San Francisco’s 2011 Outside Lands Festival, Day 2

by Jonathan Pirro on August 17, 2011

Can you tell that you're in San Francisco yet?

Can you tell that you're in San Francisco yet?

(For our coverage of Day 1, here’s a link! Or maybe Day 3?)

It makes sense that for a weekend, Saturday is the most popular day. It’s the middle point; you had a night off before and a day off afterwards, so there’s no reason not to go wild and throw a big party. It therefore makes perfect sense, for a weekend-long musical, to host some of your biggest acts on the second day. The fine folks at Outside Lands rose to this challenge magnificently, and in addition to the heavyweights on the Land’s End stage that kept the Polo Field occupied for most of the day, some excellent surprises were thrown in for those who decided to venture out into the smaller and SLIGHTLY less-packed areas of Golden Gate Park.

Did you miss Ximena? Then you missed out!

Did you miss Ximena? Then you missed out!

Ximena Sariñana, a singer songwriter from Mexico that is largely unknown in the US, played an early afternoon set at the smallest stage in the venue to one of the smallest crowds all weekend. Which is very, very sad, because she is a great talent. Her 2009 debut record was entirely in Spanish, but full of excellent and inventive pop songs that resonate in any language. She pretty much avoided that entire record, and opted to play songs to focus on her latest record, a self titled collection of pop songs in English, produced by the strangest pair you could every put together on a single record: Greg Kurstin (The Bird & The Bee, Britney Spears) and David Sitek (TV On The Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs). What we ended up with is a lush and layered record full of bubbly songs that all of an air of darkness. Her live set was similar. Although she is young, and doesn’t quite have much stage presence as of yet, she made up for with a tight performance. Her band was fantastic, especially her xylophone player, who was very animated, which was a nice contrast to Sariñana seriousness. Highlights including the epic 4 part prog-pop masterpiece, “Common Ground,” a song that got more than enough folks passing through trying to find the Phillz Coffee stand to take notice, and the silly, disco of “Echo Park.”
Paul F. Thomkins: one reason to NOT skip the Barbary tent

Paul F. Thomkins: one reason to NOT skip the Barbary tent

There was an tent parked in the middle of the Polo Fields. It was called The Barbary, and featured a wide variety of non-music entertainment. There were jugglers, contortionists, burlesque, and other sorted classic entertainment sorts. There was also chairs and shade, both of which were a pleasant thing to find, considering how large this festival is. (You could seriously walk 10 miles just by bouncing between stages). A favorite in stand up comedians, Paul F. Thomkins,was booked to do 2 sets at this tent, so we walked in and sat down to be thoroughly entertained for 45 straight minutes. He told stories about working in a beta-only video store (in 1990!), doing 3 line gigs in movies, and, throughout all of his jokes, seemed to tell a nice tale about the struggles of becoming a stand up comic. He brought his A-game, and managed to make you forget that you were at an outdoor musical festival, and instead were at a real comedy club. By the end of the set, we almost felt as if a waitress was going to yell at us for not completing the 2 drink minimum!
OK Go perform the quietest song of the entire festival... with bells

OK Go perform the quietest song of the entire festival... with bells (Photo by Jessica: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jessicasarahs/6046304711/ )

For those who did stick around at the main stage and brave the rapidly-descending heat, OK Go helped to reward the crowd by putting on a very colorful (literally) and jovial performance. Aside from some cleverly-scripted trash talk that got the crowd bellowing as loud as they could muster, the Chicago quartet brought their repertoire of bouncy dance moves and an impromptu solo acoustic performance of “Last Leaf” by singer Damian Kulash — in the middle of the crowd, with the wireless mic sputtering in and out of life, giving the whole song a beautifully DIY air. Despite the majority of the crowd waiting for the titans of the evening — Muse and The Black Keys — OK Go managed to get nearly everyone in their audience, all the way to the sound booth, to do the wave and sing the chorus of “This Too Shall Pass” to end their set, which seemed to end far too quickly: this was a band that absolutely knew how to work their crowd.
STRFKR N TWN PKS

STRFKR N TWN PKS

STRFKR was another band that we weren’t very familiar with before the festival, but have been reading about for years. They brought out a delightful blend of sounds that can only be described as psychedelic disco. The huge crowd was bobbing and dancing, and all around having a good time. They even pulled out a totally straight forward reading of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” which managed to make the already potent crowd explode to the next level.
Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys (photo by Josh Bis: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joshc/6048807290/ )

Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys (photo by Josh Bis: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joshc/6048807290/ )

