Monday, August 15, 2011

Outside Lands

Since a huge music festival was coming to our area, we knew we had to get tickets.  Our friend Tim decided to fly out and join us.

Rather than attempt to navigate public transportation in getting to Golden Gate Park for this, our first Outside Lands Festival, we opted for VIP parking.  This was an excellent call as the busses coming to and from the park were jam packed with people.  Busses are the only public transportation option around the park; train and cable car lines don't come close enough to be viable choices.

We made it to the VIP gate and got 3-day wristbands.  The wristbands included a computer chip which provided access certain areas.  The festival main stage was centered in the park's polo field.  The polo field grandstand and building were reserved for VIP ticket holders.  In the building, there were lots of seating areas, a bar, and massage chairs.  The music from the main stage was pumped in.  It was a good place to kick off each day's festival with a drink while we figured out where we headed first.

Day 1:
  • Headed to the Twin Peaks stage (all stages are named after SF neighborhoods), found a prime spot for our blanket, watched Lotus perform while a dance party broke out in front of us.  Conery got some video footage.  It was tremendously entertaining.  This was definitely the perfect start to the festival.  
  • As we were walking around, there was an exceptional number of people wearing various headbands.  It seemed like it would be fun to keep track in some way of the headbandiness.  Thus began the day's game of Punch Headband; see a headband, punch your friend.
  • In order to have our choice of location for the night's two sets of Phish, we headed to the Lands End stage getting food along the way.  We walked through this food truck forrest area and left it very quickly.  Apparently, someone decided that the perfect place for the station for the cops on horseback was near this food area.  Needless to say, the smell of horse shit made the decision for us; we'd be getting food somewhere else.
  • MGMT was performing before Phish, so we decided to check that out.  They got a collective *meh* from us.  That's the great thing about festivals; you can hear a lot of music without committing to see a particular band.  Had I to do it over, I would have stayed at the TP stage to see a couple bands there instead of MGMT.
  • From our great location in the VIP section, we watched Phish hit the stage at 6:30 for the first of their two sets.  The festival's stage managers were on the ball.  There is probably some exception, but all the bands we listened to started right on time.  Phish looked and sounded good.  Their habit of sloppy playing seemed to be a thing of the past.  The setlist was chock full of new and old favorites.  There were lots of phans in the audience, but based on overheard conversations on day two, the show made a few new phans as well.
Day 2:
  • Saturday, started off with some funky jazz from The Greyboy Allstars.  We meandered around the main stage area checking out the vendor booths, eating lunch, and getting our container filled at one of the water refill stations.
  • Today's game = Punch Pork Pie Hat.
  • Based on Tim's recommendation, we made our way to the Sutro stage to hear Bob Schneider.  Having never heard him, I had no expectations and was pleasantly surprised.  In addition to the dance pit that seemed to form at most of the shows, this one had a couple hula hoop dancers.  We were sitting in a shady spot on the side of a hill and had a good vantage point to see the hooping and random dancing.  There was never a shortage of crazy outfits and nutty dancing.
  • The next three bands that we wanted to see were all at the Lands End stage.  We found a place in the VIP section which provided some shade.  Conery's forehead told the tale of Day 1's lack of sunscreen; overcast days will do that to you every time.  Day 2 was sunny and cool, so we found some shade and chilled while Arctic Monkeys performed.  They were good, but not something I'd make a point to see in the future.
  • Next up was The Black Keys.  They are one of my favorite bands.  After seeing them at The House of Blues, seeing them outside during a huge festival was a cool change.  They were hard and bluesy.  Loved hearing stuff from the new album.
  • Muse was on last.  They were definitely saving up because it was an amazing show.  They took the stage and owned it.  Having only seen them in an opening act role before made seeing them in a leading role extra special.  The Black Keys/Muse combo was definitely a high point for me.
Day 3:
  • Headed to the Sutro stage to see tUnE-yArDs.  From our shady perch, we could see some of the same dancers from the previous days.  I think several factions of dancers banded together to form a freakier, stinkier union.  tUnE-yArDs were pretty cool and had live horns and some cool percussion going on.
  • Today's game = It was going to be Punch Vest or Punch Baby Wearing Ear Plugs, but neither went anywhere.  
  • Now we come to day 3's nutty highlight which finds us back at the Twin Peaks stage where we witnessed our first Outside Lands dance party.  Since it was another sunny, cool day, we went to the side lawn reserved for VIPs like us.  There were a few picnic benches and the possibility of shade.  The band we were there to see was !!! (pronounced chk chk chk).  Let me just say that there are no chicks in the band in case you were thinking that was the origin of the name.  I'd heard this band a few times on satellite radio and thought it was be interesting.  They classify themselves as a dance punk band which is pretty close to my description of guitar-heavy disco.  Who could really focus on the music though when the front man was consuming all the attention.  This dude comes out in tiny tennis shorts and a tshirt; not sure if he had shoes on, but I'm leaning toward no.  His dancing can only be classified as necessary.  He was so into the dancing that it seemed like he was possessed and had no choice but to shake his groove thing.  There were times when he jumped off stage to dance with the audience.
  • After !!!, we had a little downtime before the last two bands we wanted to see, so we went back to our shady area in the VIP section and listened to John Fogerty.  He is/was the lead singer of Credence Clearwater Revival and trotted out his hits.  Apparently, his status as a Bay Area native was enough to make him a festival draw. 
  • Next up was The Decemberists.  We've seen them a couple times, but they never fail to impress.  Conery was actually thinking of bailing on The Decemberists to go see Gallagher perform in another area, but The Decemberists kept playing all the songs that he likes, so he stuck around.  There was a lot of cool interaction with the audience.  There had been occasional people (mostly women) sitting on the shoulders of others, so the lead singer made a joke about wanting to see some camel fights break out (you might know them as chicken fights).  I'm not sure if making mention of that practice was to discourage people from doing it because when he made the comment it was assumed that people who were sitting on shoulders were going to have to fight other "camels".  A few people didn't look too interested, but of course others saw this as an opportunity to be on the big screen monitors.  Big screen monitors make people do strange things.  There was some cute girl on there at some point, and the guy next to her saw that as the prime opportunity to kiss her.  She was not into it, however; comedy ensued. 
  • The last act of the night (and of the festival) was Arcade Fire.  The band is more of an orchestra with its 8+ members.  They were great live, great energy.  I wasn't sure what to expect but was happy to catch some of their show.  
  • Before their set started, we discussed our exit strategy.  Traffic leaving the park and surrounding neighborhoods on Saturday was a bitch.  We agreed that we'd stay for 4 or 5 songs and bail.  Tim had a 6am flight to catch back to Orlando, and Conery had to work.  Using one of my floating holidays for Monday (today) was the best decision!

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