I attended Outside Lands Music Festival in Golden Gate park this last weekend. Below are some thoughts!
Going into the weekend I was focused almost exclusively on LCD Soundsystem and Radiohead, two of my favorite bands. I was also excited to see Chance the Rapper (this may surprise readers because Chance is admittedly outside the genres I generally listen to, but it’s the trumpet and timbre of Chance’s voice that gets me).
At festivals a considerable amount of people go to just bop around, drink and see whatever music they end up seeing. All good, but I personally go less for the relaxed “music in the park” vibe and more for the “I’m going to see the stuff I really love and go really hard” vibe. And being in the front matters to me. The large majority of the bands I listen to and see live are pretty small. When I see a band like Modern Baseball at Slims I can be rest assured that I’ll be able to see the stage and be in the action. You can’t say the same for OSL. Given that, my general approach is to see the two-three bands playing before whoever it is I’m there to see.
First night I was there to see LCD Soundsystem, and I wanted to be up close and personal with James Murphy when he’d take his drumming breaks. So I saw Miike Snow with some friends (was good fun), and then everyone left to see J. Cole for which I had less than zero desire to see. I saw Duran Duran play before LCD, and it was so great. I felt completely transported back to the 80s. The white leather, the visuals, everything. Rio and Notorious were highlights. Who knew I like disco!
Then LCD came on. I honestly could not have asked for more. Their songs sounded even better live (I’d never seen them in concert before). This amazes me given how complex some of their music is! And LCD isn’t that lame Zedd “on my MacBookPro” shit. Nancy is actually doing everything live on real boards and pedals etc. James Murphy became my fascination after I watched Shut Up and Play the Hits, and his performance Friday was superb. He was energetic, funny, and his vocals were PERFECT. Interesting enough to feel unique and different from the recordings, but absolutely perfect. It was wonderful.
They played essentially every song I really wanted them to play (except maybe North American Scum and All I Want).
Highlights: I Can Change was insanely beautiful. Someone Great. Losing My Edge was SO COOL. New York I Love You brought me to tears. Dance Yrself Clean really truly made me dance myself clean. All My Friends sounded beautiful although it did make me wonder where all my friends were (they were at J. Cole). Honestly I didn’t miss them for a second. LCD wrapped me in a big hug of musical love, and those two hours were some of my favorite yet.
Day 2: I was totally focused on Radiohead. I saw nothing particularly great while waiting for Thom except Air. Air was cool. They didn’t have a guitar just really really dope bass. The drummer was also sick. The music was truly interesting and complex, and I found myself in a musical trance. The vocals, however, were a problem. For whatever reason Air puts the vocals through the weirdest effects. They come out literally robotic. It made me understand part of why I love LCD so much: the interesting electronic and super clean music is perfectly complimented by James’s punk rock, raw, un-altered vocals. That’s the way to go. I can’t stand when the vocals are just drowning in their own reverb or cleaned up digitally till they sound cold and fake.
Radiohead was wonderful. Highlights: noticing the unique instruments they use live (including but not limited to: a coat hanger with bells hanging off it and an old transistor radio) and watching Thom Yorke’s groovy as hell dancing. Set highlights: 2 + 2 = 5, Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, Everything in It’s Right Place, Bodysnatchers, Idioteque (so. much. fun.), and Karma Police.
Day 3 there was no one I cared deeply about. I wanted to see The Oh Hellos and Chance. The Oh Hellos played a wonderful set early in the day at one of the smaller stages. They were endearing and sounded insanely good. It must have been a 12 piece band, and they were all in perfect synch and very into the music. It was fun and lighthearted, and we danced a lot. Then we went into a very aggressive and unkind crowd to wait for Chance. Fortunately we got to see the Muppets (!! so much fun !!) and Third Eye Blind (middle school emo kid jams!) while waiting. The Muppets played a short set of popular, classic covers (including: Home by Edward Sharpe and With a Little Help From my Friends).Third Eye Blind was pretty funny and bad. However, I went very hard to and deeply enjoyed Jumper.
Chance the Rapper was great when he was performing. However, he played the shortest set in the history of music, and considering we’d been waiting in a very aggressive crowd of white frat boys it kinda sucked. I’m not a die hard Chance fan so it was okay, but I felt badly for my friends. He did have great energy and sounded awesome though.
Day 3 headliners weren’t particularly enticing. We saw a bit of Lana Del Rey’s set. I quickly became depressed and bored and unhappy. So I begged my friends, and we hightailed it to catch the last 30 minutes of Lionel Richie. It was SO FUN. My friends kept saying how happy they were I convinced them to leave Lana. We danced ourselves SO CLEAN to Brick House and All Night Long, and we sang our hearts out to We Are the World.
It was a wonderful weekend of friends, food, fun and music. Overall, LCD Soundsystem stands out from the rest. It was a truly wonderful performance.
Until next time Ranger Dave.