Outside Lands 2011 | San Francisco | Review | Pics


The sun peeked through the blinds and curtains around the city as many festival-goers slept in. For some, it had been a long first day traversing the rolling stretches between stages, trying to fit in as much musical exploration as possible in the chill of unrelenting fog. For others, it had been a long week at work with unforgiving deadlines and traffic-laden commutes. But eventually, everyone rolled out of bed, checked Facebook, took a shower, donned their Saturday sexiest, ate something at the cafe down the block and streamed torrentially into Golden Gate Park for a gloriously sunny second day at Outside Lands. (BT)

Dennis’ Saturday Highlights

Arctic Monkeys by Josh Miller
The Stone Foxes :: 1:25 PM - 2:15 PM :: Sutro Stage

This is how rock ‘n’ roll should be done. This thought kept cropping up as I witnessed these young, hungry San Francisco hard-chargers take possession of the big Sutro stage and the rowdy throng that grew & grew during their reputation building set. These Foxes exude the feel and attitude of vintage titans like the Faces and early 70s Rolling Stones backed up by memorable tunes and all the chops and vocal moxie one could want. Even more than usual, the band seemed ready to prove something – anything – as long as they had the forum to do so, striding with confidence, trading off lead vocals and leaping into the crowd with an authority that exceeds their years. Last year’s Bears & Bulls revealed a broader range than their debut, and the new songs all shined in the park, particularly a stripped down, emotionally exposed take on “Passenger Train,” the delightfully impolite rawker extraordinaire “Patience” and the sung-through-a-harmonica-mic closing rave-up on “Mr. Hangman.” The warm reception, including a late in the set mosh pit up front, seemed to knock the boys off their feet and fuel some endearingly goofy between song dialog with the audience. If they keep playing like this The Stone Foxes should get used to this kind of response, and there’s every indication these guys are just getting rolling. (DC)

Arctic Monkeys :: 4:45 PM - 5:45 PM :: Lands End Stage

As a truly astonishing amount of people settled into the main field to claim their spots for MGMT and Muse later in the day, the descendents of brainy working class British rock in the vein of The Kinks and The Jam delivered a nigh flawless exhibition of their sharply drawn tales of lust, labor and life on the street. There’s absolutely no jam to this band, all the songs delivered in neat, punchy versions that followed the studio templates but added oomph and swagger befitting a main stage act. Alex Turner (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) sang with impressive speed and agility, riding the slicing, propulsive waves thrown out by Jamie Cook (lead guitar, backing vocals), Nick O'Malley (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Matt Helders (drums, backing vocals), the quartet serving the material with a single-minded effectiveness that overcame the restless arriving masses and dodgy sound (a problem throughout the weekend due to high winds and frequent shifts in tone, volume and style on multiple stages). One after another, the tunes arrived and you could see people smiling as if to say, “Wow, that’s ANOTHER good one.” Yep, nary a dud in the bunch and offered up with fittingly workmanlike efficiency, too. (DC)

Old 97's :: 5:45 PM - 6:45 PM :: Sutro Stage

Rootsy and rockin’ and rollicking as all get out, Old 97’s sweated themselves and anyone willing to be sucked into their twister into a happy cyclone as the sun settled into the tree line. With 18 years of hard touring and reliably excellent albums behind them, the band took possession of the stage, commanding our attention with the sheer jubilation and solidity of their every move. They opened with recent corker “No Simple Machine,” one of a number of cuts from The Grand Theatre, Volume Two (released July 5) that dotted this set, showing a through-line of quality that runs from their earliest work right to today. They have such fun at what they do and are so, so, so anxious to see the audience have just as much fun that it’s just stupid to refuse them as they rattle off numbers about lovin’ and leavin’ and the time spent thinking in between the two. And the best part is they give it up like this at every show I’ve ever seen. Great band. See ‘em when you can, kids. (DC)

Bryan’s Saturday Highlights

The Black Keys by Dave Vann
OK GO :: 3:15 PM - 4:15 PM :: Lands End Stage

From the start, stages were fuller than the previous day as weekend warriors were now able to join in on the fun. The Lands End main stage was a continually swelling mass of people as the day progressed. Its theme, starting in the late afternoon, was progressively grungier, thrashier rock and rollers with classically grungy rock and roll attitudes. OK GO wore suits of green, blue, red and yellow to the stage for a poppy, punky show. Eventually putting down their guitars and drumsticks, they all gathered around a table filled with hand bells and did a hair-raising, music-box, a cappella ballad called “Return” that left the crowd silent. Near the end, they heckled this same silent crowd multiple times, eventually eliciting loud backup vocals for “This Too Shall Pass” as the midday sun roasted the park through the barrier of the ocean breeze. (BT)

The Black Keys :: 6:15 PM - 7:25 PM :: Lands End Stage

The free beer dried up in the press tent and, and as the evening germinated, the air caught its Pacific chill. Just as shoes were laced, pants unrolled and sweatshirts zipped, The Black Keys took the stage. From the get-go, they lit a musical fire, cooking their down home highway blues and making more noise than one would expect is allowed to come from just a guitar and a drum kit. Guitarist-singer Dan Auerbach exhibited powerful, Black Crowes style vocals. His guitar groove was often comparable to a dirty, Doors-esque base fraught with growling licks reminiscent of Jimmy Page's rampaging, high-octane blues-rock snarls. Patrick Carney's hammering toms and concrete beat kept heads bobbing and fists pumping as the audience seemed to really come alive more than they had all day. Together, the duo really brought an unrelentingly raw musical energy, more than a sound but also a feeling of being at the edge, wheels teetering on the side of a cliff, always almost out of control but always being held in by spaceship grade safety harnesses of catchy hooks and wrenching melodies. By the end, many in the audience had once again stripped themselves of their layers to cool off from such a fiery set. (BT)

