Outside Lands Festival Journal: Log 1, Day 2

by Dakin Hardwick on August 31, 2009

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Os Mutantes!!!!!!!!!

Here’s my Outside Lands story. You may already be asking yourself why I am starting on Day 2. The answer is simple. I did not attend the first day. I went last year on Friday, and was so annoyed by the set up of the festival, that I did not attend again, and I was considering not doing it at all this year. I felt that security was far too sparse throughout the inside of the venue, and I also felt that they layout of the stages made it difficult to navigate through the venue. The biggest issue from 2008 was placing Radiohead on the main stage immediately after Beck played a side stage, which was about 15 minutes away by foot on a normal day, but they also made the walkway between the two stages about 2 people wide. To make matters worse, the audio kept cutting out during Radiohead’s set.

Yeah, so I stayed home. I saw that Tom Jones was playing the same stage Beck played, and I just wasn’t in the mood to deal with it. At about 6:30 or so, a friend of mine called me to tell me that he had an extra ticket, and even for free, I just didn’t want the stress of it. Instead, I had a relaxing evening at him with my cat watching Junebug.

I woke up early the next day to get some work done, and the same friend that had an extra ticket sent me a text asking me if I wanted to go today. I looked at the line-up, and saw who was playing, and thought to myself that I really should go. I most of the bands I wished to see were playing the Twin Peaks stage, which was the best stage from last year in terms of sight lines and acoustics, so I decided to give it a second go. I also volunteered to help out on Sunday, so it would give me a chance to get my bearings, and see if they improved upon it at all.

The main entrance to the festival walks you right up to the Twin Peaks stage, and I showed up right in time for:

Street Sweeper Social Club

Street Sweeper Social Club is the project of Boots Riley of the legendary hip hop group The Coup and Tom Morello, a social activist that has spent some time playing guitar for the L.A. musical group Rage Against The Machine. I walked in at 2:25, and their set time was 2:20, so my assumption is that I didn’t miss very much. They played a cover of MIA’s hit, “Paper Planes,” which was very faithful to the original. Morello used his guitar to emulate the cash register & shot gun effects during the chorus. Pretty effective cover, and Riley’s delivery was spot on.

This moved in to a selection of original songs, and they all felt like Rage Against the Machine songs. Sure, Riley’s delivery is smooth and a bit sarcastic, while Zach de la Rocha’s is harsh and aggressive, but the feel is much the same. Drummer Eric Gardner (formerly of The Motels!?!?!?!) and bassist Dave Gibbs (formerly of Gigolo Aunts, and played Rosario Dawson’s bass parts in the film Josie & The Pussycats) are great at emulating the intense rhythms of RATM, and touring guitarist Carl Restivo (former guitarist for Perry Farrell’s Satellite Party & Wyclef Jean) adds an extra bit of flavor that I felt RATM recordings were missing. Morello made sure everyone knew he is one of the most inventive guitarists in the history of the instrument, but he never let his virtuosity distract from the music, or the other musicians on stage.

The crowd loved every minute of them, chanting along to the choruses, and keeping the fists pumping. (No moshing, though… Was it the heat? Or is this practice over with?) 2/3 of the way through the set, they played a second cover. This time it was LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out.” It was a near perfect reading, once again, and kept the energy up with the few people watching that may have not been familiar with the record. It was a good set by one of those rare super-groups that works out well.

So, the next band I feel passionate about seeing is Os Mutantes, but they don’t start for another 75 minutes, so I have some time to kill. I look at the schedule, and see that they are playing the Sutro stage, which is where Beck played last year, and since I want to see if they fixed some of the problems from last year, and I decide to check out who is playing the main stage. Sure enough, a delightful acoustic troubadour that I once saw playing the Red Devil Lounge in 2002.

Jason Mraz

I am not a fan of mainstages in big festivals. They tend to be crowded, and mostly it’s folks that are waiting for the headliner, and they tend to be annoyed by the idea of 7 hours with of opening acts. I walked as close as I could to the stage, without getting so close that I was trapped in the crowd, and much to my surprise, people were very eager to see him.

Unlike the show at Red Devil Lounge, which was Mraz only accompanied by himself on acoustic guitar, this was a very big show. He had a full horn section, two percussionists, and a bassist. He opened with “Make It Mine,” which is the opening track on last year’s breakthough record We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. The song has a pleasant groove to it, and he let the song stretch out nicely. He even colored the song with some impressive vocal tricks, adding a bit of opera (!) to the mix. After a few more tracks off the last record, Mraz strapped on an electric guitar and took a bit of a backseat to the rest of the band while they played an instrumental track, which was reminiscent of Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra. The next song he played was a reggae version of his first single, “Remedy,” which I enjoyed, but I took a look at the time, and I wanted to allot myself enough time to get over to see Os Mutantes.

