Outside Lands 2012 Paid Homage To The Bay
2011 was undoubtedly the festival's watershed year. After a transcendent weekend last summer, Another Planet Entertainment needed to follow through on their statement. How would they respond? How could they top it?
Over the last three days, the answer rollicked through Golden Gate Park alongside a thick wave of fog.
From the music to the food, the energy/waste programs to the art, everything was locally grown. Outside Lands has established itself as a vessel to explore the culture and vibes of the Bay Area.
Things began on a chilly note as festival-goers were ill prepared for the engulfing cold. Walking through the grounds, one heard more about the weather than the music. One of the early highlights was Beck, who delivered a laid-back set that relied on his older tunes while also covering Bob Dylan and Neil Young. This musical exploration and appreciation continued throughout the festival where acts honored influential artists from the past.
Other memorable acts included the South African freak-rap duo Die Antwoord and Brooklyn's Antibalas, who served a tropical blend of funk that heated up the Panhandle Stage.
Friday's headliner Neil Young and Crazy Horse jammed through a rocking set. His first tune was 17 minutes long alone. But old favorites like "Needle and the Damage Done" and "Cinammon Girl" were absolute treasures.
Equally inspired by The Beatles and Krautrock acts like Can, Tame Impala kicked the day off by playing the psychadelic rock that helped define San Francisco 40 years ago.
Other artists like Father John Misty, Dr. Dog, and Thee Oh Sees continued this notion of exploring the rich musical history of psychadelic rock. Norah Jones even brought Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir on stage to play one of his songs. It seemed like everyone was a bit romantic about the Bay.
The biggest breakthrough of the festival came from Alabama Shakes, a roots rock band whose lead singer, Brittany Howard, sounds halfway between Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin. Their set exploded with energy and soul, drawing a large crowd to the Sutro Stage.
And then, the headliners. Festival-goers were split between local hard-rock favorites Metallica or Sigur Ros, the Icelandic dreamweavers. The former delivered a high-voltage performance that shook the whole neighborhood.
On the other end of the grounds, Sigur Ros delivered an ethereal performance that captured the magic and beauty of the park. Both groups delivered masterful performances that helped make Outside Lands a really special event.
This dose of good vibes continued into Sunday, when the skies cleared up.
Acts like Franz Ferdinand and Jack White rocked the festival, blowing up the Lands’ End stage. Regina Spektor delivered a heartfelt and interesting performance.
Stevie Wonder ended the festival with a celebratory set that carried a weight of political and social responsibility. This was the "School of Wonder" after all. His somewhat heavy-handed message reinforced the major theme of Outside Lands: It all became clear.
This is a festival about love. About music and food and energy and art. Outside Lands differs in that it tries to engage a sense of history along with having a good time.
Through engaging its culture and ideologies, Outside Lands is a property of San Francisco. It’s exciting to see what they cook up next.
Reach Samuel Schulte here.