Outside Lands Festival Diary: Part 3 — Saturday, 8/29/08

by Gordon Elgart on August 30, 2009

Like watching TV on the Radio in my backyard

Like watching TV on the Radio in my backyard

I was excited to wake up and find my cold had subsided, and off I went back to Golden Gate Park for an early afternoon of volunteering and listening to bands chosen especially for me based on their proximity to my volunteering site.  My exciting adventures for today included potentially getting food poisoning, a random passerby saying some really strange stuff to me, and almost getting into a fight.  Join me on Saturday at Outside Lands.

I was manning these media upload stations that are placed around the festival.  These stations are set up with media card readers, universal dock adapters for portable Apple products, and USB cords.  You can take photos and video and upload them directly to the Outside Lands Festival website.  This service is called Crowdfire, and from what I can see from my six hours working at these booths, it’s extremely unpopular.  Since these computers were hooked up to the Internet as a whole, visitors to these laptops were excited to be able to upload their photos to Facebook.  I think this is the kind of technology that would have been really cool two years ago, but now everyone has decided that only their friends need to see their media.  Still, it was nice to be able to play online word games while waiting for the gates to open.

From my spot on Lindley Meadow, I was able to listen to Albino!  While the exclamation point is theirs, I agree.   An official friend of the band had walked around before their set handing out sampler CDs and inviting people to check them out.  When they started, I don’t think more than 10-20 people had come over to the stage to watch them.  A steady stream continued over there, drawn by funky drums and horns, a great way to start of a sunny Saturday in the park.  Albino! is one of those bands that I tell myself I’ll check out, then won’t, then will come across them in a festival lineup and be excited about it.  If you come across them, get excited about it.

I went to throw some trash away, and decided I needed to blow my nose.  As I’m doing this, I hear a voice behind me say “black boogers.”

“Excuse me?  What did you say?”

“Black boogers.  You know, from all the dust.  Do  you need another tissue?”

“Err…no thanks.  Bye!”

I got moved at this point from the meadow into the dome set up by a giant computer processor company whose name I can’t mention because they’re not a sponsor.  I’ll just say that they’re likely “inside” your computer right now.  For some reason, the booth was manned by girls with blue wigs and guys with blue sunglasses.  They had a DJ spinning overly loud dance music. There is a station where you can scratch and mix, and then be given your tracks on a free, branded, 2GB USB stick.  There was some blue liquid in test tubes, an oxygen bar, and of course free WiFi.  Some patrons were forward thinking and brought their iPhone chargers with them to plug in at the available outlets, other people just came by for the free crap.

I then got moved back to the meadow, where I was able to here some of Nortec Collective and then most of Dengue Fever.  There were actually people using the laptop stations at this time, and there was an incident with a frisbee and a spilled soda.  Not sure why you’d pay $100 a day to come to Golden Gate Park and throw a frisbee around, but hey, you can do whatever you want with your money.  But if you choose “playing frisbee for $100,” try not to hit the Coke and spill it on a laptop if you do.

When my shift ended, I ran to the far end of the festival for the Mastodon set.  They were loud, but it was windy, and the sound started swirling in odd ways not related to their performance.  So I had to push my way closer to lessen the wind effect.  At this point, the lunch of plantains, black beans and cheese in an arepa started disagreeing with me something awful.  Without any more details, I’ll just say I had a special experience listening to much of their set and the packed Bat For Lashes performance that followed.  I then got into place for TV on the Radio.

I had an absolute blast with them, but I’m not sure their performance thrilled the masses.  Only when the horns were playing did it seem that people got really into it.   I wonder if the Bay Area is starting to tire of them.  They were at Treasure Island last year, played headlining shows at the Warfield and Fox, all within the last year, and I didn’t get any excitement from people that they were playing.  Sure, the big fans were happy, but where was the electricity?  The thrill of the new?  At one point, they said “this is our last performance for a long time, and we’re happy to be sharing it with you, San Francisco.”  Rest well, TV on the Radio.

