For our second day of coverage at Outside Lands Festival, our writer Ace Ubas mostly stuck to the heavy hitters to catch Muse, The Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys. Check out his review below as well as photos from Marcello Ambriz
Since I’m in San Francisco, I figured I should check out some of the local talent that the City by the Bay has to offer. Luckily, I stumbled upon the Free Yr Radio tent and checked out the San Francisco quartet Vetiver. Since they were playing later on that afternoon on the Sutro Stage, they played 3 songs to a handful of people. After playing “Wonder Why” from their latest effort, The Errant Charm, they surely infected me with their country charm and folk sensibilities. After answering a couple of questions from the radio host, they ended their session with the b-side “Wishing Well” and “More of This” from the album Tight Knit.
Lands End Stage: OK Go
Having been known for their widely popular music videos, it’s expected that OK Go put on an eye-catching, attention-grabbing live performance as well. With a voice intro telling men and women to scream, to which they obliged, the quartet entered the stage with each member wearing brightly, solid colored suits. They jumped right into “Do What You Want” to a surprisingly packed Polo Field.
They followed it up with “White Knuckles” that featured both a bass solo from Tim Nordwin and a brief guitar solo from Andy Ross. At one point, vocalist Damian Kulash turned into a preacher and proclaimed San Francisco to be a ‘dirty town’ and its inhabitants ‘sinners.’ According to him, there was only one way to cleanse the city: with the song “What to Do.” But they arranged the song in a rather unique manner, using only an arrangement of bells. After cleansing the city of its sins, Kulash’s bandmates left the stage, leaving him with his acoustic guitar. He jumped into the crowd and said that it was better if he played “Last Leaf” with everyone around him. It wasn’t hard for the band to instill energy into the crowd, as they consistently interacted with them. It also didn’t hurt that they played “Here We Go Again.”
Lands End Stage: Arctic Monkeys
For the days leading up to Outside Lands, the one band that I continuously listened to was the Arctic Monkeys. From their first album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not to their latest Suck It and See, I was getting myself pumped to see them live for the first time. The only downside to them playing was that they only had an hour-long set. However, that didn’t stop them from packing all the songs they could as they played around 15 or so songs.
They opened up with the barreling “Liberty Pictures” and from the very first note they played, the crowd was fired up. Guitarist Jamie Cook showed how loud he could get by playing blistering riffs that echoed throughout the field. “Crying Lighting” saw drummer Matt Helders creating a catchy marching beat while vocalist/guitarist Alex Turner howled the lyrics. The crowd participated on songs “Brick by Brick,” “The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala,” and “If You Were There, Beware” as they sang along and clapped their hands as loud as they could. Overall, they played a good balance of songs from all their albums, which appealed to both new and old fans. It would’ve been appropriate if they played “Fake Tales of San Francisco,” but they ended the show with garage numbers “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and “Do Me a Favour,” as they put on one of the better performances of the weekend until…….
Lands End Stage: The Black Keys
The Black Keys hit the stage. I have a confession: prior to their performance, I never really gave the Black Keys a good listen. Yes I said it. Other than a couple of singles off their latest Grammy-nominated album Brothers, I didn’t really care for the Akron, Ohio duo. Why? Because blues-infused garage rock never really appealed to me. That’s until I heard them live.
With the stage decorated by an oversized dream-catcher and a humongous tire with their name on it, drummer Patrick Carney and vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach hit the stage to a thunderous ovation. I was immediately sold and regretted not buying into the hype early on as they took charge of the stage and the crowd by force. By the time they got to the third song of their set, “The Breaks,” my head began to hurt because of the head bobbing I was doing. Auerbach’s soulful singing on “Chop and Change” hypnotized the crowd, while “Howlin’ For You” and “Tighten Up” got the loudest cheers, for the obvious reasons.
They even played a new song where they brought out a few other musicians to help them along. But with their sound, you would already have thought that they have a full band. On a stage so big with tens of thousands of people watching, it’s hard to image that such force can come from only two people. Both Auerbach and Carney are so ridiculously good at their instruments that the Broken Social Scene would blush that they have who-knows-how-many members. Congratulations Mr. Auerbach and Mr. Carney, you gentlemen have managed to feed me my crow and it’s quite delicious.
Lands End Stage: Muse
Muse should be used to playing in front of thousands of people on the festival circuit. Just a couple of weeks ago, they headlined Lollapalooza so Outside Lands should be a breeze for them. Patrons did have a choice, however, as Girl Talk played at the same time as Muse. People who chose to watch the British act made the best decision they could ever make at a music festival.
With sirens blaring and fog arising from the stage, Muse emerged from the back as they jumped right into a trio of hits in “Uprising,” “Supermassive Black Hole,” and “Hysteria.” They even threw in a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner leading into “Hysteria.” By this time, the crowd was already in a state of ecstasy (and maybe the drug too, who knows).
The pace slowed down every time vocalist/guitarist Matt Bellamy sat behind his piano such as on songs “Guiding Light” and “Butterflies & Hurricanes.” He proved that he has a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde complex: he is a beast holding his six-stringed weapon, but vulnerable and powerfully emotional behind the ivory keys. But these songs showed just how big Bellamy’s voice really is. There is no venue in the world that can contain his theatrical/operatic voice.
“United States of Eurasia” reminded me of Queen. It starts off beautifully with a piano ballad, but an epic explosion of sonic fury follows after (that’s how amazing it was). Other songs they played included “Citizen Erased,” “Resistance,” “House of the Rising Sun” that led to “Time is Running Out,” “Starlight,” and set closer (and personal favorite) “Stockholm Syndrome.” During this group of songs, the crowd was jumping and moshing with intense passion as they were drenched in green rays of light.
And if that wasn’t enough they came back for a two-song encore with large balloons falling on the crowd. The first of the two was “Plug In Baby” that featured bassist Christopher Wolstenholme on the harmonica while they ended the night with “Knights of Cydonia,” where the crowd got loud as they can as they sang and cheered until the very end. There really is nothing left to say, other than what a way to end a night. My mind is officially blown.