We forgot to knock on wood. Outside Lands, returning to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park for the fourth time, hasn’t been fraught with the “technical difficulties” that set Twitter afire at other festivals. In this naïve bliss, we Muni’d to Day One with our overexcited optimism packed next to our refillable water bottles. Ah, to be young…
But of course things fell apart.
That may be melodramatic, but for hip hop fans last night, that was the overall impression. The story of Friday was the no-show of rapper Big Boi, who kept fans milling on the Sutro Stage for an hour before a haggard comedian Dave Chappelle tried to calm the crowd. Considering no one really likes him either, fans weren’t exactly understanding when Big Boi pulled out entirely.
Big Boi’s Twitter trail blames the DJ for getting lost. The rapper refused to do a “half ass show” in the abbreviated slot he was given and so he didn’t perform at all. Circumstances are still fuzzy, but his tweeted photo backstage with Phantogram suggests that no, he wasn’t arrested again, no matter how much his embittered fans may have wished.
The absence of the highly-billed rapper overshadowed anything the school of Phish or The Shins could come up with and threw off the evening’s scheduling. R&B singer Erykah Badu’s set on the same stage was pushed back by more than half an hour, though those who did stay were treated to some of the finest jazz flute shredding to back the Queen of Neo-Soul. For people avoiding the Phish love-fest at all costs, the gap in programming just left people cold and confused.
Outside Lands has two more days to wow us, onwards to (eventual?) victory.
A few recaps of Friday’s highlights after the jump…
By the time K.Flay hit the stage on Friday afternoon, those who were hoping for warmer weather knew it wasn’t going to arrive. Instead, fans huddled close to the stage as the Stanford grad tossed out lines as cool as the incoming fog and pumped out beats from her laptop (which boasted a sticker that said “Reading is sexy.” Hell yeah, it is). Backed up only by a drummer, she ran across the stage, throwing shoutouts to her roommates in the audience and peppering the set with background stories to several songs — “Elle Fanning” inspired by a photo of the actress in her bathroom, another inspired by the Lucky Supermarket on Fulton. Her chops, though, stole the show: on a Busta-inspired rap that inched ever-so-slightly in speed from slow to whoa to holy shit, K.Flay proved to her few-in-number but ardent-in-heart fans on Friday that girl’s got skills.
The Joy Formidable may have been on their last show before returning to their native North Wales, but the rock trio’s megawatt smiles could still be seen from the Sutro Stage’s entrance. No tour exhaustion here. The unpretentious Brits and their synth-dabbling arena rock turned the backwater Sutro Stage into a grass amphitheater, never mind that it was early afternoon. The clear voice of lead singer Ritzy Bryan brought their aptly-named The Big Roar to uplifting heights. Bryan also won the biggest baller award of Day One after repeatedly throwing her guitar to the ground after anthemic closer “Whirring,” ending the set on her knees with bassist-guitarist Rhydian Dafydd. In her bright red dress and blond bob, she didn’t do much damage to the instrument, but the rockstar feeling was there.
Since the release of last year’s Eyelid Movies, word has spread of New York’s Phantogram, earning them a berth before fellow buzz-worthy bands Foster the People and Ellie Goulding on the Sutro Stage. Cheering after the telltale bird-squawk blasts of “Mouthful of Diamonds,” fans sung right alongside the plaintive vocals of Sarah Barthel. Eyelid Movies-favorite “Turn it Off” had the crowd, and Barthel’s shoulders, pulsing to the sinister groove, and the duo’s traveling drummer earned his day’s pay. With a new album in the works for September, the band also trotted out new songs “Don’t Move” and “16 Years,” both songs embracing the dramatic and atmospheric elements the electronic duo is so fond of. Of the new material, “Don’t Move,” featuring a hip hop beat and a gothic dance break, gave an intriguing preview of their follow-up LP.
Well, they’re not so “alt” anymore. You can hear Foster the People‘s “Pumped Up Kicks” on the Bay Area’s 99.7 now — which is why so many girls squealed with joy when the band dished out its top hit halfway through the set, then promptly left when it was over. But the LA-based group followed that up with twists of their own: besides playing their own Torches, frontman Mark Foster told the story behind a little tribute performance. He had met Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo years ago, before Foster’s quick shot to fame — and now, he said, he’d just heard Weezer covering “Pumped Up Kicks.” Now it was their turn — and the band rocked out to “Say It Ain’t So.” Their show was the first to pack Sutro stage and the swarms packed by the food stands would have appreciated some video screens, which were only provided for the Lands End main stage.
Late afternoon, people were literally running across the Polo Field for a glimpse of indietronica MGMT. And as the hour-plus long set dragged on, even the painted and be-feathered minions could be seen running away from the main stage. The hits “Time to Pretend,” “Electric Feel” and “Kids” were as catchy as they were when Oracular Spectacular came out, but vocalists Andrew VanWyngarden and Benjamin Goldwasser seemed to forget themselves between playing their commercial trifecta. While the spacey, off-the-wall material from 2010-release Congratulations pleased the diehard fans, it was inaccessible to the rest. Maybe it was the fact that the band was dressed normally and the antics-quotient was muted, but MGMT’s set was merely pleasant.
Jubilant and irresistible, rockers Clap Your Hands Say Yeah didn’t let the foggy chill put a damper on their sunny cheer. Singer Alec Ounsworth vocal affectations improved with the band’s live energy, and though his quirky wails wouldn’t win a singing competition, he had a certain charismatic charm. His oft-undecipherable chants ran the gamut from darkly kooky (“Satan Said Dance”) to pained (“The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth”), all the way through backed by the tight performance and smiles of the rest of the band. The dancing picked up for the frantic strumming of “Is This Love?,” from the band’s 2005 debut, and never looked back. And yes, hands were clapping.
Disclaimer: We’re not that high on Phish that we’d stayed beyond the start of Best Coast’s set. But the jam gods that brought this group to life deserve a shout-out, as do the men actually on stage. The songs have actually earned the much-tossed-about adjective “epic,” with songs that spanned through guitars, pianos and drums going much further than you thought possible. And they almost hit prescience with the lyrics to “Tweezer,” which repeat over and over “it’s gonna be cold, cold, cold” — and by the time their three-hour set wound to a close, it sure was chilly. But maybe that was just the void left when the set — which ran through favorites like “Axila,” “Wilson” and “Sample in a Jar” — came to an end.
Meanwhile, The Shins were taking a trip back in time. Fresh off a new record deal and a total lineup change — frontman James Russell Mercer remains the only original band member — and having released their last album four years ago, the band ran through its oldies. Battering through the likes of “Know Your Onion,” “Mine’s Not A High Horse,” “Saint Simon” and “Caring is Creepy,” the band only sampled lightly from its most recent album. But despite the band’s “Shins 2.0″ reputation after the label and member changes, fans (even those too far back to see the band at all) were still content to coo softly along to “New Slang.”
Treeswingers’ Top Three
The Joy Formidable- The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade (download)
Foster the People- Call It What You Want (download)
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah- Is This Love? (download)
-Ellen, Kris &Marisa
A version of this review will appear in The Stanford Daily.