San Francisco’s 2011 Outside Lands Festival, Day 1

by Jonathan Pirro on August 16, 2011

60,000 people per day!

60,000 people per day!

(Want to skip to Day 2? Or maybe Day 3?)

Let’s get one thing straight, right off the bat: There’s always going to be rivalry between Northern California’s concert scene and Southern California’s concert scene. We’re always looking for reasons to stay up here and not go down there. Never mind any of the usual excuses people give for not going to Coachella in April: it’s far away, it’s hot, it’s got a different crowd, the scene is too (insert choice phrase here); it’s just not “us”. So, while we’re happy for things like Fauxchella to keep us from having to go down to Indio around the cusp of summertime, there’s always that infectious festival vibe that pulls us in somehow. However, mere moments after remarks begrudging the Coachella 2011 lineup — which looked remarkably like our 2010 Outside Lands and Treasure Island lineups — the 2011 Outside Lands lineup popped up, and this time, it was clear that we had gotten things right. Back to 3 days, back with some of the biggest acts in music to date, and loaded with a bunch of new treasures to discover, Outside Lands was going to be bigger this year than ever.

That being said: This is a long entry, because it was a long weekend. We’ve got a collection of highlights that we wanted to share with our readers, because it’s impossible to fit everything in. Hope you can keep up!

The Joy Formidable plays to a packed Lindley Meadow on the Sutro Stage

The Joy Formidable plays to a packed Lindley Meadow on the Sutro Stage

With the addition of a third day to the park, as well as a new point of entry further from the traffic jam at Crossover Blvd. in Golden Gate Park, it made perfect sense to open the Lindley Meadow back up and move the Sutro Stage away from its previous location (opposite the Land’s End stage at the Polo Field) and allow its own set of massive crowds to come forth. This was kicked off with a somewhat sparse crowd for the dulcet rock grooves of Release The Sunbird, but quickly began filling to excited capacity upon the arrival of the Welsh rockers known as The Joy Formidable. No doubt still charged from their Fauxchella arrival in April, the trio proceded to bring the first wave of infectious energy to the Sutro Stage, flinging themselves wildly about for their short but explosive set. The meadow seemed to be completely filled by the time they reached their closing number, ending the set by hurling their guitars across the stage, with singer Ritzy Brian playfully attacking drummer Matt Thomas as the latter hurled his sticks across the stage.

Ellie Goulding seduces the microphone... oh, and the crowd, too!

Ellie Goulding seduces the microphone... oh, and the crowd, too!

In addition to an unbelievably huge crowd that packed the meadow for a performance by Foster The People, Britain’s Ellie Goudling wowed the audience on the Sutro Stage on this chilly Friday afternoon. The crowd absolutely adored Goulding’s blend of folk and trip hop, and her dark, minor key pop music seemed to strike a chord with everyone there to experience it. Although her sound may borrow more from Kate Bush and Everything But The Girl, her live set fed off the crowd’s energy, turning what could have been a low energy set into a thunderous dance party. Although only vaguely familiar with her work before this set, by the time it was over, we wanted her to just do it all over again, and the vast majority of the crowd felt likewise. She is definitely one to watch, and could easily follow in the footsteps of fellow Brits La Roux and Adele.

Before we get to the biggest acts of the first evening, we need to talk about The Clash. When guitarist Mick Jones left the group in the early 80’s to explore his love of club music, he created an ever evolving band called Big Audio Dynamite, which later evolved into Big Audio Dynamite II, and then, simply Big Audio, as the line up shifted. At Outside Lands, we got the original line up of this band, therefore the original name. Unfortunately, they also had the unenviable spot of playing ahead of the band that changed the life of “the dude from Scrubs”, The Shins. So, the crowd was an awkward mix of Daria-esque sullen teenagers waiting, and people that were generally their parents’ age stoked to see one of the most underrated bands of the 80’s play.
Big Audio Dynamite setlist

Big Audio Dynamite setlist

The band started out kind of mellow, almost dubby side of the band. They opened with “Medicine Show” and “A Party.” They sounded great, but it wasn’t until the 3rd song, their self titled anthem “BAD.” Then they kicked out of the mellow grooves and into the high energy, club influenced rock n roll sound that the band was known for. This got the fans moving, but the teenagers were still being, well, moody teenagers. The biggest surprise of the set? A new song called “Rob Peter Pay Paul.” This song some of the more open minded Shins fans to start tapping their toes. It was surprising how great this new song was, and we hope that they put out a new record of this kind of material. By the end of the set, they got almost all of the crowd moving for their mega hit “Rush.” The only thing missing from this set? They didn’t cover Big Audio Dynamite II’s “The Globe.” Bummer, but if they are back for good, maybe we’ll hear it the next time around.
Erykah Badu closes the Sutro evening (photo by Melissa Ripka: http://www.flickr.com/photos/melissadion/2570811556/)

Erykah Badu closes the Sutro evening (photo by Melissa Ripka: http://www.flickr.com/photos/melissadion/2570811556/)

Closing the Sutro Stage on Friday night was the always-epic Erykah Badu. Despite the rumors about Badu’s difficulty with showing up on time for about as long as we’ve heard of the incredibleness of her performances, we couldn’t blame her for her set starting 45 minutes late. Big Boi showing up 30 minutes late for his set was the most likely cause. That being said, when she took the stage, she took the stage with the kind of intense swagger that you would only expect from Badu. Her band played her onstage, with Badu coming out in a large black hat and a gigantic black parka. Then, without saying a word, she stopped the band, just so she could pour herself a cup of tea. It was the single most intense cup of tea we’ve ever seen poured by any human being. She launched into a set of songs that covered nearly her entire career. and got the crowd grooving hard core. During an extended take on her first big hit, “On & On,” we opted to wonder around the crowd, which seemed to spread out for miles, and noticed that everyone was moving. Even security guards watching the festival’s entrance couldn’t help but nod their head to this near-legendary performer.
Trey Anastasio of Phish

Trey Anastasio of Phish

For those who had grown impatient with the lateness of the Sutro Stage by the end of the evening, and didn’t want to be caught up in the throng of a youthful crowd that packed the Twin Peaks stage for the Shins’ performance, the Land’s End stage sprang back to life at 8:30PM when Phish arrived to play their second set of the evening. Having kicked off their contribution to the festival with an enormous set two hours earlier, it was fitting to watch them come and conquer the rest of the crowd with another set of impressive medleys and extended jams — this time with a massive light dais that danced, flashed, and filled with smoke as Trey and the rest of the quartet chugged away through their set. A brilliantly jubilant performance of “Julius” was juxtaposed with a gorgeous and brittle cover of “Life On Mars”, and it was clear from the expressions on the faces of the four Vermont rockers that they were overjoyed to be back in San Francisco to close the first day of the festival.
Made it through to the end with us? We’ve got two more days to cover from this incredible weekend. Stay tuned!

Additional contributions by Dakin Hardwick. Photos by Dakin Hardwick, Paige K. Parsons and Jonathan Pirro except where noted.

Jonathan Pirro

Off-kilter multimedia enthusiast.

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