Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

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outside lands 2012 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

In all my years as a festie, I’ve never been to a festival where gloves seemed like a perfectly sound idea. But San Francisco defies the logic of California (as comedian Marcus Monroe put it, “It’s summer, so tell your fucking city that”), with cool days and downright cold evenings. Still, the City by the Bay plays one hell of a host. Coming from Boston, the honest politeness of the people here was shockingly apparent from the moment I stepped onto the BART. With sunny skies above, it was a warm welcome to the weekend ahead.

Of course, that warmth was largely emotional inside of Golden Gate Park. It was like crossing the boundaries of climates themselves to walk from the sunny streets to the foggy park. The wooded paths may have gotten dusty, but with a circus revue to entertain and Third Man Records’ rolling record store to host secret Jack White shows, it was a trek you were willing to make. It also cut down the travel between Lands End and Twin Peaks, which often caused the biggest conflict: Do you run to catch MSTRKRFT before Neil Young, or queue up for a better spot?

osl5 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

Photo by Ted Maider

With one of the best lineups of the year, what ended up being most conflicting was when and where you would eat. San Francisco is well known for treating foodies right, and the festival’s offerings filled the park with too many tantalizing treats to possibly try them all. The addition of Outside Lambs back by Choco Lands (how good do both of those things sound?) provided some of the best meals of the weekend, with food trucks spread throughout the grounds giving you tasty options wherever you were.

There was a lot to see at Outside Lands Music Festival and a lot of music to catch, but it never felt entirely overwhelming. It’s exceedingly well organized, with swift lines everywhere and quite the courteous staff. Sure, people snuck in and fences were pulled down to bypass some of the more crowded pathways, but vibes remained highly positive. And that went a long way in keeping an unprepared out-of-towner like me warm through the cool days. That, and some pretty incredible tuneage.

-Ben Kaye
Assistant News Editor

Friday, August 10th

twogallants2 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Two Gallants – Lands End – 1:50 p.m.

Prepping for the release of their first album in five years, garage folk duo Two Gallants stepped onto the main stage in front of a healthy hometown crowd. Calling them folk seems a little inaccurate, though, especially considering some of the new material. “My Love Won’t Wait” had singer/guitarist Adam Stephens sounding like a screaming Kurt Cobain; one untitled number had moments that borrowed right from “Ten Cent Pistol”; “Ride Away” rang of Manchester Orchestra by way of The Walkmen at points. Whatever the sound, the boys ripped it (and their intimate set at Rickshaw Stop on Wednesday had even more destructive force). Older numbers like “Steady Rollin’” and “Despite What You’ve Been Told” kept long-time fans dancing and singing along, and the band certainly left with some new converts. As the man next to me said, “I’m gonna be a fan of pretty much anything they do from now on.” -Ben Kaye

wallpaper7 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

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wallpaper. – Twin Peaks - 2:15 p.m.

Local party rappers wallpaper. arrived on Twin Peaks with their weird brand of “get wasted” music. Charismatic frontman Ricky Reed gave shout-outs to all areas of the Bay (Oakland, SF, San Jose) and proceeded to blast through tracks like “Shotgun” and “#Stupidfaceddd” to stir the early morning crowd into a drunken frenzy. On Facebook, Reed is always saying, “Ricky Reed is real,” and judging by his love for his home city and ability to make party rap that isn’t about “shuffling”, I’d say that’s accurate. -Ted Maider

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Photo by Debi Del Grande

Reggie Watts – Sutro – 2:35 p.m.

How do you even review a Reggie Watts set? Brooklyn’s eccentric beat-boxing comedy wizard put on an unremitting display of talent and intellect, his performance entirely improvised and original – every number was introduced as “a new song.” Whether delivering witty riffs through loops or just straight stand-up, Watts had the packed crowd laughing, dancing, and just plain enjoying themselves all the way behind the light booth and up on the stage-left incline (“Those people are on an incline”, Watts repeated during one rap). Topics ranged from drug advice (stay hydrated, stay away from synthetics, and keep in mind LSD is an eight-hour commitment), to fabricated bands playing later in the day (a The Cure off-shoot named The Foot), to elections (“Vote for the face and voice you want to hear for the next four years”). About 20 minutes into his set, he thought he had run out of time, looped together a beautiful ending, and was surprised he had to keep going. “I prepared for a three-hour set,” he said, and with the way things flow out of this man’s mind, he could easily have filled that time. -Ben Kaye

jukeboxtheghost Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Jukebox the Ghost – Panhandle – 3:05 p.m.

