Outside Lands Day Two: Al Green, The Devil Makes Three, and A Mass of Humanity

Categories: Outside Lands
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Outside Lands Day Two 
Sunday, August 15, 2010 

Better than: watching bootleg videos of the gig on YouTube at home by yourself. 

Open-air music festivals are as much about atmosphere as they are bands. At Outside Lands Day Two, this meant The People -- aka the plebs, the great unwashed, thousands upon thousands of our closest friends, etc. As all dedicated concertgoers know, the attitude of an audience sets the tone before the musicians ever hit the stage. In Golden Gate park yesterday, the crowd was so sunny, it didn't matter what the skies were doing. The People were beautiful, and we reveled in the collective humanity.

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We knew we were getting into something good from the outset, when we met a girl fondling the pine-cone balls of a very large buffalo sculpted from the local shrubbery. Then there was the senior who shared her heavenly sweet-and-spicy homemade mango salsa, the toddler who spat her rice to the peppy rhythms of Phoenix, the pourers in the wine-tasting tent who hooked us up with six ounces of primo red for the price of four, and the guy who seduced us with a soulful chorus of the Al Green classic "Tired of Being Alone" while his homegirl swung her hips in time. These were the smiling strangers with whom we would spend the next seven hours eating, drinking, laughing, and dancing. The music was incidental.


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OK, not really. Everyone had their must-see acts. The most popular recommendations included Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Slightly Stoopid, The Budos Band, Empire of the Sun, Garage A Trois, and of course the Devil Makes Three and Al Green, the two shows we had come for. But first, we would imbibe in the wine tent, where a number of Northern California's world-class vinters schooled us in the fine art of fermented grapes. Top tastes: L. Preston (an organic Rhone-style combo of syrah, cinsault, carignane, and mourvedre) and Bedrock's Lorenzo Heirloom (another blissful red -- from a 120-year-old vine!).

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Thus lubricated, we made our way to the Twin Peaks stage to get our backporch groove on with the Devil Makes Three, arguably one of the hardest working, American bands on the scene today. This high-ABV Santa Cruz trio made us want to gnaw corn on the cob and swim in a gin-soaked tub, but we settled for crepes from Ti Couz, Thai beef skewers from Askew Grill, red wine, and kicking up a mess with our dusty boots. There was no disconnect betwen the fancy food and simple music. The Devil Makes Three urged us to rejoice in the moment, whether that meant hailing the false gods of consumer capitalism or giving props to those face-down-in-the-street benders that tend to follow being "drunk in the middle of the day" (a line that drew the rowdiest crowd singalong). So we rejoiced.

Afterwards, the porta-potty lines were way too long. To avoid the funk of the outhouses (or a municipal fine for unlicensed irrigation), we made the most of our contribution to the credit crisis by ducking into a spacious tent sponsored by one of the planet's titanic financial institutions. (Credit card required for entry, of course.) There, just past a white table piled high with bowls of pretzels, M&M's, and mixed nuts, we discovered exactly what this multinational corporation's "freedom" campaign (hiply appropriated from '60s counterculture) was all about: a clean and peaceful place to pee.

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All of our economic worries vanished once the good-great Reverend Al Green pimp-strutted onto the Lands End stage and tossed roses to the starry-eyed congregation. Sure, he was mostly mining a thirty-year-old songbook, but "Love & Happiness" never goes out of style. Neither do funk, soul, gospel, and positive vibrations. Rev. Green reminded us of their power through the miracle of his music -- along with a heartfelt tribute to Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, and Otis Redding -- and we left feeling born anew.

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A floaty feeling buoyed the air as we ambled around the hula hoopers and hacky sackers on our way to the Muni stop. Maybe it was the BBQ in the breeze or the fish flying in the trees -- hard to tell. Outside Lands had brought us together like a true festival should.

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