The Best of Outside Lands Day 3: Foals, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Vampire Weekend, and More
Christopher Victorio FOALS at Outside Lands on Sunday
Why don't Foals get more love? Why are they not Radiohead, or at least Interpol, or at least the Police, or at least Phish? Why would ASD fearless leader Ian Port scoff (graciously, always graciously) when I express an eagerness to see Foals and dismiss them, cryptically, as "the beans and toast of modern rock"? What aren't they delivering? Don't we have a place somewhere in our collective heart for a deft, pasty, slightly dour English prog-blues jam band? (Singer Yannis Philippakis, riling the crowd: "You guys ready?" [vague roar] "You don't sound it.") My best guess is that it's a saturation thing: if we took the noodling out of the equation, or the menace, or the vaguely tropical polyrhythm vibe, maybe Foals' songs would be less diffuse and more captivating, less like remixes of themselves and more like the smart, lithe, ass-whooping anthems they aspire to be. Nobody's perfect, though. Given a little patience and attention what Foals do can be thrilling, as it was in their closing pair ("Inhaler" and "Two Steps, Twice," both songs that never quite stop gaining momentum). Given a lot, who knows what could happen? Daniel Levin Becker
Christopher Victorio Vampire Weekend
For the past three weeks, I've been listening to Modern Vampires of the City, a little unsure if I was back all aboard the Vampy Weeks choo-choo. Giving them credit for all their accomplishments is hard, especially if you're a male of the same demographic who also wouldn't mind being paid to wear sweaters onstage and walk around all audacious and bemused. But Sunday at the Lands End stage, I was transfixed by these guys. Yeah, Ezra, Rostam, Chris, the other Chris, you guys had me at "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa." They also gave a shoutout to Souls of Mischief, whose old demo they interpolated on new album cut "Step." It's actually a bit of a surprise: for such a well-known band, Vampire Weekend has barely put out three albums and little else since 2006. Having packed into Amoeba music in 2007 with the massive crowd of twenty-year-olds who had all seen "A-Punk" on MTVU, what we got on Sunday seemed like a different band. With more practice and infinitely better sound, keyboardist and producer Rostam finally shows off his virtuosity now, and the dual-Chris rhythm section knows exactly how much to give and take to make that little lock of hair fall down into Ezra's eyes just at the right moment. Am I getting carried away? Yes. The slow build of a song like "Hannah Hunt" is a great illustration -- after hearing it only a few times before, the song hit like it had been emotionally ingrained from years past. These guys have really become true performers, approaching the stage with all the energy they've got, and taking the spectacle of playing music seriously. It's a great encouragement. Will Butler
Christopher Victorio Willie Nelson
Even given the rearward-looking gaze of the Outside Lands lineup this year, it feels very strange in the midst of such a modern, tech-laden event to stand in front of the Sutro stage and watch an 80-year-old man named Willie Nelson play gentle, beautiful, largely acoustic country songs. Willie isn't carrying this show alone -- he's got a healthy band up there that includes Bob Weir at one point -- yet it's all in his voice, that sweet, slightly nasal twang, and in his attitude, which is basically enlightened. Willie the Bodhisattva. He's singing "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die," and seemingly most of the swollen crowd here has smoked something, so the grins are wide and the cheers are loud. And when Willie and Co. go into Hank Williams' "I Saw The Light," you wonder how many Phoenix-watchers, how many of us who rushed over here from Vampire Weekend, how many who will later be dancing to Kaskade, have really been waiting for this the whole time: a moment of honest music your grandmother would've recognized as such. Willie gets in your bones, sneaks past your cynicism gadgets and accesses a warm rural center just behind your eyes. You don't need to sort through the layers here, just take the songs as they come. So while it feels incredibly anachronistic to hear Willie wail praise to the Lord for saving his dumb human ass, it also feels great to know that he totally means it. Ian S. Port
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Christopher Victorio Red Hot Chili Peppers
Oct. 18, 2003, was the first and last time I saw Arr-Aigtch-Cee-Pee, or as they say it sometimes, "the Chili Peppers" or even "Chili Peps" if you're terse. That show was my first major stadium-status musical event, and I was there to see the Chili Peppers. It wasn't even that they were really my favorite band anymore, but there's that lifelong afterglow effect, when you really, truly connect with a band's music as a youngster. It's like a relationship that turned, or got boring. Of course, so much damn time and work went into it that if you hear they're at the same party as you, you're going to want to go catch up. You mosey on over, trying to make sure they don't see the other band you were flirting with in VIP, and say hey.
