The Best of Outside Lands: Saturday, Aug. 11
Waiting for Sigur Rós to begin playing on the Twin Peaks stage, listening to a pillowy ambient soundtrack and watching the wind make shapes out of the mist, had a strong nature-show feel to it. It was as if we had been placed there to just stand around in the tamed wild for a few moments of the day, to look up at the trees or, in front of those trees, the gigantic stage made of nothing organic whatsoever. Some quality time just thinking about who we are, where we come from, what we have wrought, stuff like that. ("Look at all these Metallica haters," someone said, surveying the crowd.)
In light of that preparatory transcendentalism sesh, the idea of Sigur Rós -- who began their show mostly backlit and shrouded in smoke, lending their presence the kind of fitful shadowy atmosphere that for some reason suggests the staging of a Shakespeare play, even though Shakespeare plays are never actually staged that way -- was pretty much predetermined from the outset. This was Sigur Rós, the band whose album covers look old and yellowed and pre-Instagrammed (except for that one with the naked hippie sprinters), the band that makes videos starring apple-cheeked cherubs frolicking in swooping hills of impossible green, the band that sets the lion's share of its songs in a made-up language called Hopelandic.
Turns out, though, that these freaky woodsprite children clean up magnificently. Their sound, augmented by more orchestral guests than could be confidently counted, was palatial and elegant, conveying as much glitzy cinematic sweep as communion with nature. Of course, it's always been this way: the gauzy bells lining "Svefn-g-englar," the notorious 10-minute coo-fest from 1999's breakthrough album Agætis byrjun, were arguably the most luxurious element of the whole set. (Come to think of it, what could be more simultaneously primal and fine than playing an electric guitar with a violin bow?)
The linchpin of the whole production, that which makes Sigur Rós a hit-or-miss proposition for lots of people, is Jón Thor Birgisson's honeyed voice: on record it can be a cloying drip, but in person it's a stellar instrument, fully commanding whether it's mewing over the band's slow-building epics or giddily harumphing over bubblier numbers like "Hoppipolla." With orchestral gloss and/or reverb grunge behind it, that voice is capable of tipping the scales toward either extreme -- toward the wild, toward the civilized -- and last night it was the perfect symbol of how smoothly, how lovingly, they can be reconciled. -- Daniel Levin Becker
Big Boi took an awful long road to get to this performance. It started back in August of 2011, when he had just been released from being arrested at the Port of Miami with Ecstasy and Viagra and got on a long flight to San Francisco to appear at Outside Lands. While his DJ Cutmaster Swift was consumed with technical difficulties, the OutKast rapper's pal Dave Chappelle killed time for the crowd with a little bit of banter, including labeling the tossing of beach balls at concerts as a uniquely Caucasian experience. Eventually Big Boi came out to address the crowd, but the news wasn't good -- the problems had eaten up his set time, and rather than do a song or two and be half-assed, he chose not to perform at all.
So he came back this year, and this time was slotted to appear on the Twin Peaks stage. If the crushing crowd that showed up to see him this time was any indication, he really should have blessed the main stage, where this year there's exactly no hip-hop happening.
Big Boi plans to release his second solo album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, on November 13. He and his crew wanted to play new shit -- they kept screaming, "New shit!"
"Old shit!" pockets of the crowd bellowed back.
He offered a few moments of new shit, including the first single "Gossip," which features guest stars UGK and Big K.R.I.T. and a hook that says, "Niggas wanna tell it/hoes wanna gossip." But he mainly obliged with a medley of old shit, including OutKast hits like "Bombs Over Baghdad," "Ms. Jackson," and "So Fresh, So Clean" and solo cuts such as "Shutterbugg" and "Kryptonite."
The set showed that hip-hop deserves a bigger spotlight at Outside Lands. Even shirtless hippies perched way up in the trees were grooving out. -- Tamara Palmer