great big crowds where nuances of style and sound may do better or, just as often, get somewhat lost. Their Ideal Crowd Ratio is much lower than the actual audience size.
click to enlarge What's that back there? A sun? Man I'm drunk. - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • What's that back there? A sun? Man I'm drunk.

The Flaming Lips stand right at the pivot point between being ideal for festival crowds and being ideal in a smaller, maybe even indoor, space. This is because of their stage show, which combines a lot of light and screens and general weirdo bombast with intricate costuming and the Martian Messiah antics of frontman Wayne Coyne. There's stuff you want to see up close, in other words, so you don't find yourself way out in the pasture squinting and going, "What is that up there with him? Is that a mushroom dancing there? What's he doing to that worm-thing?" Etc. Plus you just want to be right up there close when he rolls out onto the crowd in that bubble of his. That's intimate like the climax of a cult is intimate. 

But then again... 

Watching him standing out there in his bubble on his sea of fans as the Lips sounds soars and warps, that really speaks to something Big. To creating a whole out of a lot of tiny wiggling drunken parts. The Flaming Lips, unlike probably any other band, has the ability to transcend, in the course of a single song, its Ideal Crowd Ratio, to suddenly fill the cosmic space and make it intimate, even if for just a moment, to bring the whole world into that bubble, there to dance uncomfortably close to Coyne and his light-up codpiece. — Brandon R. Reynolds

Cut Copy:
Every year, the Twin Peaks stage turns out to be a great place to get cozy with several thousand EDM fans and they showed up in droves for Cut Copy. The cool, club-friendly vibe of their 2008 breakout record In Ghost Colours hides a certain energy that only comes out when the band is onstage. The beats hit heavier and frontman Dan Whitford stepped out from behind the keyboard to share a round of high-fives with the front row. The Jumbotron showed one fan looking ecstatic and glazed-over, mouth agape while the crowd around him fist-pumped along to "Lights & Music." — AD

On Totems, Hunter-Gatherers:
 A novel innovation allowed this year by Outside Lands was the Totem, an image-bearing thing-on-a-stick to indicate where a certain group's camp was. It introduced a tribal element, roving bands who worshipped at the altar of big-haired Rob Lowe or Danny Devito as Frank Reynolds or a giant-ass pickle. The only metrics in choosing a good totem were 1) humor and B) irony. Not only did clans gather at the appointed time and place, but they also (the totems) served as landmarks by which others could find their way around. It became an interesting landscape of cartoons and balloons by which the hordes could navigate and created, in a sort of temporary, shifting way, a mappable space and a series of townships, which rather recalled the blanket empires of a whole other festival. — BRR

Gold Panda: Although his set isn't much to look at, Gold Panda's background visuals of broken, glitchy digital artifacts were all that producer Derwin Schlecker needed to attract those same EDM fans who were in danger of falling over if they didn't keep moving. Schlecker's knob-twiddling and button-pushing bounces on a base of stuttering beats and electronic organs, run through with soul samples and splashy cymbals. — AD

click to enlarge Brandon Flowers of The Killers - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • Brandon Flowers of The Killers

The Killers: The Killers led their set the only way the Killers can: with the flashy, bombastic "Mr. Brightside" that became a mega hit after their 2004 debut, Hot Fuss. The band relies heavily on singer Brandon Flowers' glossy swagger and with their clean-cut rocker vibe, this headliner set could be the greatest episode of American Idol ever. It hardly seems to matter when Flowers croons nonsensical anthem lyrics like, "Are we human? Or are we dancer?" No one can resist big rock music and the band has honed its showmanship to a fine art, which became all the more obvious when Flowers started listing off all the wonderful things the Bay Area has bestowed onto the world, right before giving a shout-out to the super moon with a cover of CCR's "Bad Moon Rising" and playing everyone out to the sounds of "Sittin' On The Dock of the Bay." — AD

click to enlarge Lewis Black - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • Lewis Black

And Now, a Few Words on the Barbary Stage: 
The Barbary Stage is in some ways the most under-appreciated part of Outside Lands. The indoor comedy arena hearkens back to the good old days of San Francisco’s red-light district, and the interior of the impromptu club looks like a downtown Vegas casino lounge, minus the cigarette smoke and obesity. The stained glass and wood-framed mirrors are an impressive touch, and it was apparently constructed in Belgium, so: fancy.

