by Ryan Burns
Note: Teenage sister-brother freelancers Kaylee Savage-Wright and Nick Savage-Wright submitted the following review of the Outside Lands festival.
Being situated between San Francisco and Portland makes Humboldt County a convenient stop for touring bands. Unfortunately, those bands tend to be big either on the folk scene or classic rock has-beens -- and even when the performer is someone a kid might want to see, outside of the occasional Arcata Community Center gig, the shows are likely 21-and-over. What's a young person who loves live music to do? Find a ride to San Francisco in August, that's what. For three years, Another Planet Entertainment has gathered bands from all over the world, literally and musically, and assembled them in the City's great Golden Gate Park. This year, the festival slimmed down to two days from three, but was no less stellar.
(Nick) Arriving at the park, the sounds of People Under the Stairs greet us as I impatiently wait to get through the gate -- the security team is efficient, but we were running late. Once inside I set aside my hunger for the music for something more immediate and made my way to the food booths. After the five-hour car ride, the delicious food was much appreciated. This is no typical festival fare, but a broad sample of San Francisco treats. I was finally ready to join the crowd in front of Pretty Lights stage, where I immediately lost myself in the music. In the words of a fellow enthusiast, "They killed it!" An hour-and-a-half later, Bassnectar played, and although a power outage briefly interrupted the set, the show was sick. Dazed and confused by the barrage of electronics, I retired to the grass meadow in the center of the circle of vendors.
After catching a second wind, I headed towards Wolfmother and spent a half-hour immersed in their heavy rock'n'roll, which brings to mind classic Sabbath-meets-The Doors -- a connection they acknowledged, breaking into "Riders on the Storm." I broke for early seats at Cat Power and The Strokes. Good call -- even though I arrived 30 minutes before Cat Power, and around two hours before The Strokes were even scheduled to play, I was still close to 40 rows back. After Cat Power's solid performance, I was ready to be stoked by The Strokes. I fully was. All in all, a solid day of music, by some of the world's best performers. The first day of Outside Lands was truly magnificent.
(Kaylee) After a late morning and long wait through security, we arrived at the festival just in time to catch the end of Phoenix, who I love, but since there was no way to get further than the edges of the crowd I had to stay on the outskirts where everyone stood blank-faced, not dancing, despite the infectious beats and crowd-surfing of singer Thomas Mars.
Chromeo provided a much more exciting show, however, bringing in their charisma and electrofunk sound to the set, along with the cheering of many women and girls. Following them was Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, riling up their fans, who swayed and sung along to the mix of indie, folk, and rock with heartfelt adoration. I myself had never listened to Edward Sharpe, but after their performance I was captivated and wished along with everyone else that they wouldn't leave the stage.
They did, though, and left us to wander for a bit, catching part of Temper Trap and having some time to check out the rest of the festival goodness. Outside Lands is a prime example of how a music festival can be musically extraordinary and environmentally conscious -- something the Humboldt crowd can relate to. Staking out a spot for Kings of Leon wasn't easy. I ended up pushed back further than I'd started, but the family band rocked and serenaded the crowd until my legs ached, and at times I wished I could just sit down, but songs like "Sex on Fire" rekindled my energy. Kings of Leon demonstrate what it means to be rock. Great headliners and a fine end to our Outside Lands experience.
Keep an eye on sfoutsidelands.com for next year's line-up and details -- and rumor has it, the fest returns to three days. Here's hoping!