Muse :: 8:10 PM - 9:55 PM :: Lands End Stage

Muse by Josh Miller
Muse would've been the biggest surprise of the weekend had their many live concert videos not been playing endlessly on the Palladia channel for the six months leading up to the festival. Nonetheless, the show was an overwhelming sensory assault of blistering strobes, intensely psychedelic video-animatronics and the elegantly quaking grunge of their thundering, euphonic sound-machine. Fittingly, the English band seems to be the 21st century descendant of Pink Floyd's somber, synth-rich aural atmospheres, David Bowie's appeal to the spectacular and Queen's unmatched operatic prowess. Vocals and instrumental composition of a refined, classical nature gave the band credence from the opening notes, demanding attention from a stunned audience. There was no point in the show when it felt alright to look away as guitarist/keytarist/pianist/frontman Matthew Bellamy often seemed like he was giving a political action speech - fervent and ominous over rich, droning, post-rock resplendence. The spider-eyed screens behind them morphed and distorted their live video feed like a hallucinogenic visual, sometimes with colorful traces hovering from their beings like auras of energy. Other times, Bellamy's face would appear in a matrix of flowing computer code, through an electrical circuit or multiplying infinitely into a Fibonacci-like pattern between blazing strobes and permeating lasers. Christopher Wolstenholme's bass, a heavily distorted fuzz, giving the low end a pulsating tremble much like a tank driving through a city street. Dominic Howard seemed to be detonating explosive charges on his drum kit as he laid the structure for the band's merciless raid on the unsuspecting audience. During the encore break, the two outer video screens displayed the dilated moon, personifying a face in the silent stage. Those who had already been transformed by the night howled feverishly until the band returned to hammer silver nails into the coffin, storming tumultuously to a blazing nuclear finish.

Dazedly wading through the crowd of glazed, lunatic eyes, wide like the moon and staring back from a thousand directions made for a disorienting walk back to the official path back to the meeting place. On this night, as the staggering masses poured out of the park like stars in the San Francisco galaxy, a Central Haight club, The Independent, was hosting the hottest late night ticket in town, a completely sold out soiree with one of the West Coast's favorite crews: Sound Tribe Sector 9.

STS9 Late Night

STS9 by Casey Flanigan
Take One
The house was already rumbling David Murphy's pummeling bass blasts as the entry line of eager partying people stretched solidly to the corner of the block. STS9 is what an octo-bot might sound like with his arms full of instruments, and might look like if his eyes shot kaleidoscopic laser beams. Their dedication is to the fusion of natural and synthetic sounds into a slinking, usually-dancey, groovy musical concord. With each member except drum savant Zach Velmer running something out of a laptop, the group continuously pushes the edge of sonic technology. Jeffrey Lerner joins Velmer to give the band a thick percussion groove, which Hunter Brown, David Phipps and Murph team up to fill with peaking harmonies. The whole crusade is followed intently by lighting designer Saxton Waller's soaring halogen color show. For any outsiders, this show was a true taste of an ideal night in the San Francisco live music scene. For the locals, it was another fantastic Saturday night in the microchip. After a few more post-show shenanigans in the deserted city streets, the glow of the full moon subsided and the sun rose triumphantly over the silvered bay. (BT)

Take Two

STS9's Murph by Casey Flanigan
It had been two and a half years since I’d seen STS9 live, or even listened to them. When the Outside Lands night shows were announced, I knew seeing them at the tiny Independent would offer a proper litmus test of how they’ve grown as a group and a chance to see what’s transpired over that two and a half year sabbatical. On Saturday night, it didn’t take long for STS9 to prove themselves still worthy and assure the packed-like-a-sardine-can crowd at one of SF’s most intimate venues they would not disappoint.

From 15-feet to the left of the stage, I watched as the quintet promptly warmed up and soon caught fire with a razing rendition of “Instantly,” complete with an extended Hunter Brown sample jam and following slick bass work from David Murphy. Rather immediately, it was readily apparently a few songs in that STS9 had become much more than just an instrumental live electronic group. Today’s STS9 focuses more on concise song compositions that lean more towards indie rock than exploratory electronic jamming. Highlights proliferated as the concluding portion of the first set took off and never came down from the new “Golden Gate” straight through a rousing, old-school rendition of “Ramone & Emiglio” and on to the set closing cover of “What is Love?”

STS9’s second set proved equally well-played and highly energetic, as Zach Velmer’s tenacity behind the drum kit coupled with Murphy and percussionist Jeffrey Lerner to provide the driven backdrop for guitarist Brown and keyboardist David Phipps to melodiously mesmerize through older favorites “Really What?,” “Evasive Maneuvers,” “Monkey Music” and “Kamuy.” Looking back over the last 10 years, this was undoubtedly one of the most pristine and precise renditions of “Monkey Music” I’d ever heard, as the song’s extended drum jam opening led flawlessly into its midsection and the funked-out, wah-wah infused ending. Encoring with “Somesing” was a fitting finishing touch to an exceptionally enjoyable full day and night of music in San Francisco. (CC)

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