The beautiful sounds of Deerhunter filled Speedway Meadow for their set, and while my opinion was “that sounds nice,” others in my party were more excited by them.  “Made my festival,” exclaimed one friend, which means that if you’re a huge Deerhunter fan, you may see some very nice things said about them in her diary.  Mine, however, is brief, as I spent much of their set visiting with friends in the silent auction tent, getting water from the tent rumored to be selling vodka, and finally getting a good spot for the upcoming Mars Volta set.

Every single stage has a sign on the side of the stage saying who’s performing on that stage.  An emergency fill-in like the Nortec Collective Presents: Bostich & Fossible had a white sign written in Sharpie, but most of the bands had a nice printed sign.  Mars Volta were having none of this.  Cedric ripped down the sign, tore out the part with the name of the band on it, and proceeded to dance with the board for a few moments before putting his foot through it.  He was basically saying, “you know who we are, bitches!”

Maybe he wasn’t saying that, he was too busy screaming and dancing, and owning the night.  Between him and guitarist Omar Rodrgiuez-Lopez, there was enough kinetic frenetic energy to power a small town.  I don’t know their songs all that well; other than “The Widow,” I’d be stumped naming any of their tracks, but I do know that they sound amazing live.  They’re basically a prog band.  I call them an “evil jam band” because they tend to have this dark energy that makes me angry at things.

As the pit was pushing and shoving, this one guy behind me was leaning into me with his elbows, and I didn’t like it.  I turned around and used my first stratagem, “hey dude, chill.”  This didn’t work, so my next effort was “Hey, stop with the elbows!”  My third plan was to turn around and give him a big giant shove backwards.  He didn’t much like this.  [Editor’s Note:  This next bit contains swearing.]

“HEY!  What the fuck are you doing!” he shouted.

“Put your fucking elbows down, you fuck!” was my well thought out response.

“Fuck you!” was his erudite reply.

“Fuck off!” was the best I could do.

“Do you wanna fucking go!” is what came back, now adding a threatening look to his stare.”

“Who the fuck are you?” is what I said, which is pretty confusing, and for some reason ended it.  There’s your lesson for today.  If you think a situation might escalate into a fight, say something that makes no sense.

One guy in the pit passed out, and had to be passed over the rail to security.  I had a water bottle on me, and I shared it as much as I could with the other fans around me.  I then remembered my experience in England, where security was continually handing back water to the fans up front.  The guy in front of me was Australian, and he commented on just this fact.  People are passing out here, and no one thinks that having water available for the festival fans would be a good idea?  Many of them stay in one spot all day to see their favorite band, oftentimes in the sun, usually wearing inappropriate clothing for doing this.  (Don’t blame the fans who are either told they can’t bring in water, or are forced to dump it out at the gate.)  It’s time for American festivals to follow the lead of other first world nations and start having organized water pass-outs on the rail at festival stages.  It simply needs to happen.  I only saw one person pass out from not getting enough water.  How many more were there?  Are we waiting for someone to die from this?

When Mars Volta finished their blistering set, my choices were to leave or to watch the last 30 minutes or so of the Dave Matthews band.  I chose to watch more music.  I saw about four songs, and they were pretty good.  I enjoyed their cover of “All Along the Watchtower” with some “Stairway to Heaven” teases.  Robert Randolph guested on guitar, and took a great solo.  They finished with the Sly & the Family Stone classic “Thank You (Faletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” and sent everyone off into the night.  We walked through Golden Gate Park, tried to help a drunken college student find his way home, and a couple of miles later were at my friend’s car on the way back to Oakland.

Now it’s Sunday morning, and my back doesn’t hurt anymore, and I am ready to go off to San Francisco for one more day.  I’m working a night shift tonight, but I’ll catch Matt & Kim and a little Dead Weather before starting work.   Then I’ll listen to Ween from my spot, and be back to tell you all about it.

Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Vanessa August 31, 2009 at 9:14 am

I’ve passed out at a festival before, and even when I was pulled over the railing, they couldn’t even find a bottle of water to give me. They had to bring me a smoothie from a vendor. So I agree, water for festival crowds!


Marie Carney August 31, 2009 at 1:14 pm

lol about your almost fight.
Acting crazier than the attacker is usually the best plan.


Caroline September 3, 2009 at 5:15 pm

Mars Volta does bring out the aggression in folks, as I believe you once stated yourself.


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