Noon rolled around on Saturday with uncharacteristically clear skies and warm temperatures in San Francisco, along with early afternoon sets in Golden Gate Park from rising stars Gary Clark Jr. and Atlas Genius. My Saturday began with Dr. Scholls, who stepped in to salvage the heels of my shoes that were destroyed by San Francisco’s hills on Friday. Probably should have seen it coming: One look at the map of Outside Lands’s sprawling, disordered grounds, and you start to understand the difference it makes when you have far more territory to work with than other festivals occupying major U.S. cities.
It’s a walker’s fest. A good 30% of the land between the awkwardly shaped borders within Golden Gate Park is out of the way of any stage – but leads right to handfuls of conveniently blissful distractions essential to these things. Like the Digital Detox zone where all electronic devices are surrendered for board games and acoustic music, or the Barbary tent where TV comedy mainstays Rob Huebel and Wyatt Cenac set up shop. And so, with Saturday’s two headliners (Phoenix and Nine Inch Nails) not incentivizing nearly as many attendees to camp out for a couple hours close to the two main stages as Friday’s did (Paul McCartney and Pretty Lights – good god that felt weird to write), it was wandering time.
As for the music, just about everyone we were able to catch showed up to play and then some. So read on, unless awesome live music in nature ain’t your thing.
Read our coverage for Day One here.
Wake Up San Francisco with… Cherub
Photo by Ted Maider
Two dudes, early morning rays, and plenty of funk. Jordan Kelley and Jason Huber hit up the Panhandle stage in the wee hours of Saturday to sweat off the morning dew with their blend of Nashville funk, channeling the cheese of Peter Frampton, the mechanics of Dan Deacon, and the decadence of Prince. With their recent 100 Bottles EP and last year’s full-length debut, MoM & DaD, behind them, the two appear young on paper, but the confidence they exuded on-stage hinted at bigger things to come. Plus, a song like “Doses & Mimosas” doesn’t whisk on by unnoticed. Word to the wise: If you want to be on your feet, look out for Cherub. These guys knew exactly what they were doing to get the Bay Area dancing. –Ted Maider
Sweater Weather with the Tallest Man on Earth
Photo by Ted Maider
Most musicians play their absolute best when their ideal conditions are met: usually mild weather and a clear night sky, or perhaps a not-too-densely packed house for those who tend towards indoor shows. Kristian Matsson is at the top of his game when singing to just a couple thousand amidst a negligible mist from heavily overcast skies and low-sixties temps. That’s why his 6:00 p.m. set at the Sutro stage was one of this festival’s best fits so far. A bigger stage, and his hyper-animated performance style would have been wasted on those towards the back. Sunnier weather, and he’d have looked downright uncomfortable in his wool sweater (which, I get why this is totally implausible, but I can’t be the only one who thinks Matsson should really only perform in wool sweaters). Conditions were so prime that he couldn’t wait until the clock struck six, sprinting onstage to jumpstart “King of Spain” and never relenting until the last chord of his latest set closer: “The Wild Hunt” melded to Paul Simon’s “Graceland”. –Steven Arroyo
Gary Clark Jr.’s concentrated shredding
Photo by Joshua Mellin
The Austin-based festival warrior knows his way around an afternoon main-stage gig. His legend-caliber guitar-playing calls for a platform of that size, but his lack of hits, hooks, and general mass appeal pushes down on the time at which he should play. But it works. Rolling Stone‘s recent profile of the musician painted a picture of someone intimidated by fame, bogged down by pressure (who can even fathom receiving a letter from Clapton that reveals he’s playing the guitar again because of you?), and prone to pacing and chain-smoking. Gary Clark, Jr. was a man of few words onstage, dedicating a song to his ex-girlfriend, boyishly grinning at the size of his crowd, and, for the most part, concentrating on his instrument. Time will tell if Clark’s talent nudges him up a few notches in festival scheduling, but for now, the afternoon suits him just fine. –Amanda Koellner
The Head and the Heart are quite popular
Photo by Ted Maider
Anybody who knows the history of Seattle’s majestic group would agree how touching their story reads. To go from empty open mic nights in the chilly Pacific Northwest to headlining the Sutro stage in front of thousands of die hards — it’s pretty heartwarming. (FYI: The last time the band came to a San Francisco festival was when they played a free show at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in the exact same location.) With their sophomore LP, Let’s Be Still, due out October, the outfit teased their followers with a few new songs, notably new single “Shake”. Although material off their self-titled debut conjured singalongs, everyone was just as happy to experience something new. Rest assured, The Head and the Heart will continue to charm their namesakes. –Ted Maider
A trip back to hip-hop’s golden age with J5
Photo by Ted Maider
With the lineup lacking hip-hop, Jurassic 5’s evening performance was heavily anticipated, and the L.A. underground heroes relished their time on the main stage. A giant ‘J5’ turntable separated Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark, who set up in their respective booths behind the four emcees. Remarkably, despite being over a decade removed from many of the songs they were performing, Jurassic 5 sounded as a spry and youthful as they did in ’97. Chali 2na, Akil, Zaakir, and Mark 7even traded verses in perfect cadence, running through hits such as “Quality Control”, “Jayou”, and “Jurass Finish First”. At one point, they all left the stage to let Chemist and Nu-Mark battle it out with their custom turntable guitars. Even during the cacophony of cuts and scratches, the crowd kept moving, hands in the air. –Jon Hadusek
Karen O shouts out to all the lovers in Golden Gate
Photo by Amanda Koellner
“Maps” generally proves to be The Moment in any Yeah Yeah Yeahs set, and even after hearing the boom-boom-pop of “Gold Lion” second, watching Karen O go ape-shit during “Mosquito”, and doing the universal one-arm-in-the-air hop to “Heads Will Roll”, the queen of the oughts’ NYC punk world dedicated her band’s biggest hit to two of her close friends who had gotten married that day. “Eternal love, mother fuckers!” she yelled. How romantic. The 10-song set didn’t bring much of anything we haven’t already seen from the YYYs, but it was a day-time party that grabbed everyone in the audience and shook them to their core until the band’s 50-minute time slot came to a close. –Amanda Koellner
Nine Inch Nails stun with visuals and turtleneck
Photo by Ted Maider
A much different atmosphere surrounded the main stage for Saturday night’s headliner, Nine Inch Nails. It was dark and ominous — a mood Trent Reznor basked in (athletic turtleneck, and all) when he opened with a triage of slower new songs: “Copy of A”, “Disappointed”, and “Came Back Haunted”. At first, the audience was restless, unsure how to react to these tense electro pieces. Then came the bombastic “1,000,000” and Downward Spiral-anthem “March of the Pigs” — it was now a full-blown rock show. Dazzling stage visuals took care of the theatrics; video screens swarmed the band and projected digital animations (created using live video footage) and auras of ambient lighting. Reznor won over the crowd with mandatory staples “Closer” and “Head Like a Hole” before closing the encore with “Hurt” — a single spotlight shining upon him as he sang. Transfixed, no one made a sound. –Jon Hadusek
Photographer(s): Amanda Koellner, Ted Maider, and Joshua Mellin