Outside Lands Day Three: Tenacious D, M.I.A, Ween, The Avett Brothers
Golden Gate Park
August 30, 2009
The fog that began showing up in wisps over Dave Matthews Band on Saturday night turned into a typical freezing summer in San Francisco day by Sunday morning. The weather may have thwarted plans to show-off yesterday's tan, but it didn't prevent crowds from packing into the park for one more day of Outside Lands. Luckily, even non-San Franciscans know to come prepared: Whereas most of Saturday's festival goers wore little more than sunglasses and smiles to stave the heat, most of Sunday's crowd arrived in layers (aka parade of ugs and furry hats with ears). Some dealt with the cold in other ways (aka booze, furry costumes, and frantic dancing).
But at least for this reporter, the cold simply melted away at the first banjo strum from the Avett Brothers, whose energy on stage radiated out to the bundled crowd. Whether the Northern Carolina-based brothers were singing a slow tune, voices harmonious and sweet, or whoopin it up and slamming their weight on the bass drum to set the beat for a raucous hoe-down, everyone in the crowd bounced along. The brothers play hard - by which I mean, the banjo had lost a string by song two - and give their audience a show that's truly worth standing in the cold to watch.
|The Avett Brothers|
Most of the crowd appeared unfamiliar with the Avett Brothers -- who play a mix of rock, folk and country -- as there were few people singing along. But it's clear they'll have some new fans now. "I can't believe y'all are still here," said one of the Avetts midway through the set. A humble remark coming from a band that's been seeing sold-out shows since the release of their 2007 album, Emotionalism.
But festivals aren't just about the music. They're also about the mob scene, which on Sunday was pretty mellow. Until...
On our way from the Avett Brothers stage to calm ourselves with the smooth, chillaxing tunes of Calexico, we were trampled by a mob of roughly 20 fence-jumpers who, as far as we could tell, literally threw themselves over the chain links. (Overheard from one security guard in the photo pit at the moment it happened: "those mother fuckers just broke the fence! Now I'm going to have to go over there and fix the fucking fence!"). The jumpers spread out immediately when they hit the ground running and disappeared successfully into the crowd without a hitch. After everyone in the surrounding areas recovered from their initial WTF moment at the sight of the mob, people started cheering for them.
We ended up next to a crew of the jumpers at the Ween stage. Which is actually not that surprising. San Francisco seriously hearts Ween. Probably because the slightly wacky rock music lends itself to everything SF does best, like costumes and pot smoking. Although the band played a good show on its own -- they played for nearly two hours on Sunday evening, playing nearly every song from their most popular album, "The Mollusk" -- the enthusiastic crowd of loyal Ween fans pumped it up the notch it needed to reach greatness. For instance, you know it's going to be a great show when Chewbacca shows up. Or when, during the song, "Bananas and Blow," an audience member clad in blue sequins whips out a couple of bananas and starts dancing with them.
We had to adjust quickly moving from Ween to M.I.A, where the majority of festival goers had packed against the Lands End stage in droves to catch a glimpse of the tiny, sunglasses-clad Maya and her band of fluorescent dancers flying around the stage. The crowd went crazy when M.I.A did a shout-out to the former headliners, Beastie Boys, by sampling "Intergalactic" and "Sabatage," then quickly dissipated when her show was finished, running to catch a last glimpse of Band of Horses on the other side of the park.
Fifteen minutes before headlining band, Tenacious D, hit the main stage, it looked like hardly anyone was going to show up. It was a stark contrast from Saturday, when the stage was already bumper-to-bumper nearly half hour before Dave Matthews went on. But by the time Jack Black appeared on stage, the crowd had meandered back to see get schooled by the rock masters of Tenacious D (the weary were egged on by at least one enthusiastic fan who stood between stages shouting "FLOCK TO THE D!").
Black's antics and impressive rock-falsetto was exactly the kind of show this audience needed after a long weekend of concert-going. Although Black said he recently turned "fuckin 40," he wowed the audience that he was still lithe and feeling "more powerful and more lubricated" than ever by doing a series of cartwheels and flips (he called them "flick-flacks"). The epic story-telling that is Tenacious D then began when his band-mate, Rage Cage, revealed that a stunt double had actually performed the flick-flacks for the audience. Black got angry ("I want people to think I can do flick-flacks!" he said. "Is that a crime?"), sang a song about it, and then the two made up. And then, after a hug, they sang a song about it.
That was just the beginning. Tenacious D also brought out "The Metal" -- a 20 ft. tall transformer-esque rock-God -- and fought devil in a rock-off, even though Black said he had traded Satan for Jesus (he said their next album would be all Christian rock -- we'll believe it when we see it). But there was at least one truly sincere moment in the set: near the end of the show, Black sent love out to Adam Yauch. "We hope he recovers," he said, mirroring a sentiment shared by all in the crowd.
Lines: You know it's day three when the lines at the iced lemonade stands disintegrate and lines for Phillz coffee go off the hook.
Food: People were definitely digging the SF grub. Can't recall the last time I went to a music festival and walked by so many people slurping down oysters and Neiman Ranch sliders.
Critic's Notebook 1: Caught the last song from Seattle-based singer/comedian, Reggie Watts, in the red-lit Barbaray Tent and wished I would have been there for the entire show. He had me at: "You take some shit and some fuck and make a Shit-Fuck-Stack."
Critic's Notebook 2: Didn't see any "street performers" except some guy with pigtails and a ukulele who was making a killing by singing cover songs. I never knew Gnarls Barkley could sound so good ala ukulele.
Critic's Notebook 3: While some festival-goers definitely showed signs of fatigue and had that yellowish, day-three complexion, the energy in the crowd was far from drained -- even given the arrival of the fog. Way to bring it.