Ending a festival is always a little bittersweet. Because you had fun, but you are also tired. So tired that you will end up seeing fewer acts, but it’s OK. Quality over quantity, eh? And these were probably the best sets of the weekend.
Not gonna lie to you, I was really tired this day. But I’ve been hearing a lot about this band called “The Bots,” and I really needed to know what they were all about. So I pulled myself out of bed, grabbed a latte and a breakfast burrito, and headed into the park. I’m glad I rallied, because The Bots were fantastic. They are a duo of teenagers from LA, doing fuzzy and aggressive guitar rock. Sort of in the style of Local H or heavier Smashing Pumpkins. The guitars were searing and huge, the drums were frantic and harsh. They were almost too heavy for 12 PM on a Sunday.
Sounding a wee bit more appropriate for a sunny Sunday afternoon was Woods. And, yes, this was a very warm Sunday, especially for Golden Gate Park. Woods, who played a set that ended 12 hours earlier at Brick & Mortar Music Hall, opted to lean on the calmer end of their catalog. They played a wonderfully easy going set of country rock, only hinting at their more psych oriented material. They did occasionally pull out some heavy guitar feedback, but pulled it all back in almost as soon as they started with it.
I have a love hate relationship with this band. Mostly because modern computing almost forces you to call them “Luscious.” They are part of this scene that is developing where musicians are blending elements of folk, synth pop, and Top 40. It’s been happening for years, starting with the dearly underrated Tilly & The Wall. Lucius sound fantastic, and they really know how to put on a show. The harmonies are stunning, and the set was energetic. There were more than a few hardcore fans in the crowd, as well.
I know a lot of people were sad that Chvrches had to cancel their set at the festival, but it worked well for me: the slot opened up to allow Paolo Nutini to play at 3:10 instead of 1:50, giving me time enough to park & get in just as he began his set with current single “Scream (Funk My Life Up),” followed by “Coming Up Easy.” The sunny, breezy weather and Nutini’s gorgeous voice are a match made in heaven; I sat on the grass with an American Grilled Cheese Kitchen grilled cheese with bacon and a strawberry lemonade, blissed out. Nutini paid Chvrches a little homage, covering their tune “Recover” “for shits and giggles,” or more accurately because they couldn’t appear on their own behalf. After another song from his newest record (“One Day”), Nutini played what he called was his “bum-squeezing song, ” “No Other Way.” Ultimately, he played a great set and was wonderful to see. I was quite disappointed he didn’t grace us with “Last Request” or especially “New Shoes,” but he was still excellent. (Stacy Scales)
Jenny Lewis is the finest songwriter of her generation. Nobody matches her skill as a lyricist, as an arranger, as a melody writer. She has all elements of songwriting down cold. I’ve been seeing her live in her many incarnations since the late 90’s. From Rilo Kiley, to The Watson Twins, down to her time spent in The Postal Service. Her latest record, The Voyager, was only about a week and a half old by the time of this performance, but when she took the stage, dressed in a pantsuit modeled after the album cover, everyone in the crowd embraced the new material as if they’ve been bonding with the record for most of their lives.
She opened with “Silver Lining,” a track off Rilo Kiley’s swan song Under The Blacklight. This led us into a series of tracks off The Voyager. Everyone knew every lyric to every song, which is saying a lot, because Ms Lewis is pretty verbose in the lyric area. People were dancing up a storm, and it was the single most rabid crowd I’ve ever witnessed for Ms Lewis. For the first time in the 15 years I’ve been seeing Ms Lewis, she performed without an instrument in hand. With this newfound freedom, she was able to work the crowd more intensely than every before. She let loose on the funky Rilo Kiley classic “Moneymaker,” as well as the nine minute long magnum opus “The Last Messiah,” all without a guitar, bass, or piano holding her back. Making for some fantastic photo ops, too. We even experienced the rare festival treat of an encore! They pounded through the set mighty fast, and with ten minutes to spare, they walked off stage, only to be brought back out by the chants of the crowd, hoping for one more song. We got two. It was great.
Just One Of The Guys
The Next Messiah
Rise Up With Fists
The New You
She’s Not Me
Love U Forever
The Stars Of Silicon Valley
I’ll just start by saying that there are TV spoilers here. If you haven’t seen “Silicon Valley” yet, go steal a friends’s HBO Go password and watch it.
All ten episodes.
Finished? Good. Wasn’t that a great show?
