Outside Lands Festival Journal: Log 2, Day 3

by Dakin Hardwick on August 31, 2009

The D Battle The Metal
The D Battle The Metal

Today I attended the show as a volunteer. It’s a good deal, you help out with some element if the show in the morning, and by late afternoon, you are free to enjoy the rest of the show. If you work at night, you get to see an entire different day.  It’s a pretty decent deal, and if they do it next year, I recommend it. Just check out the official site next year, and you will find the instructions on how to sign up.

I was initially stationed at the Crowdfire kiosk on Speedway Meadow, where you can’t really see any bands, but my shift was scheduled to end right when Dead Weather started, so it would be easy for me see them. Instead, first they moved me to a tent on the Polo Fields, which was nice because, well, it was freezing cold and the tent gave me a windbreaker.  Then, the internet went down, and the computers were rendered un-useable. So, they moved me again, to Lindley Meadow, which was actually kind of nice. Our kiosk was in the direct center of the field, and it was much more intimate than the other stages, so I able actually hear all of the bands playing. Since I did have work to do, I couldn’t really focus on them, but I will brief it out a bit:

Darondo with Nino Moschella

Stax-inspired retro soul. Lead singer emulates Al Green. Really tight band, excellent set. Sad they only had about 30 people watching them, because they were good. No band deserves the noon on Sunday slot, especially a band as good as this.

Other Lives

Kind of subtle, a little alt.country, and altogether forgettable. I may have liked them more if I actually watched them, but they just stayed in the background to me.

Lenka

Solid pop music, reminiscent of Kate Nash. She had fans that recognized some songs, and an excellent horn player. I even snuck up to the stage for a few minutes to watch her play the keytar.

John Vanderslice

Local guy, famous for producing Spoon’s Gimme Fiction, and runs an all-analog recording studio. He played a solid set in indie-rock, and was the first act to develop a serious crowd.

The Avett Brothers

These guys brought out a huge crowd to the small Sutro stage. (Which reminds me, everything Adolph Sutro did was HUGE! Why is the smallest stage named after him?) They played a set of really spunky, high energy bluegrass music. The also had a great moment mid-set where they plugged in and started rocking out. Great band, and I am eager to get to see them do their own set.

So, I was set free to get back to the Twin Peaks stage to go see Dead Weather. The main thing I learned the day before? My shortcut behind the porta-potties to get to the front of the festival. Sure, it smelled funny, but it was worth the trek.

Dead Weather

Dead Weather. I was closer than this looks.

Dead Weather. I was closer than this looks.

I missed a little bit of this set., but it was one of the best attended sets of the day. Jack White was on drums, and managed to stick to being the drummer through most of the set, unlike his other side band, the Raconteurs, where he claimed to be the lead guitarist, but evolved in to de facto frontman. Instead, Alison Mosshart of The Kills was in charge, and has more spunk, ferocity, and pure sexual energy than 1,000 Mick Jaggers.  Her vocals were nearly perfect. She is one of the greats right now, and managed to put Mr. White in his place.

The songs themselves weren’t especially memorable, but maybe if I spent some time with the record, I’d enjoy them much more. The band was still amazing. They did a fusion of goth, blues, new wave, and glam rock, and was a very effective performance.

Heartless Bastards

Heartless Bastards... The really didn't care about us at all...

Heartless Bastards... The really didn't care about us at all...

In any other situation, I would have really liked this band. Their lead singer, Erika Wennerstrom has a great voice, and an excellent stage presence. The band does dark blues rock, and it was a proficient set; just after seeing Dead Weather play, they were boring. I’d see them again on a clean palate, but I needed to move on.

So I decided to go get some food, and then find a good spot to check out MIA.

Chicken & Waffles

There was a fair variety of food choices in the Polo Fields, but I have always wanted to try this thing known as Chicken & Waffles, and I saw a place selling them. They were delicious. I put jalapeno-honey in them.They were better than I ever could have expected. They were served by a restaurant called Farmer Brown’s Little Skillet, located just around the corner from Popscene. Not music, but yummy. Deserved it’s own entry.

M.I.A.

So, maybe her set was a little bit one-dimensional.

So, maybe her set was a little bit one-dimensional.