The stage is home to Outside Lands’ comedy lineup, a series of shows co-presented by SF Sketchfest. The lineup this year was formidable, with big names such as Aisha Tyler and Lewis Black coupled with less famous but at least as talented individuals such as Aparna Nancherla and Seth Morris. The shows were of a high quality, and everyone probably already heard about the surprise appearance of Sir Patrick Stewart at the highly funny Improvised Shakespeare Comedy show.

Improv4Humans, a live show based on Matt Besser’s expertly-crafted podcast, was quite funny, putting to rest the assumption that improv comedy is always horrible to watch and ushering in a new era in which improv comedy is only horrible to watch sometimes, which is true of pretty much anything. The Silicon Valley set, featuring three of the stars of the HBO program doing stand-up, was very funny as well, in large part thanks to stand-up expert Kumail Nanjiani, whose bit about his mom’s Amazon review of his comedy special was hilarious. Belligerent Lewis Black performed with Rory Albanese, a former writer and executive producer for The Daily Show. Both guys are comedy veterans, particularly Black, who’s at his best now when doing sort of out-of-touch material about his fancy vacations to Tahiti. He included the requisite skewering of Republicans, Democrats, pharmaceutical companies, and, which we’ve all come to love. (By the way, Albanese is hilarious as well, and since you likely did not see him at Outside Lands, try to make a point to see his performance at some point.)

The issue with the Barbary Stage is that it’s indoors, so there is limited seating capacity, which means it’s required that you queue up a minimum of 30 minutes before every show begins and cross your fingers that you’ll get in. They hand out little tickets for the upcoming show after each one lets out, but those don’t guarantee admission. And it should be said that if you arrive a little late to a show and ask if your ticket will get you in, not only will the answer be no, but you may find the ticket being forcibly wrested from your hand as you’re admonished for not getting there earlier. This is all fairly standard for a comedy show in the real world, but in the world of a free outdoor music festival in which people can go from stage to stage as free as a 23-year-old hula-hooping in a pair of tribal-inspired bell-bottoms, the Barbary doesn’t quite fit in, vibe-wise. Why not have them perform outdoors, like at the Gastro Magic stage? Something to think about. That said, the shows are good and worth the wait, if you don’t mind temporarily forsaking the opportunity to sort of dance along to a band you hopefully sort of like.  — Emilie Mutert

Outside Lands, Day 3: By the Numbers

140: Number of SFPD citations given over the course of the entire festival for trespassing

12: Number of citations given by SFPD over the course of the entire festival for public intoxication

10: Number of citations given by SFPD over the course of the entire festival for peddling without a permit

1: Number of felony arrests made by SFPD over the course of the festival for possession of narcotics

1: Number of women who passed out on the floor of the comedy tent during Thomas Middleditch’s set on Sunday

1: Number of Sir Patrick Stewarts in attendance at the festival

7: Number of Outside Lands-based Missed Connections posted on Craigslist, because there are still some old-fashioned romantics out there

94: Number of musical acts scheduled to perform at the festival

93: Number of musical acts that ended up performing at the festival (-Chvrches)

1: Number of photos taken in S.F. and released to the public of celebrity Kim Kardashian, who came to watch her husband Kanye West perform

A mind-blowing amount: The number of photographs of celebrity Kim Kardashian that exist in the world

0: The number of press photographers that were allowed access to photograph Las Vegas band The Killers during their set on Sunday, which closed out the festival (they have their own guy)

1906: The year the first hotel and casino opened in Las Vegas. Its name? The Golden Gate Hotel and Casino.
— EM
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