As it has been since Outside Land’s inception, the Panhandle stage was run entirely on solar and alternative power. Though this doesn’t allow for the loudest sound system, Jukebox the Ghost’s piano-led power-pop yielded more than enough energy. Ben Thornewill gave some of the credit to Tennis, thanking them for lending the use of a keyboard. He’s a rather adorable frontman, beyond just his charmingly good looks; his shifting facial expressions and twinkling magician’s fingers make him an amiable figure on stage. Material from the band’s latest, Safe Travels, took a spotlight, with “At Last”, “Oh, Emily”, “Somebody”, and “Say When” coming one after the other. Everything Under the Sun standout “Schizophrenia” was introduced by Thornewill as a song about “a time I thought I might go crazy. I still might– it’s up in the air. But I got over the fear.” It’s a good thing he didn’t stay totally sane, or that cover of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” might not have come out to get everyone singing along. -Ben Kaye

beck3 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

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Beck – Lands End – 4:30 p.m.

In the past, Beck has been described as an apathetic, “disinterested” performer, like at this summer’s Sasquatch! Festival. It could be his lithium drawl — one of the aspects that makes him classically Beck, but perhaps also a misunderstood artist. Never having seen him live myself, I wanted to give Beck a chance. “Girl” and “Where It’s At” featured elongated instrumental solos to lend back the energy, while Beck no longer seemed to be singing into the microphone for “E-Pro”. Covers of Bob Dylan (“Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat”) and Neil Young (“After the Gold Rush”) offered nice surprises, and it was great to see a legend in the flesh, but investing in a mildly better stage presence would go a long way for his live show. -Summer Dunsmore

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Foo Fighters – Lands End – 6:10 p.m.

Running through the crowd to climb the lighting tower is a classic rock-star-at-a-festival finishing move, something many musicians unleash towards the end of their set. For Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, it’s something you do during the fourth song (“My Hero”). That damned ceaseless grin, the way he worked the crowd from all corners of the stage, the way he spit mid-line during “The Pretender” (“You know they all [spit!] pretend”)– it all just colors him as a genuine rock star. In fact, the whole band had such a blast on stage, even with a mere 12-song set filled with mainly the hits, that it’s hard to think of a better straight-up rock band I’ve seen at a fest in some time.

The set largely consisted of hit-after-hit successions (“White Limo” into “All My Life” to open; “Best of You” into “Everlong” to close), with rare numbers “New Way Home” and “Aurora” added to give deep fans something to really sink into. And it seemed there were plenty of deep fans, from the dreadlocked guy who created a clear path to the stage by feigning as if he were going to puke (genius!) to the crew who innovated localized crowd surfing (more genius). Grohl expressed his own fandom for headliner Neil Young no less than twice. Usually heavy on the banter, he only spoke a few times, stating, “The faster we get done, the faster I get to see Neil Young.” In the end, he dedicated “Everlong” “to the headliners, because without them…” He let the line trail off, but the sterling set of rock’n’roll the Foo Fighters left behind said it all. -Ben Kaye

Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Lands End – 8:00 p.m. 

neil young 5 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012As the mist that is San Francisco’s famed fog settled in, Neil Young and Crazy Horse opened with a nearly 20-minute rendition of “Love and Only Love”. Bruce Springsteen may be out playing marathon sets, but at 66 years old, Neil Young is playing marathon songs. Not only that, he’s doing it with the wailing dexterity of his younger self– well, most of it. In the middle of one fast-picked “Fuckin’ Up” solo, he dropped his pick, plucked out the rest of the section, grabbed a new pick, and continued on, barely missing a beat. Even after not playing together for seven years, Crazy Horse (CH) was with him the whole way. There aren’t many bands that play as close as Young and CH did, blasting solos while standing practically on top of each other. CH kept their eyes locked on their leader, following his guide as if he were moving their fingers and hands himself.