There were a lot of rumors surrounding this set. Word on the street was that she was really upset that Tenacious D were playing after her, and she didn’t understand how they were bigger than her. She wanted to cancel, but found that the promoters would sue her, so she wasn’t going to play any singles, just to make them mad. She was also supposedly going to get the audience to rush the stage.

Well, none of that happened. Instead, we got one of the best performances of the weekend, if not the best. M.I.A. has a reputation for inconsistent performances, and I was worried about her tackling such a large crowd. I had also often wondered what would happen if Drum n Bass/Jungle were to do what Roni Size intended, and become mainstream music that would play arenas. This is the show we got.

IMG_0452

The first song suffered from poor sound mixing. The bass was far too loud, and none of the vocals were audible. All of that was figured out by the second number, the hit off her record Arular, “Bucky Done Gun.” It was intense, and the crowd was loving every minute of it. Her stage set was fleshed out by two back-up rappers, two drummers, and two twin-albino break dancers, doing some of the most impressive moves I have ever seen on any stage.

Things settled quite nicely. Her performance was very high energy. None of the rumors were true, at all. She played the hits, and played them well. Her set was so good, it reminded me of the scene in the movie “Great Balls Of Fire,” where Jerry Lee Lewis asks the promoter why he has to play before Chuck Berry, and he answers, “Chuck Berry has more hits than you.” So, Jerry Lee Lewis ends his set by setting his piano on fire, and tells Chuck to “top that!”

IMG_0451

The middle of the set included a short bit of her freestyling over her favorite Beastie Boys samples, in salute to the original headliners of the show. Her dancers danced while playing Guitar Hero guitars during “Sabotage” and it was a wild performance. She played a new song that was pretty punked out, and the played her hit “Boys”, handed out horns, and then went in to her closing number, the ubiquitous single “Paper Planes,” which, of course left nobody silent or still.

Tenacious D

It was all a blur...

It was all a blur...

First of all, it took way too long for “The D” to take the stage. M.I.A. did finish a few minutes early, but Tenacious D went on 15 minutes late, making the break between acts just over an hour. It was long, but I was very close. I was so close, so close that I almost felt a little guilty. I can’t stand Jack Black as an actor, but I do find the music he does with Kyle Gass to be pretty amusing.  Before they even took the stage, I was feeling frustrated by them. They set up the entire band on the far right of the stage. (I was on the left) I thought it was weird to have such a giant stage, but to only use a small portion of it.

So, they took the stage and ran through a couple of songs. I wasn’t familiar with them, but the rest of the crowd was. The sound mix was a bit muddy at first, which is a bigger problem when dealing with comedy. If you can’t make out the lyrics, then it’s not going to be funny.

Black and Gass both understand how to work a stage. They are both actors, and they played the show as such, two actors portraying members of a novelty band. Every move was directed, every bit of banter was scripted, it all felt very precise. Not to say that it wasn’t funny, in fact it was very funny, but it never felt natural.

There was one major thing I noticed about “The D.” They said that they were going to stop playing songs about the devil, and start playing songs about Jesus. Well, nearly every song they did was about overpowering the devil, or some sort of evil, with rock n’ roll. Even the song about Ronnie James Dio felt that way. So, in effect Tenacious D are christian rock. (Let the flame wars begin!)

My favorite moment of the show was actually one of the most contrived, which was when a guy came out dressed as “Metal,” and Black had to defeat “Metal.” I didn’t understand why they needed to defeat metal, since they are there to embrace metal, but it was so silly, it was hard not to be happy.

It was a pleasant weekend. They worked out many of the bugs from last year, which was great! I hope the festival continues, because I feel that they are on to something really good at this point. I know losing your headliner is never easy, but they did well under pressure. There is no sophomore slump here.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin September 2, 2009 at 3:39 pm

How many people watched Tenacious D?

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Dakin September 2, 2009 at 4:26 pm

I don’t know the exact number, but estimates are around 5,000

Reply

Caroline September 3, 2009 at 5:10 pm

I hope the festival continues also even though I’ve never been. SF Rec and Parks needs the money in order for me to do my job adequately. I say keep pimping out the city’s landmarks!

Reply

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