Review & Photos | Outside Lands | Friday

Words by: Eric Podolsky
Images by: Susan Weiand and Joe Russo

Outside Lands - Day One :: 08.08.14 :: Golden Gate Park :: San Francisco, CA

Read Eric's Friday highlights after Susan's gallery and check out Joe's photos on Page Two.

As far as American mega-festivals of the 21st century go, it's safe to say that few are able to match the combination of scenic location, convenience and lineup that Outside Lands boasts, year after year. Now in its seventh year, the festival can thank the beautiful confines of Golden Gate Park's eucalyptus-lined fields and meadows for much of its success, as there are few places in the country better suited for an urban gathering of music lovers (the Polo Fields' rich history can attest to this). That's not to take away from those fine folks who put together Outside Lands itself, which seems to be better run with each passing year. With an impressively curated selection of gourmet Bay Area food and drink (including a fantastic microbrew list), there wasn't much to complain about logistically this year, which is damn near unheard when diving into a gathering of 65,000. Lines were minimal, the crowds were laid-back and the sun even came out for two of the three days!

With only one day of oppressive cold and fog, the scene was set for a weekend of music in the park. Strangely enough, tickets to this year's festival sold out in record time (24 hours!), despite what could be seen as the festival's weakest overall lineup. But not all opinions are alike, and there were hordes of kids who swarmed the fields to catch sets by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Tiësto, Disclosure, Arctic Monkeys, Death Cab for Cutie, and the like. Thankfully, four different stages allowed us to choose our own festival, and my personal indifference for much of the lineup actually made for a more enjoyable, less stressful festival experience, as there was no urgency to rush from stage to stage and catch every act. And though this year's high points didn't reach those of previous years, Outside Lands 2014 was still a supremely enjoyable, carefree weekend in the park. As long as it's around, I'll be there shakin' it in the fog and wind.

Friday Highlights

1. Tedeschi Trucks Band | 7:00–8:15 | Sutro Stage

After a day spent grooving to electro-rock and hip-hop at the rowdy main stage, it was a breath of fresh air to escape into the grassy Lindley Meadow for this organic set of virtuoso blues-rock. Sutro is hands down the most pleasant stage at the festival to see a set, and the festival knows this, as it curated the stage with all the soulful acts of the weekend. There were arguably none better than this huge band of pros led by the husband and wife team of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, who got their set rolling right away with a bluesy cover of Traffic's “Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring.” Between the honey soul voice of Tedeschi and the gravely soul vocals of singer Mike Mattison, this band has talent oozing from its every seam. Blues covers and originals saw the band trading solos all around, starting with the three-piece horn section, and always ending with Trucks blowing the roof off the sucker with his surging, emotive slide guitar peaks. I could listen to this man solo all day long. Set highlights included saxophonist Kebbi Williams taking a squawking, Roland Kirk-esque free jazz solo that led the band into a full-on melt, eventually landing into a floating, beautiful,Van Morrison-like mystical jam that was all that much sweeter with the sun setting amongst the eucalyptus. After a triumphant cover of Clapton's “Keep On Growing” (more awesome Trucks pyrotechnics), the set peaked with the funky “Bound for Glory,” a super- soul tune that saw both Tedeschi and Trucks take charge and knock us out with both voice and guitar. Supremely satisfying music for the soul.

2. Holy Ghost! | 3:35–4:35 | Lands End Stage

The electronic chunk of my Outside Lands experience was highlighted by this set of retro synth-pop goodness from DFA Records torch-bearers Holy Ghost! With the demise of the much-loved LCD Soundsystem, it feels like Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel are keeping the spirit of LCD alive on the festival circuit, sonically speaking. Electro dance-rock has been around for a while now, and these guys are one of the more tasteful and enjoyable acts at it today, thanks to their finely honed songs, propulsive grooves, and well-selected, satisfyingly vintage synth sounds. The new wave influence shines bright in this band, which makes for a fun dance party, especially in a big field in the afternoon when the sun starts peaking through, with a good buzz coming on nicely. Though it may not be thinking man's music, it's a perfect soundtrack for a festival party, and got my funky dance moves flowing nicely.

Head to Page Two for more photos and thoughts from Friday at Outside Lands.

3. Kanye West | 8:20–10:00 | Lands End Stage

Some may say that Outside Lands has jumped the shark by putting the spectacle known as Yeezus in the #1 slot. I initially thought that, until seeing Kanye own the crowd for 75 minutes with a set that was just as entertaining for his futuristic productions and hits as it was for his narcissistic digressive rants. With an artful, minimalist stage design and a mask covering his face for much of the set, Kanye opened himself up in front of a sea of people, bouncing and jumping around, alternating between aggressive rapping and rambling, egotistical rants about negative press and the “season of Yeezy.” No matter, whether he was rapping or ranting, the crowd lapped it up equally. But in between the sing-alongs to mega-hits like “Stronger,” “All of The Lights” and “Good Life,” the unequivocal highlight of the set was “Runaway” (“lets have a toast to the assholes”), which saw Kanye break it way down with a huge, melodic, auto-tune free- style that was blissful and near-breathtaking in its open positivity (“I promote self-confidence”). With a flowing waterfall onscreen behind him, Kanye's “singing” vocal improvisations were lighter-in-the-air epic, and made the night for me with their unexpected, uplifting originality. This set reinforced how full of himself this man is, but it was certainly an entertaining experience. If anything, the man is taking advantage of his superstardom by doing whatever he wants (even if it's experimental and non-commercial), and that's something to admire.


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