Though nothing off Americana made an appearance, many of the new numbers they’ve been playing were showcased. “Born In Ontario” was particularly well received, an amusing reflection of how this Canadian folk singer has been appropriated by an American audience. At the end of the song, Young laughed, “It’s a great thing when you mess up your own song and nobody’s heard it yet, so nobody knows.” Though I didn’t notice that mistake, it wasn’t his only slip. “Walk Like A Giant” is a wonderful song about the failed promises of the cultural revolution of the 60s and 70s, and the crowd bopped along heartily to the new tune. But when it ended on a ridiculously prolonged repetition of one stomping chord with various warbles and feedback– we’re talking over 100 times– even Crazy Horse seemed to tire. The crowd wasn’t buying it, even as one girl stated weakly, “He’s Neil Young; he can do whatever he wants.” Four songs in, he had lost the audience. It’s a shame, because Young did a beautiful solo acoustic take on “The Needle and The Damage Done” immediately after, but the tepid reception hinted that few even noticed.

Thankfully, this was the one real low point in the set. After two songs of just Young on stage with an acoustic guitar, the crowd was right back in it. As it went on– through “Razor Love”, “Cinnamon Girl”, “Ramada Inn”– Young seemed to actually be gaining energy. Vigorous throughout, he kicked and stomped about harder than he had the whole show for closer “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)”. Walking out of the crowd during the first encore (Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul”), I noticed it didn’t extend too deep into the polo field. I can’t say if there was a dispersion after the “Walk Like a Giant” snore or if Justice just had a bigger draw. Whatever the case, those who missed out on the last three numbers should be kicking themselves. “Roll Another Number” playing you out of a festival is remarkably warming, even with the cruel chill of San Francisco’s summer forcing you to hug yourself. -Ben Kaye

Photo by Ben Kaye

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Photo by Ted Maider

Justice – Twin Peaks – 8:40 p.m.

Justice couldn’t have asked for a better setting: The Twin Peaks stage was tucked in a dark corner of the park, touched lightly by a fog-fueled sunset, leaving the stage lights to barely crack the darkness of the surrounding trees. With the stage set, the French duo began their performance as they usually do, with a boom and the tribal murmuring of “Genesis”. Albeit uniform at this point, Justice still offers a one-of-a-kind rousing set, and hearing crowd favorites like “Phantom” (both parts), “Civilization”, and “D.A.N.C.E.” amidst a fog-bitten night was more than just a thrill. Such a setting did have its share of consequences, however, and most fans couldn’t hear the music properly unless they were within the first 40 rows. Despite the lack of a stereophonic punch, the image of Gaspard Auge thrashing his curls around and the blue lights overhead, etched in fog and looking like the Aurora Borealis, made it a mystical experience. -Summer Dunsmore

Saturday, August 11th

tameimpala6 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

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Tame Impala – Lands End – 1:50 p.m.

The crowd thoroughly enjoyed Tame Impala’s chugging psych rock, dancing about and cheering loudly for most every number. Their sound was tight too, if not occasionally akin to an overly instrumental Band of Skulls (are four guitars really necessary for “Half Full Glass of Wine”?). But even though the music itself kept the audience plenty happy, there was something a bit off in the set. Frontman Kevin Parker just didn’t seem to be entirely into it. During “Lucidity”, he spent a good few bars fixing his hair instead of playing the chords, and his energy was largely subdued. When he thanked the people and commented on how “beautiful this all is,” he seemed not even half but quarter-hearted. If he had been on his game, this performance might have felt a lot more satisfying.  -Ben Kaye

fatherjohnmisty2 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Father John Misty – Panhandle – 2:55 p.m.

“Cool it, Grandpa – I’m on acid right now,” Joshua Tillman, AKA Father John Misty, exclaimed. Wearing a “Legalize LSD” shirt, Tillman ran through a number of tracks off this year’s Fear Fun, a decidedly more psychedelic jaunt than his previous work with Fleet Foxes. Following performances of “Well, You Can Do It” or “Nancy From Now On”, the mild-tempered songwriter got lost in an orchestrated reverie, grabbed the microphone, collapsed, then writhed and beat his tambourine whilst on the floor. Despite this wild performance, his voice never missed a beat, and the eccentric crowd applauded and laughed, their antique frocks mud-splattered and their furs drawn tight. Ending with “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”, Tillman’s music and stage presence hinted that he may indeed be the soulful storyteller for a lost generation. -Summer Dunsmore

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Portugal. The Man – Lands End - 3:10 p.m.