Hey! What's new. What have you been, up to?
Oh you know.
Still ending sets with "Give It Away" and "Sir Pscyho Sexy"?
Yeah totally! Well, "Sir Psycho" got creepy after a while, especially after we hired, like, a 14-year-old guitarist ... his name's Josh, I think? He's really good. "Give It Away," though. That still kills.
Yeah definitely. Hey, I always wondered what does "hoosegow" mean anyway?
Oh I don't even know... [Googles it] Oh I guess it means "prison"?
Huh. Very interesting. I still can't believe you fit "ability" "agility" "fertility" and "mobility" all into one verse. Flat-out acrobatical.
Yep. Whoa that's a cool word too!
Yeah! I'm a writer. Anyway, I've got to catch this, shuttle. Tell Flea I said "Hi" though!
You mop your brow a bit as you back away. How did I not notice those things before? After 10 years, how can something be so familiar and so plainly funny? Also Chad definitely looks like some movie star. And how is Flea so cool?
Anthony Kiedis, as an image, is many things to many people -- recovered addict, it-boy of L.A. funk-metal, nonpareil hair-dyer and cutoff shorts-wearer, 51-year-old man. But as a "musician," well, that's just not his appeal. He has never been a great singer if we're being honest. I imagine day one of RHCP rehearsal -- back in 1983 -- Flea pulls aside Jack Irons and says in the nicest shit-talk whisper, "Listen, as long as this guy is down to get crazy with his hair and keeps coming up with all those funny words, I think we should keep him. I like his socks."
"Oh man, I really like his socks too."
Ten albums and a ream of band merch later, I am one of thousands of people who can't look away. I'm embracing some guy I don't even know and literally wailing every lyric of "Universally Speaking." Why? Because it's a great song, I suppose. Flea will never fall off -- he actually wakes up every morning, stretches, brushes his teeth and smiles into the mirror, "Wow, I'm even better than I was yesterday! Again!" Mauro Refosco, who joins Flea and Thom Yorke in Atoms For Peace and has toured with the Red Hotz for years now, is a master with the mallets. Even their new guitarist, what's his name? [Josh Klinghoffer.] He's great.
To be fair to Anthony Kiedis, he's the undisputed frontman. He's actually the reason I learned that word. Kiedis deserves his due. Songs like "Otherside" and "Snow (Hey Oh)" are 20 percent a guy who is very good at guitar and 80 percent Kiedis bleat. Or "Can't Stop": You hear it, immediately are taken back to a time when riffs were all that mattered, then you take a step back and feel silly, then you're pretending to play guitar and rock-rapping again.
I'm tired though. After a three-day stretch working three different jobs and sleeping just about long enough to get a full charge on my phone (I think I lent Barry Zito a lighter, woke up this morning on a futon at a local recording studio, and brushed my teeth in a Port-O-Let), I confess I probably could have gotten more into it. "Suck My Kiss" and "Under The Bridge" completely went over my head. I accidentally left before the encore, which, you know you have to beat the traffic. If they had played "Sir Psycho Sexy" I would be upset, but the only real disappointment in that was missing "I Could Have Lied," maybe one of my favorite Chilis songs. (Sad that I missed hearing Kiedis rap "Fox hole love pie in your face / livin' in and out of a big fat suitcase / Bona fide ride step aside my Johnson / yes I could in the woods of Wisconsin.") But honestly RHCP was a reminder that sometimes we are adults who have comfortable beds and dusty guitars and a dog at home and we just need to say goodnight. Will Butler