OK. The stars of Silicon Valley consisted of stand up sets by TJ Miller, Thomas Middleditch, and Kumail Nanjiani. Despite being only one of the lesser characters on the program, Nanjiani, being one of the best stand ups working today, ended up closing the show. The performance started, however, with a brief Q+A from the crowd with all three actors. The first question was “How will season 2 be?” This question was not answered. The next question was much better: “H0w many people could Kumail actually jack off to completion?” Prompting the epic season finale to be recreated on stage. With two people in the crowd that happened to be sitting next to each other, but didn’t know each other at all.
The solo sets were all quite good, with Miller leaving behind his normal cocky character, to focus on a much calmer, more peaceful set of jokes. Well, peaceful until he started laying into a woman that was filming the entire show with her Go Pro. He ended his set be throwing a bunch of DVDs of his first TV special into the crowd, reminding the audience that “media can still hurt you.”
Middleditch’s set was the least impressive of the three. That’s not because it wasn’t good, but it definitely felt more like an actor telling jokes than a comedian doing an act. Nanjiani, however, slayed it. Doing a full 30, where the other comics only got 20, he fired off jokes like a master. When a heckler got out of control, he verbally Vulcan death gripped the guy into a shame puddle so deep that he may have ended the California drought. Kumail Nunjiani is one of the toughest guys to ever work a microphone, and he showed it on stage. It was, quite simply, great. These guys totally deserved to win funding.
I have been enamored with Ray LaMontagne’s voice for several years, but somehow this was the first time I’ve ever been able to catch him live. Right away I noticed how different his singing voice is from the one with which he speaks. Either way, though, he’s utterly brilliant, and even better live than on record. Highlights included recent single “Supernova,” “Smashing,” megahit “Trouble,” a breathtaking cover of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me,” complete with the entire crowd singing and dancing along, “Song for Meg White,” “Julia,” and closing song “Drive-In Movies.” Though he’s a man of few words, at least on stage, LaMontagne was an absolute treat. (Stacy Scales)
I admit, I wasn’t at all prepared for how much I was going to enjoy The Killers. Before they began, I thought I knew approximately two of their songs. Turns out, I know quite a few, and all sound great live. Though in no way a requirement for me to enjoy a band, it never hurts to discover that the front man is adorable, and clean-cut Brandon Flowers is all that and more. Jumping right into their hits, they began with “Mr. Brightside,” followed by “Spaceman,” “The Way It Was,’ and “Smile Like You Mean It.” “You guys are… this is a very fabulous crowd!” Flowers gushed. “Thank you for being so good to us! This one’s called ‘Bling.'” Next was “Human” and “Somebody Told Me,” after which Flowers addressed the crowd once more. “How’s everybody doin’ so far, alright? We love comin’ here, we do! We love the Bay Area, it’s given us so much… The Golden Gate Bridge, the 49ers… Uncle Jesse! The Grateful Dead, Rice-a-Roni… CCR!” With that, they blessed the crowd with a phenomenal cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising.” (For me personally, a killer cover or two is what makes a concert experience exceptional, and the Killers seemed happy to indulge this particular love of mine, for which I’m grateful.)
“For Reasons Unknown” was next, after which Flowers asked, “I know it’s been three days and you’ve seen some of the greats… But did you save some of that love for The Killers? You still got your dancin’ shoes on?” According to the level of noise generated in response, everyone was still ready, willing, and able to party until the Killers said they could stop. Flowers took a moment to introduce the band, and then came “From Here On Out” and “A Dustland Fairytale.” Next came another fantastic surprise cover, this time of Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay,” which was all I’d want it to be and more, complete with lyrics tailored for the evening (“I left my home in Vegas… headed for the Frisco Bay… it’s Outside Lands and the Killers… I think it’s gonna be okay…”) Next was “Read My Mind,” “Runaways” and “All These Things That I’ve Done,” which concluded the regular set. Moments later, the encore began with “Shot at the Night,” followed by “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine,” and finally, the addictive “When You Were Young.” I have to say, I had absolutely no expectations whatsoever going into the last set of the weekend. I had no strong opinions on the Killers, and all these years after its release, was still feeling pretty sick of “Somebody Told Me,” but at the end of the day, I’m thrilled with this band’s fantastic set and great energy. It was a great way to end my festival experience, and I would see the Killers again any time. (Stacy Scales)