It’s been three years since Portugal. The Man appeared at Outside Lands. In that time, they’ve shifted their look from trippy indie rockers to being just a straight-up rock ‘n’ roll band. With a louder sound behind them, the Portland quartet returned on a bigger stage, flooded by fans that scraped their lungs on tracks like “So American” and one wildly adventurous cover of “Helter Skelter”. Appearances on Conan and endorsements by RZA notwithstanding, these guys are doing something right. -Ted Maider

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Grandaddy – Sutro – 5:05 p.m.

Alabama Shakes attracted one of the biggest crowds Sutro has ever seen, the hordes tearing down fences to cut through the trees as they exited. Once the stampede had died down, it was easy to get in close to see the reunited Grandaddy enter to the Welcome Back, Kotter theme. Though the crowd wasn’t huge, fans certainly were glad to grab prime real estate. Even as the band shook off some cobwebs with “El Caminos in the West” and dealt with some blown-out sound, there were many in the audience clearly psyched to see them back together. “This almost feels good,” Jason Lytle quipped dryly. “Nah, this feels good.” When those familiar electronic plinking of “A.M. 180” dropped, the crowd showed how good they really felt. Lytle and bassist Kevin Garcia seemed glad to be playing the old tunes, but guitarist Jim Fairchild put on the biggest show of delight at returning to a big stage. Drummer Aaron Burtch, meanwhile, smoked cigarettes throughout, and the band showed they can still light it up. -Ben Kaye

thee oh sees 5 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

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Thee Oh Sees – Panhandle – 6:05 p.m.

“It’s always been a dream to play Golden Gate Park,” Thee Oh Sees frontman John Dwyer remarked upon taking the Panhandle stage. “And here we fuckin’ are.” As they dove into the opening number, the hometown crowd thrashed and moshed out their welcome. It’s all velocity with these guys; they come fast, and drag you along through their scuzzy dust. Dwyer screwed up his face like Conan O’Brien saying “duh-huh?” whenever he tweaked out on a riff, a man literally twisted by his own sound. He and Petey Dammit were both show stealers, the former dragging his guitar head across the floor and the latter wildly kicking back and forth. Brigid Dawson’s harmonies are often cited as one of the band’s emblematic features, and it would’ve been nice if they were given more space to shine in the mix. The only bitterness I took away from this entire festival was having to leave Thee Oh Sees’ superlative set early to get in line for the letdown that would come. -Ben Kaye

neil patrick harris 2 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

Photo by Ben Kaye

Nerdist Variety Show – The Barbary – 6:45 p.m.

My first time attending a show at a festival’s comedy tent could well be my last. First came the 15-minute delay to enter The Barbary, which Nerdist’s Chris Hardwick likened to the tent Harry Potter stays in during the Quiddich World Cup. Hardwick lamely riffed on the audience, and his cover of “We’ve Got Tonight” with house band Mustache Harbor and comedian/actor David Koechner had exactly zero people singing along. Magician/Cupcake Wars host Justin Willman performed familiar tricks whose “prestige” moments were too small for most to see (why the TV screens weren’t used here is beyond me). Marcus Monroe brought some highlights, telling a story about a party where Lars Ulrich apparently did mounds of coke and tried to download a song from Kazaa, just as the first rumbles of Metallica’s set came through the windows.

Finally, the moment arrived: Neil Patrick Harris. There was a dull conversation where Koechner tried to make NPH his BFF, followed by Hardwick recalling an amusing tale of how he and Harris dated the same girl in high school. Then NPH, his fiancé, and two puppets plugged their new Nerdist Channel web-series, Neil Patrick Harris Dreaming in Puppets. And then Neil Patrick Harris humped a warthog. The 15-minute informercial was nowhere near worth the hassle of getting in– and far less than the music it caused me to miss. Damn you, NPH, for being so darned charming; even after this travesty, I’m still probably going to check out Dreaming in Puppets. -Ben Kaye

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Passion Pit – Twin Peaks - 6:50 p.m.

What started the previous weekend at Lollapalooza in Chicago’s Grant Park carried over for the Bay Area. Not too long ago, critics and fans alike complained how Passion Pit‘s Michael Angelakos couldn’t translate his voice to the live setting, and how the band lacked the proper cohesion to pull off a number of tracks. It’s a bit different now: During favorites like “Sleepyhead” or “Make Light”, Angelakos treated the stage like a playground, working off the energy of a very loving crowd. This Massachusetts outfit has struggled in the past, but if they keep this up, they’ll be opening for no one. -Ted Maider

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Metallica – Lands End – 7:40 p.m.