Os Mutantes

First of all, they fixed my biggest complaint about last year. Instead of placing a pathway in between as small clearing in the trees, the opened up a wider entrance. It was a little bit further away from the stage, but it made maneuvering much easier. I actually could have stayed a little but longer, but I digress, this was the band I was most excited to see, and since an Os Mutantes show is pretty rare, I made it a point to get up close and personal. And I did get up very close.

I made it to the stage about 10 minutes prior to showtime, and I was able to walk directly up to the barrier, and stood front and center. There were a few people hanging out on the grass eating lunch, but primarily it was empty. I looked on stage, and it was bare, so I was a little but worried, that I may have missed them, even worse, that they canceled.

A few moments later, drums appeared. The bass drum had the word “MUTANTES” displayed prominently, so my nerves were calmed. It looks like they were running a bit late, and to make matters worse, lead vocalist Sergio Dias Baptiste’s guitar wasn’t working. They took the stage about 15 minutes late, but when the finally went on, they more than made up for the delay.

They kept the set evenly split between songs of the classic psychedelic masterpieces 1968’s Os Mutantes and 1969’s Mutantes and their new record, Haih or Amoretecedor. Although the early recordings were reminiscent of the a tropical version of Sgt. Pepper’s era-Beatles, live they came off more like a Brazilian Jefferson Airplane, only significantly tighter. The female vocals were handled Bia Mendes, and she stepped in to the role left vacant by the legendary Rita Lee, and made it her own. They played with the intensity of a band 30 years younger, and I was saddened by the fact that their were so few people watching. I expecting to see Cedric from Mars Volta pop out, just to watch this band, but to no avail. (Seriously, The Mars Volta couldn’t exist without Os Mutantes. They laid the framework)

Here’s the setlist, in case you are keeping track:

mutantes set list

TV On The Radio

Os Mutantes ended at 5:55. TV On The Radio started at 5:40. Sutro stage and Twin Peaks stage are the two farthest-apart stages at the festival. As I have already told you, Os Mutantes were excellent. I couldn’t leave them. TV On The Radio are, in fact, my favorite band currently playing. The decision I made was to high-tail it across the park. This is approximately 20 blocks, a portion of this was uphill. The general thought is that it takes 40 minutes to walk from one end to the other. I flew from barrier to barrier in 12 minutes. Part of this was studying the map, and part of this was sheer luck. The TVOTR crowd was really loose and friendly. It may have been my intense looks of despair, I may have not realized how big a jerk I was, but I was directly underneath Kyp Malone. I showed up halfway through “Wolf Like Me.”  I find it difficult to express how great this band is in words, but this was the fourth time playing San Francisco in less than a year, and I was at every single one of these shows. It’s always great, and always different. The band was fleshed out by a 3 piece horn section, and did some great improvisation. The songs had a swing to them that they have hadn’t in the past, and managed to segue each song in to each other, only pausing to talk a few times.  They mentioned that this was the last show for a while, and they deserve the break, but I was happy that the band didn’t seem tired at all.

The Mars Volta

Dave Matthews Band took to the big stage at 7:30. The Mars Volta did the same, only on the superior Twin Peaks stage. I have no idea what everyone else was doing on the other side, because this was pure gold.

This is a leaner, stripped down version the band. In the past, there could have been up to 10 people on stage. Tonight, we had Omar Rodriguez-Lopez on guitar, Cedric Bixler-Zavala on vocals, and they were joined by a bassist, a keyboardist, and two drummers. Their new record, Octahedron, is a great collection of heavy psychedelic rock. And they only played 2 songs from it. Instead, they concentrated primarily on songs from Deloused In The Comatorium and Amputechture. The crowd loved every minute of it. It was the only mosh pit of the weekend, which is odd for a band that used to stop shows if the crowd got too aggressive. They filled the 90 minutes nicely, and only allowed things to slow down for the band’s only radio hit, the Tool-esque “The Widow,” from the 2nd record, Frances The Mute.

I’d like to think that that was the end of my night, but I was informed that I might get a ride home if I watch the end of the Dave Matthews Band. So I did.

Dave Matthews Band

Can’t say too much about this band. I’ve never been a fan. I think that they have an interesting sound, but I never quite got into it. The fans love them. Dave has stage presence. The songs are catchy, but I think they are a bit overly bloated for my tastes. I enjoyed one song that felt a bit bluegrassy. They played some covers, including adding a bit of “Stairway To Heaven” to “All Along The Watchtower.” They closed with Sly & The Family Stone’s “Thank You (Faletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” that featured Robert Randolph on vocals, pedal steel, and running around everywhere. He did all three things well.

Then, once the car was found, I went home. Then I went to bed. It was nice to be in bed.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Alan August 31, 2009 at 3:13 pm

hmm, i wonder how you got that setlist!?

Reply

Dakin Hardwick August 31, 2009 at 3:15 pm

A magical person helped me out a bit.

Reply

Marie Carney August 31, 2009 at 4:47 pm

I like that you managed to mention Josie and the Pussycats… lol.

Reply

David Price September 2, 2009 at 11:12 pm

…by magical do you mean a small group of smaller then normal humans possibly in robes and pointy hats?

Reply

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