Report/Photos: Outside Lands Fest 2011

 

Arcade Fire, Major Lazer, Beirut, Girl
Talk, Erykah Badu and others ignited San Francisco at this year’s Outside Lands
Music & Arts Festival (August 12-14). Pity about Big Boi, though. Check our
photo gallery, following the report.

 

Text
& Photos by David Downs

 

Double-dip
recession – that’s a guitar move, right? About 180,000 music fans braved San Francisco’s mercurial
weather patterns and steep, $250 ticket prices to attend the 4th annual Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival this weekend. The markets may be
see-sawing and London smoldering, but inside the
wooded, storied Golden Gate
Park – the age’s malaise
couldn’t be found.

 

Arcade
Fire lead singer and guitarist Win Butler said, “These are the times you just
pinch yourself. I can’t believe I’m being paid to come to San Francisco and play.” A veteran of tiny
local clubs and more charismatic than ever, Butler directed an ebullient closing set
Sunday night which spanned the group’s three albums. The Montreal eight-piece are simply titans of the
arena now, and “Rococo” and “We Used To Wait” off of The Suburbs went
off like bombs.

 

Butler
also said he can die a happy person after playing with soul legend Mavis
Staples earlier in the day, a testament to the eclectic 80-band bill
masterminded by Berkeley
promoters Another Planet Entertainment. From Beirut to Big Boi, Arctic Monkeys to Deadmau5,
Outside Lands combined tastes rarely seen together, with only a handful of
arrests for what police said were “silly” things.

 

Preparing
to launch August 30 release The Rip Tide, Beirut proved a perfect fit for the
sun-dappled Lindley Meadow Sunday afternoon. It’s easily Outside Lands’ most
intimate space, featuring a tree-hidden field with curved sides that makes for
a natural amphitheater. Drenched in the golden rays of the setting sun Zach
Condon led the classy, expert chamber rock six-piece through hits “A Sunday
Smile” and “Nantes”.
It was a stark contrast to the same location on Saturday, where one half of
Outkast simply couldn’t put it together.

 

Fresh
off an arrest for ecstasy and illegal Viagra, Big Boi completely failed to
perform Saturday after his DJ’s computer refused to boot, and no back-up could
be found. Comedian Dave Chappelle came out to explain that it wasn’t Big Boi’s
fault, but it was. Lindley Meadow closer Saturday Erykah Badu shined in Big
Boi’s wake, though, deploying a tight ten-piece band and a full computer set-up
to maximal effect.

 

The
funky, revolutionary spirit of San Francisco legends Sly and the Family Stone
shone once again in the city as Badu sang “Hip Hop / is bigger than the
government” and warned of dirty cops. Badu closed her set with a little crowd
surfing. “I just wanted to feel ya’ll,” she said.

 

Fellow
masters of their instruments The Roots also blew away crowds numbering in the
tens of thousands during their afternoon set Saturday. An all-live instrumental
super-remix of “You Got Me”, “Sweet Child O Mine”, “Bad to the Bone” and
“Jungle Boogie” made the crowd lose their minds. If it’s possible for The Roots
to have actually gotten better since joining Fallon, they have.

 

GNR
was in the air Saturday. While Muse’s histrionic, operatic rock thundered on
the main stage, Pittsburgh
laptop artist Girl Talk absolutely slaughtered the opposite side of the
festival Saturday night with his trademark dragnet of pop hooks. Mixes of
“Barracuda” and “Hard in da Paint”, “November Rain” and UGK’s “One Day” are
abject populist pandering, but they have a dark end. Girl Talk pulls in
listeners, only to violate them with kind of sounds rarely heard outside of the
experimental art circles in which he gestated.

 

It
was a prelude to an equally fierce dance-off during Major Lazer Sunday. Super-producer
Diplo and Switch did their aggressively sexual dancehall routine, dropping the
beat so hard that the sweaty, half-naked, writhing crowd looked like something
out of Caligula. It’s an experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

 

Promoters
say the three-day, sold-out event created 4,500 jobs and drew a reported $50
million in tourism to the City, so start saving $20 a month. Barring a total
global fiscal meltdown or a simian revolution, or both, you can bet that
Outside Lands will be back and just as big next year.

 

***

 

Beirut

 

 

 

 

 

Arctic Monkeys

 

 

 

 

 

Decemberists

 

 

 

 

 

 (concertgoers)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Major Lazer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Dragon

 

 

 

 

 

The Roots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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