As far as imagery goes, Metallica’s performance was a surprisingly surreal experience– and one of the most evocative and memorable of the weekend. Attracting a smaller crowd than other headliners like Stevie Wonder, the scene created on the Polo Field was like a battlefield, complete with fiery explosions, plumes of dust and fog and smoke, and bodies lying in half-exhausted heaps on the ground.

It took some time for the Bay Area rockers to indulge in their classics, building up the energy and endurance of the crowd at first, but once they started with “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”, we were all done for. People danced in the mosh pit, and the crowd was raw, clamoring and clawing for the music. Prior to “One”, James Hetfield screamed, “Are you still having fun?” I never thought I’d see a laser show at a Metallica concert, but it seems anything is possible. And though the visuals were streamlined, the music remained just as vivid and poignant as always.

metallica10 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

Photo by Ted Maider

The mood picked up once more with “Blackened”, and the show climaxed during “Enter Sandman”. A red metallic spectrum of laser light sliced the crowd apart, as we were engulfed by dust and drizzle. It was a perfect moment, as Metallica had crafted the mood, and the crowd was ready to rage. The show ended on a high note, with the always reliable “Seek & Destroy”, though most will remember the band’s performance of “Nothing Else Matters”, which probably brought a tear to even the most hardened headbanger’s eye. -Summer Dunsmore

sigurros3 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Sigur Rós – Twin Peaks – 8:40 p.m.

There may be no stranger festival experience than leaving Metallica’s explosions behind to enter the dichotomous ambience of Sigur Rós (as Jónsi said, “It’s hard to compete with Metallica.”). In full disclosure, I wouldn’t be able to name the songs I heard without setlist.fm, but that doesn’t diminish the effect they had on me. The swells and false releases of “Festival” hoisted my spirits, still crushed some by NPH’s “show”, and dusted them off again. Jónsi gave me a Hoplandic pep talk with “Hoppípolla”, and the whole band wrung the last bad feelings from my being with “Með Blóðnasir”.

The epic final rise during “Olsen Olsen” coupled with the red-hued, vaguely astronomical imagery swirling about the screen behind the band brought the Curiosity landing to mind; the deflated end of the song momentarily conjured up images of how space exploration always ends in sci-fi horror films. It was but a moment of fear — still a testament to the band’s ability to draw out emotions– in a set that, personally, was soul cleansing. All the frustration and disappointment stemming from my time in The Barbary was drawn from me like sin in a baptism. When Sigur Rós took their bows and I headed for the exit, my applause joined the rest of the crowd’s until the stage disappeared behind the bend. -Ben Kaye

Sunday, August 12th

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Allen Stone – Lands End - 12:15 p.m.

“I notice a dance move some of you all seem to be doing,” Allen Stone stated while observing the earliest of early birds. “And it looks a bit like this.” Stone then crossed his arms and stood motionless with a serious face. “Trust me,” he called, “That’s not going to get you laid.” And that’s when he began to get going with the baby-making music. His soulful horns and that loud voice carried across Golden Gate Park and woke everyone up (despite playing a song called “Sleep”). Also, if you tease a soul cover of “Thriller” in the morning, people just have to get on their feet. -Ted Maider

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fun. – Lands End – 1:30 p.m.

Something about fun. makes them unbearably average on record but totally tolerable on stage. Nate Ruess probably has a lot to do with this; the frontman’s energy is unrelenting, and he clearly is enjoying the meteoric success his band has found. His tongue  slurped around his mouth, licking up the love delivered in roars from the packed afternoon crowd. Jack Antonoff made me a fan through Steel Train, and he and keyboardist Andrew Dost got a chance to shine on a solo during what was a respectable, close cover of The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. Despite the girl next to me laughing, “That’s it; it’s over,” after the ubiquitous “We Are Young”, closer “Some Nights” garnered a bigger response, regardless of the spoken-word break being even more tired live. Still, I think that girl inadvertently summed up the whole set when she evenly responded to “We Are Young”: “That was really awesome. That was really fun.” Change “awesome” to “good”, and her fairly flat statement amply encapsulates a fun. live show. -Ben Kaye

franzferdinand6 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Franz Ferdinand – Lands End – 2:40 p.m.

