Outside Lands Day Two: Street Sweeper Social Club, Trombone Shorty, Black Eyed Peas, The Mars Volta

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Outside Lands Day 2: Street Sweeper Social Club, Trombone Shorty, Black Eyed Peas, The Mars Volta, & more, Saturday, August 20, 2009.

Better Than: sitting in the park, waiting for you.

The first day of Outside Lands was a huge freakin' success, especially if you stayed at the Twin Peaks stage (like I did). The opening night salvo of Zap Mama-Midnite-Q.Tip-Thievery Corporation was a potent one, to be sure. But how would Day Two line up? First of all, unlike the first day, there was no 'groovy bloc' of artists all lined up at a particular stage, all day long. This encouraged wandering. Besides Twin Peaks, there were several other stages, and with the talent level spread out fairly evenly among them, it only made sense to check them all out.

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Street Sweeper Social Club

Arriving at just after 2 p.m., I was sorry to find out I missed both Albino! and Zion-I. Too bad these local acts couldn't have been scheduled for later in the day, but that's how it goes. Still, I did manage to see the Street Sweeper Social Club, which I had earmarked before the festival as one of my must-see bands. Tom Morello and Boots Riley did not disappoint. Their set of revolutionary rap-metal had Molotov intensity, although it did kind of sound like an aggregate of Rage against the Machine and the Coup (which, to a certain extent, it was). Still, I dug their "SSSC" uniforms (which evoked both classic Soviet Communism and the Beatles, circa Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band). Boots' famed Afro stood tall, and Morello's rock star-riffage was on point.

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SSSC's Boots Riley

Exiting the Twin Peaks stage before SSSC's set was done, we made our way through the crowd. The afternoon heat was blazing as we trod through the Festival promenade. We arrived at Lands End in time for the end of Raphael Saadiq's set, which infused a dash of retro-Motown flavor into the proceedings. After Saadiq was done, it was time to explore the other OL stages we hadn't yet been. This meant a trek northward to Lindley Meadow, where two more stages awaited.

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Trombone Shorty

Arriving at the meadow just as Dengue Fever was ending at the Sutro stage, we headed eastward to the Presidio stage, where Trombone Shorty & Orleans Ave. were just starting up. TS' funky, jazzy N'Awlins R&B was just the ticket for the still-blazing afternoon sun, which kept the fog away.
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Rosin Coven

There was still more to see. Coming back from Lindley, we popped into the Barbary, a circus-like tent straight out of HBO's "Carnavale," where Rosin Coven was performing an entrancing set of Kurt Weill-esque vaudeville numbers. That was an interesting diversion, yet our attention wandered, and our feet soon followed. Regrouping in the Lands End area after downing a few brews, we were faced with a choice: stay where we were and listen to Black Eyed Peas, or hasten to the other end of the venue and catch TV on the Radio (both of whom were playing at the same time).
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Fergie of Black-Eyed Peas

We opted for the Peas, who currently sit atop the charts with their hit "Boom Boom Pow." The Los Angeles-based foursome were all glamour and glitz--equal parts Vegas and Hollywood--and there wasn't a song in their set, it seemed, which hadn't been a major radio and video hit. If you can imagine 50,000 people singing along to "My Humps," you have an idea of what that set was like. The Peas were entertaining, and they work hard for the money, but at this point, they are anything but cutting-edge. I personally don't care too much for overblown material like (Fergie's solo hit) "Big Girls Don't Cry," but what do I know? I'm just a music critic. Obviously, lots of people do love that song, even if it is the pop culture equivalent of a Big Mac--tasty, perhaps, but not as nutritious as it could be.

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The Mars Volta


Once the Peas were done, we were again faced with a choice: stay where we were and hear the Dave Matthews Band, or head back to Twin Peaks and check out The Mars Volta. We decided to go with the Volta option.

Arriving at the stage just before the band started, I chatted with some folks in the front row who can probably count themselves among the biggest TMV fans on the planet. They had been there, they told me, since 12:30 pm--it was past 7:00 pm at the time--and one girl boasted that she was planning to be at the band's LA show today (Sunday).

TMV lived up to their rep as the masters of neo-psychedelia. Vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala's shaggy dog coiffure wouldn't have looked out of place on a member of Led Zeppelin, and the guy pranced around with manic intensity, at one point running over to the placard on the side of the stage which announced the band's name, kicking it until the name popped out, then holding up the empty frame as a prop. Guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López seemed to feed off of Bixler-Zavala's energy, as did the crowd.

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The Mars Volta

By then, dusk had fallen, and even though Dave Matthews still had an hour to go once TMV finished their set, the smart money was on getting the hell outta Dodge in front of the masses. So that's what we did, hiking along Golden Gate Park's trails until we reached Fulton St., our point of entry. Once outside Outside Lands, all that was left was a time to reflect on a long, long day of music, made hotter by the hot sun. It kind of all seems like a blur now, but if anyone asks, I'll at least be able to say, I was there.

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Critic's Notebook: The big news this year at Outside Lands was how much easier it was to navigate from location to location. Everything was improved from last year's inaugural event, it seemed. The whole thing just flowed a lot smoother overall, and there weren't any claustrophobic bottleneck situations like last year. One especially smart move was to stagger the closing set times, so crowds leave in waves, rather than as one lumpen mass.

Personal Bias #1
: I thought Q-Tip rocked it the previous day--in fact, his was my personal favorite performance of the entire fest.

Personal Bias #2:
The "Transformers" robots which came out during the BEP's set were a huge turn-off for me. I could do without product placement during a band's show, thanks.

Observation:
I saw a bunch of folks with OL swag, including water bottles and frisbees.

Transportation Issues:
On Friday, the combination of Muni to BART got me back to the East Bay in an hour and ten minutes. Saturday, my friend drove (I know, I know...) and we were able to find parking on Fulton after circling the Avenues for a good 10-15 minutes. Counting the walk back to the car after the show, the return trip by vehicle ended up taking about the same amount of time as the bus/train combo. Pick yer poison; it's all the same.

Tip for Sunday:
My (somewhat obvious) picks would be M.I.A. and the Dead Weather, but do drop by the Barbary tent for a spell, if you haven't done so already.



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