San Francisco’s 2011 Outside Lands Festival, Day 3

by Jonathan Pirro on August 18, 2011

The crowd in unified fist-pumping for Major Lazer

The crowd in unified fist-pumping for Major Lazer

60,000 is an extremely large number, especially when you’re speaking in terms of human beings. The largest amphitheater in the Bay Area, the Shoreline in Mountain View, holds around 30,000 with its lawn fully filled, and most shows that can completely fill it to the brim are multi-platinum megastars, or great music festivals that last all day. It therefore isn’t too surprising that nearly all 3 days of the 2011 Outside Lands Festival were sold out, both with single-day and three-day tickets; still, 60,000 people per day is a pretty staggering number. By the time Sunday rolled around, and the denizens of the festival had been dragged through cold, fog, heat, sun, and likely several hundred thousand watts of amplified music, it was stunning to see that the park was still packed to the gills; while most people didn’t trickle in until the mid-afternoon hours, there was enough sunlight out to see Golden Gate Park filled from end to end with a flood of musicgoers.

But what about the people who made it in the morning?

Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs (photo by jimbelred: http://www.flickr.com/photos/65504994@N00/6051180455/sizes/z/in/photostream/ )

Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs (photo by jimbelred: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6051180455/sizes/z/in/photostream/ )

Even an area like the Sutro Stage at the Lindley Meadow occasionally played host to some really big acts over the weekend. On Friday we saw Erykah Badu rock the foundations, as Foster The People had done earlier that day; on Saturday it was the Warren Haynes Band; and Beirut ended up finishing the weekend at the Sutro Stage. While we missed Warren and the other acts of Sutro on Saturday due to sticking mostly to the Land’s End and Twin Peaks stages, we were in an excellent spot at the meadow just before 1:00PM, in time to watch Oakland’s own Merrill Garbus play to possibly the biggest crowd of her entire career as the whimsical musical act known as tUnE-yArDs. Merrill and her backing trio hit the stage regaled in Ziggyesque white facial paint, and deftly layered loops upon loops to create beats and dizzying vocal harmonies that had the audience at Outside Lands enthralled, especially with favorites like “Gangsta”, “Powa,” and her breakout hit “Bizness”. Despite the unusually warm weather in Golden Gate park, tUnE-yArDs were energetic and frenetic. Garbus is both a talented singer and a charismatic front woman to one the most entertaining live bands around.

Nic Offer of !!! (photo by jimbelred: http://www.flickr.com/photos/65504994@N00/6051220941/in/photostream/ )

Nic Offer of !!! (photo by jimbelred: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6051220941/in/photostream/ )

Sunday saw no end of bands pumping out danceable beats. From the Sutro stage, we made our way across the park to catch !!! (pronounced chk chk chk) at the Twin Peaks stage. From the moment frontman Nic Offer stepped on the stage, the entire crowd was dancing. Offer is one of those people who is either the worst dancer you’ve ever seen or the greatest, because he has one dance and some minor variations on that dance. If you are a proponent of postmodern theories on repetition, you could make some sort of argument about the aesthetic value of his dancing and that would be fine, but the reality is that the man just wants to dance. He does his dance onstage, on the speakers; anywhere there is a spotlight, you will catch Offer and his dance. In stark contrast, STS9, the second-to-last act to play on the Twin Peaks stage, was mostly unmoving in their location but unbelievably solid in their musicianship, halfway between the machine gun precision of the Arctic Monkeys and the massive energy of The Black Keys; sadly, however, as they were not a dedicated “electronic band”, the crowd was at its most sparse during their set.

deadmau5 surveys the crowd (photo by Jessica S: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jessicasarahs/6048245497/in/photostream/ )

deadmau5 surveys the crowd (photo by Jessica S: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jessicasarahs/6048245497/in/photostream/ )

It was clear fairly early in the afternoon that the crowd at Twin Peaks knew that they were at the epicenter of the evening’s dance music acts. While !!! got a decent response and STS9 a lukewarm one, Major Lazer, the collaboration between DJs Diplo and Switch, had very little in terms of onstage performance, but enough bass and a huge library of dance tracks that had half the park on their feet, bobbing and punching the air to the beat. For those who found the afternoon dance mashups boring, however, satisfaction arrived just before 8:00PM with the return of deadmau5, complete with TWO of his trademark mouse heads, on top of the same gigantic structure that had astonished audiences for the Treasure Island Music Festival last year.

As we had seen last year, deadmau5 has one of the most incredible visual setups ever demonstrated for a live show. He had amped up his performance with 2 additional sets of “cubes” that were covered end to end with screens, so every inch of the stage from floor to ceiling came alive with light, color, and animation. Culling together a set mostly from his newest two records, as well as an extensive collection of singles released after his latest album (4×4=12), deadmau5 held down the Twin Peaks stage for nearly two full hours. The performance varied from a sparse stage setup with a white mouse head and slight lights, to a mindboggling display of visuals and LEDs that astonished, entranced, and pulled you into another world, just to knock you out violently with a massive bass drop. Aside from his accompaniment by vocalist SOFI for their collaborative track “SOFI Needs A Ladder”, deadmau5 had very little interaction with the crowd directly; all of his focus was on the music that closed out the final moments of the Outside Lands festival.

The light-up mask of deadmau5 (photo by Jessica S: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jessicasarahs/6048254923/in/photostream/ )

The light-up mask of deadmau5 (photo by Jessica S: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jessicasarahs/6048254923/in/photostream/ )

And thus, another year of the Outside Lands Festival has come and gone. In contrast to their smaller setup and stranger selection of artists to their lineup, the fine folks at Another Planet Entertainment managed to cull together an impressive lineup and reclaimed their larger real estate in Golden Gate Park to play host to some rather fantastic performances. For me, this year marked the perfect collection of everything I wanted to find in a festival: brand new artists that were surprisingly good, decently-followed musicians that blew me away, and much-loved favorites that brought things home at the end of the night. I personally managed to catch over 20 different performances during my 3-day stay in Golden Gate Park; maybe next year, I’ll get to see 30!

Additional contributions provided by Jason King. Major Lazer photo by Jonathan Pirro.

Jonathan Pirro

Off-kilter multimedia enthusiast.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Tom Foremski August 22, 2011 at 8:22 pm

I’m curating a collection of found fan videos to try and recapture some of the great moments at Outside Lands: http://pear.ly/Xq4D. I need help!

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