Sometime between the night of Friday, August 3rd (Osheaga) and Saturday the 4th (Lollapalooza), Alex Kapranos shaved his mustache. Still clean-shaven, he and a hyped-up Franz Ferdinand literally kicked open their main stage Outside Lands set with “Dark of the Matinée”. Though Kapranos’ voice sounded a bit strained at times, he used the sultry side of his baritone to seduce the crowd, changing the “Oh, lucky, lucky” at the end of “Do You Want To” to “oh, San Francisco.” However, the first verse was sloppy, and while the siren drone transition from “Can’t Stop Feeling” to the classic “Take Me Out” should’ve been epic, someone slipped on the riff and spoiled it. Despite some shakiness, the guys put on an entertaining show. Kapranos and guitarist Nick McCarthy had a battle of note holds standing atop their personalized speakers during “This Fire”, McCarthy dismounting with a high scissor kick. For a finale, the band huddled around Paul Thomson’s drum kit and pounded the set into the ground. -Ben Kaye

reginaspektor7 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Regina Spektor – Lands End – 4:00 p.m.

As if Regina Spektor’s constant cries of “thank you”, giggles, and awkward little bows weren’t adorable enough, she still gets flustered. After responding to screams of “I love you,” she forgot where the first notes of “Patron Saint” were. These little things gave the veteran Spektor a grounded persona that she spread all over powerhouse numbers like “The Party” and “All the Rowboats” (and yes, the mouth noises are even cooler live). While most of the What We Saw From the Cheap Seats material held up to and even surpassed the rest of her catalogue, the clichéd balladry of “How” remains near the bottom of her pile.

Even so, perhaps the only performance to affect me more than hers was Sigur Rós’. “Dance Anthem of the 80s” was so good it gave me chills (this could’ve also been the breeze). But I had tears — real ones, folks — welling up during “Blue Lips”. It wasn’t just the way she caressed the music from the keys that opened the faucets; the big screens abreast of the stage focused on a young woman, tears streaming down her cheeks, as she held a sign that read, “Thank you for saving my dad.” The crowd cheered and applauded for her, and even without knowing her full story, I’m willing to bet no one had a more emotional festival than that girl. -Ben Kaye

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Santigold – Twin Peaks - 5:10 p.m.

Santigold isn’t capable of bumming people out. Always spearheading a strange gig, the Philly singer arrived on the Twin Peaks stage with two women in maid uniforms who served her every need. Set opener “Go!” set the bar high, one eventually surpassed by more mellow material like “Disparate Youth”. Whether she’s aiming high or low, Santigold knows how to draw magic from her crowd, and at Outside Lands, strangers became friends in a strange land. -Ted Maider

jackwhitelookslikejonnydepp1 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

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Jack White – Lands End – 5:25 p.m.

Playing a mix of classics from his days with The White Stripes and The Raconteurs as well as his solo work from Blunderbuss, Jack White’s blend of wailing guitars, scissoring violins, and ghostly vocals found their home in Golden Gate Park. With an early strong start of Little Willie John’s “I’m Shakin'”, “Black Math”, and “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”, White ricocheted between mayhem and symphony, ending the latter song in a chaotic solo. “Missing Pieces” from Blunderbuss was demonstrative of White as an artist and performer – he’s restored the Johnny Cash/Elvis ethic, combining classic Americana storytelling with soulful vocals, bringing the darkness back to the fairytale. The Raconteurs’ “Top Yourself” featured strong organ and electric guitar interludes, while “Catch Hell Blues” segued evenly into set closer “Seven Nation Army”. -Summer Dunsmore

In typical fashion, White surprised hundreds of fans with a special pop-up performance set way back in the woods of Golden Gate Park. Stream the official video of “Love Interruption” below.

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Dispatch – Sutro - 6:35 p.m.

On paper, the idea of slotting Dispatch at the smaller Sutro stage seemed a preposterous idea, but surprisingly, the Boston trio arrived to a relatively small crowd. Still, the band entertains some devoted fans, and many were there Sunday evening. “I’ve been sitting on this railing all day, and I flew here all the way from Boston,” one female fan explained to me just before they came out, tears welling up in her eyes. After opening with “Here We Go”, the crowd erupted in delight, and singer Chad Urmston couldn’t hide his grin. With only an hour to play, fans received a comparatively short set, but Dispatch offered up a healthy collection of favorites, including some surprises, like the first-ever live performance of “Circles Around the Sun” and a heartbreaking rendition of “The General”. There’s still a mystical element to Dispatch’s music, and that’s inspiring to hear, especially for an act that started out by pushing their tunes online for free. -Ted Maider

blocparty8 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

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Bloc Party – Twin Peaks – 6:45 p.m.

