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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.

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    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

    Photo by Ted Maider

    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

    reggiewatts2 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

    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

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    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

    Photo by Ted Maider

    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

    foofighters5 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

    Photo by Ted Maider

    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.

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    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.

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    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

    justice1 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2012

    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

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