While STRFKR took over the dancier side of the festival during the stark afternoon hours, the Arctic Monkeys stepped up to take the rock mantle that OK Go had brought to the Land’s End stage and polish it up to a magnificent shine. The Sheffield quartet has always been quite impressive to watch, with their marvelous ability to blend snarling, dirty riffs and lightning fast drums into an amazingly tight performance that is both energetic and bordering on savantlike in its precision. Their set called from all four of their records, with their two biggest hits, “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” and “When The Sun Goes Down” punctuating the set at times when the crowd’s energy seemed to dip a micron in measure. For their hour, however, you would be hard pressed to find a section of the crowd that wasn’t bouncing, clapping, or at least waving their arms with reckless abandon.
Arctic Monkeys setlist

Arctic Monkeys setlist

We were a little nervous about seeing The Roots for the first time since they got their gig a the house band for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. We worried about their playing, we worried about the crowd, but the latter proved to be overflowing with long-time, old-school fans. It was also surprisingly thick for being paired up against The Black Keys on the mainstage. The band opened with “How I Got Over,” the lead track off of 2010’s excellent album of the same name. Since they got the TV gig, they still haven’t been able to properly tour this record, so this was a special treat. Without a beat, they went straight into Game Theory‘s “Here I Come,” which was later adopted for the theme to Fallon.
Black Thought & ?uestlove of The Roots

Black Thought & ?uestlove of The Roots

The crowd at Twin Peaks, to say the least, was ecstatic. Everyone was dancing in sync, and they covered a wide array tracks, going back was deep as 1995 major label debut Do You Want More?!!??! with “Proceed,” all the way up to their latest material. They managed to slip into their set an extended jam on their first real hit single “You Got Me,” which included an amazing and unexpected reading of Donna Summer’s “Love To Love You.” They also were the only band I caught that both started on time, and then played an extra ten minutes past their published set time. We really need this band back on the live circuit, because this was one of the best sets we’ve seen in a long, long time.
Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys

Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys

Due to the number of people that went to see The Roots, you would think that the Polo Field would be at its largest level of attendance when Muse, the headliner for the day, took the stage after their fans had left Twin Peaks to get back across the park. You would be vastly mistaken; the swell of the crowd that watched The Black Keys was absolutely colossal and definitely more massive than that which made up the final audience at the Land’s End stage. Of course, just one song of the Black Keys’ performance would have convinced even the casual observer that they were in the right place; if the Arctic Monkeys played a tight set, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney were cast from solid steel that was forged in the loudest, hottest and most dangerous furnace one could construct without actually destroying the shop in the process. The addition of keyboardist Leon Michels and bassist Nick Movshon also brought fresh new life into the middle of their set, a collection of songs from their latest album, Brothers, before descending back into the brilliant aural mayhem that closed their set.
The Black Keys' setlist

The Black Keys' setlist

Once the Black Keys and the Roots were finished, the definition between the two divisions of the crowd was at its most distinct. Those who remained at the Polo Field were there clearly to see Muse come and rock their worlds with all of the arena-sized grandeur that they’ve been bringing to their shows for over half a decade. But, being that it was Saturday night, there was a sizable chunk of the crowd that weren’t interested in stadium grandeur and rock-opera seriousness; everyone else just wanted to party, to dance, to let completely loose. Who better, then, to close the night on Saturday than Girl Talk? Those who wandered over to the Twin Peaks stage got exactly what they hoped for: the biggest, wildest party of the entire weekend.
I think he can fit a few more people onstage...

I think he can fit a few more people onstage...

Nothing at all was held back for the Girl Talk set. In addition to new spins on his old mashups, and a set that mostly resembled his March 2011 tour but veered violently enough away to still have several surprises in store for his audience, Girl Talk mastermind Gregg Gillis had the best sense of timing that had yet been seen on the stage that night. Moments of slight lull were shattered away by striking mashups, with everything from Missy Elliot with Metallica to Kelly Clarkson with Nine Inch Nails. If the music was wild and the crowd was slowing down, he upped the ante again with all manner of party paraphernalia: 20-foot-long bags of balloons, cannons of smoke and confetti, and both sides of the stage lined with an artillery of TP guns. While not possessing the massive armada of fireworks that had stunned his 2009 Treasure Island crowd, Gillis used the resources he had, and when all else failed, leapt atop his stage rig and bounced like a fantastically hyperactive jackrabbit while urging the crowd up in the air as well. The Twin Peaks crowd was a tangled mass of bodies and thoroughly excited partygoers by the time Girl Talk’s hour-long set ground to a close.
Need a bit of a break before the next morning? Don’t worry: Spinning Platters will return for our installment of the Sunday performances. You won’t want to miss it.

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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