To hype up the Twin Peaks crowd, Bloc Party played an electronic beat as entrance music. The nicely filled Hellman Hollow responded favorably — until the band actually walked on stage, and the energy simmered. Kele Okereke had to lift his arms to get people to show enough love to satisfy. Finally, with a fluid transition from “Song for Clay (Disappear Here)” into “Banquet”, the audience danced and even sang a bit. “That’s more like it, Outside Lands,” Okereke said. “You’re all smokin’ too much weed.” But drugs or not, the set was uneven. Okereke doesn’t actually have the best voice, but for every song where he stumbled (“Octopus”), he held his own elsewhere (“Kettle”). Both those numbers were off the forthcoming Four, and the tracks shined when they went more streamlined rock and less of BP’s typical alt-dance style (the exception being “Team A”, which finds a comfy middle ground). A guy next to me said, “These guys aren’t very good,” but I disagree; they’re just not always very good. -Ben Kaye

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Stevie Wonder – Lands End – 7:20 p.m.

In anticipation of this festival, I chalked up Stevie Wonder as the weekend’s wild card. And to some extent, I was right – he threw in a number of expected covers, which include takes on Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” and The Temptations’ “My Girl” – but it was the rare opportunity to hear life lessons and advice from Wonder that I most appreciated. Between performances of “Higher Ground”  and “Overjoyed”, Wonder shared knowledge about the magic of parenthood and love, the latter paving the way for a short visit through John Lennon’s “Imagine”. The audience sang the first verse in honor of Lennon before Wonder finished up the chorus and the song dissolved into a raucous samba beat.

“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and “My Cherie Amour” were highlights, and Wonder again spoke about the need for humanity to unite, reconcile, and strive for freedom between applause and praise from the crowd. After a thrilling version of “Superstition”, he played another Beatles hit, “She Loves You”, and the aforementioned “My Girl” by The Temptations. He ended the show by thanking “all the mothers of the world for making life possible.” It was a good-natured ending for a fest that was at times environmentally harsh, at times brutal, but had many redeeming moments such as this. -Summer Dunsmore

skrillex8 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

Photo by Ted Maider

Skrillex – Twin Peaks – 8:30 p.m.

“Now you’re going to die.” These are the first lyrics (from Knife Party’s “Internet Friends”) I heard upon reaching the Twin Peaks stage for the final show of the weekend. A few months ago, if you told me I was going to review a Skrillex show, those words would’ve probably popped into my head — and I don’t even know that song well. Frankly, it’s easy to hate Skrillex. But I’m now in my late twenties, and I’ve read what Steven Hyden and Tom Breihan have said about him, so I’m trying to be less cynical. Am I ever going to shell out cash specifically for Skrillex? Probably not; dubstep just isn’t my bag, to be honest. But Sonny Moore is riding one hell of a wave, and after witnessing his show, I have to respect it.

That bass drop of his just forces you to move, like a shotgun blast at your feet. From my vantage on the hill, I couldn’t find a single body sitting still in Hellman Hollow. It was no surprise that Skrillex fans liked to move, but that they like to sing along was an unexpected discovery. Groups next to me shouted along to “Breakin’ a Sweat” and his remix of “Welcome to Jamrock”– and when there weren’t lyrics, they sang the wub-wubbas. I’m sure certain mind-altering substances (a friend assures me that the closer one was to the stage, the more twisted people were) would’ve allowed me to appreciate the light show even more, but those lasers cutting through a warm evening’s fog were impressive nonetheless.

skrillex6 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

Photo by Ted Maider

Near the end, Moore screamed to his adoring fans: “Put your lighters and cellphones into the air, so the fucking aliens can see us.” And they did. “San Francisco, be my choir!” And they were. Hating someone with that kind of fan base just isn’t as easy as I’d thought. Plus, the dude gets to ride around in a spaceship all night. Hate just seems like jealousy after that. -Ben Kaye

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Photographer(s): Debi Del Grande, Ben Kaye, and Ted Maider

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