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Monday, August 10, 2015

Caribou Plays the Long Game at Outside Lands

Posted By on Mon, Aug 10, 2015 at 9:24 AM

click to enlarge img_0152.jpg

Twin Peaks Stage, Outside Lands Festival
Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015

Better Than: Leaving the festival early to get a good night's sleep for work tomorrow.

Dan Snaith may be the nerd dad of EDM. Dressed all in white, an aesthetic shared by his three bandmates on stage, he made for an unassuming figure on the Twin Peaks stage in the final hours of the 2015 edition of the Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival. The crowd that came to see Caribou were a weary lot, running low on their second winds but eager to see the group responsible for 2014’s highly-acclaimed album Our Love.

Caribou’s songs are centered on a sound, be it a flute riff not entirely dissimilar from something Men at Work might build around or the more abstract synth soundscapes that have become a staple for the group. The music functions as a slow-burn: even-tempered rhythms build around a groove until in an instant they transform into a vibrant pulse of danceable beats. Drummer Brad Weber was impressive behind the kit, providing a percussive spine upon which fractured vocals and sharp guitar hooks shined.

The weather, largely pleasant and even occasionally warm during the weekend, seemed finally to remember its infamous reputation as fog and drizzle hung over the Twin Peaks stage Sunday evening. While by the end of the set, the crowd was rightly dancing to the immensely catchy “Sun” off 2010’s Swim, at first their haphazard shuffling was likely the result of half-hearted attempts to stay warm.

It would be gauche to label Caribou an acquired taste, but as fans found their way over from mainstream crooner Sam Smith and dance party denizen Dan Deacon, it was clear that Cairbou’s brand of electropop would take a little while to adjust to. Eventually, however, the adjustment period gave way to the low-key but fully committed dance party worthy of the men on stage.

Song after song, long stretches of ambient chill erupted into bursts of controlled chaos, beckoning the Twin Peaks audience to power on. In a sea of people sporting “friend finder” totems — examples include a real Towlie* towel, a unicorn head smoking a sizable spliff, and the smiling heads duo of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson — strangers were united under Snaith’s spell.

The Outside Lands Festival is more than an endurance contest or chance to eat burger patties bookended by glazed donuts — it can be a gateway to discover new bands, reconnect with old favorites, or in the case of Caribou, see a musical visionary be unafraid to take the time needed to prepare his nuanced brand of textured compositions. Snaith may not have made it easy to get in the groove at the onset, but that's not his burden. As festival goers, it's our duty to give the time and open ears to the artists in front of us. Sometimes we are justly rewarded for our efforts. Caribou was certainly one such time. 

Critic’s Notebook:

— If the attendees of Caribou were planning to catch headliner Elton John, they certainly didn’t seem to be in a rush to make the pilgrimage across the festival. Odds are it was a combination of interest in sticking around for Twin Peaks closers Axwell & Ingrosso and the inertia that congeals into lethargy by day three of a music festival.

— What at first appeared to be concentrated, repetitive clouds of pot smoke emanating from the pit turned out to just be fog moving across the soundboard lighting. Either way, very San Francisco.

— While Outside Lands may not ostensibly be about eating crazy things, I did close out Caribou's set with a fried plantain and black bean burrito from The Little Chihuahua and my dear lord was it delicious.  

* if you don’t get this reference, please go watch as much South Park as possible
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About The Author

Zack Ruskin

Zack Ruskin

Zack was born in San Francisco and never found a reason to leave. He has written for Consequence of Sound, The Believer, The Millions, and The Rumpus. He is still in search of a Bort license plate.

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