With all the hoopla regarding Outside Lands’ mild line-up, minus one day, minus one stage, and headliners that frankly don’t live up to the massive nature that the festival is known for, I didn’t have huge expectations. I was, however, excited to see many acts I’ve never caught before and just wander around outside and enjoy some good music. Outside Lands isn’t just about the music but about the food, wine, and art that surrounds the grounds. While I may have been a little disappointed with the line-up, I still love Outside Lands and vibe it gives off.
I missed The Whigs (who I really wanted to see) and ended up catching the hilariously ecentric Electric Six. It’s been a while since I’ve heard anything new from the group. In fact I think Danger! High Voltage was the last I checked out from the band and that was about 7 years ago. They aren’t my cup of tea however I did enjoy their set. Plus their drummer is Carlos Santana’s son (first time I’ve ever heard shout-outs for Marin County at a music festival). They played a majority off their 2003 funk-rock masterpiece, Fire as frontman Dick Valentine ran and danced around on stage with a huge idiot grin. I heard a couple of new songs like Down At McDonaldz from this year’s Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me from Being the Master. It’s less fucky and more heavy and Helmet-sounding than their previous material.
[mp3] Electric Six – Down At McDonaldz from I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me from Being the Master (2010)
As Sierre Leone’s Refugee All Stars played their set at the Lands End stage, it became increasingly clear that they were a wise choice for this festival. Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars were first introduced to the world 4 years ago by a moving film that documented the band’s formation in West African refugee camps and the challenges they faced returning to a homeland racked by years of bloody warefare. So those that know the band’s story and witness their joy and genuine stage presence really get the full experience from this spectacular group.
[mp3] Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars – Jah Come Down from Rise & Shine (Deluxe Version) (2010)
I missed Pretty Lights at this year’s Wanderlust Festival but wasn’t too bummed mainly because I knew I’d catch him at Outside Lands. Seeing Pretty Lights during the day time though is certainly less affective than a dark venue. The crowd seemed to dig it and I was reminded that I need to look into his recorded material a bit more. Still a very tight set from this very talented artist.
[mp3] Pretty Lights – I Can See It In Your Face from Making Up A Changing Mind (2010)
Gogol. Mother Fucking. Bordello. Listening to Gogol is only a fraction of what the band is really about. The chemistry and high energy from this band is impossible not to enjoy and no other band does it better. It’s almost theatrical in a way, which makes Gogol probably one of the best live bands around. I wasn’t totally convinced with their new record until I heard the new tracks live. The short 45 minute set was as explosive as ever and not one person walked away disappointed. They are not to be missed.
[mp3] Gogol Bordello – We Comin’ Rougher (Immigraniada) from Trans-Continental Hustle (2010)
After Gogol I made my way over to the Sony Ericsson tent to catch a short acoustic set by the Freelance Whales. I have been forcing myself on this band but no amount of repeated listens and live shows have convinced me that they are any different than any other whimsical indie group with cute harmonies. They are without a doubt talented, but I’m not seeing much of a future with them until I see some risks taken.
[mp3] Freelance Whales – Generator ^ First Floor from Weathervanes (2010)
My Morning Jacket was probably one of my most anticipated acts to catch. I have heard nothing but awesome things about their performances and the show that day certainly proved that. The thing that I noticed the most about watching My Morning Jacket was probably that lead vocalist Jim James looks like an English Sheep Dog. Fact. Anyway, I also noticed that their older material is more enjoyable live than the Evil Urges material. I know some people find a bit of genius in that record, but it’s like night and day for me. Overall the performance was about as high energy as you’d imagine and was a refreshing addition to this festival.
[mp3] My Morning Jacket – Off The Record from Z (2005)
I’m not really a Wolfmother fan, but the few songs I caught from the band were quite intense. Not to mention they were having a blast on stage, which made the set that much more enjoyable. I noticed a few tracks from their debut album and audience was certainly hyped up. In fact, the crowd reminded me of last year’s Mastodon crowd for Outside Lands 2009. You could tell people were there to rock the fuck out and not hang out with their hippie grandparents.
[mp3] Wolfmother – Far Away from Cosmic Egg (2009)
I’ve been trying to see Cat Power perform since 2001 and while it wasn’t exactly worth the wait, she did a brilliant job at creating a hazy and relaxed atmosphere. Kind of an enigma in the indie rock world, Chan Marshall quietly brought both the minimalistic stylishness that I fell in love with from the beginning to the blues folk grit that made The Greatest one of my favorite records of all time. A few covers were sang but the highlight was a sweet version of Nico/Jackson Browne’s These Days. Around mid-set Chan jumped into the photo pit and walk around singing directly to the audience. This made her performance that much more intimate and personal.
England’s Wild Beasts seemed like an interesting pick for Outside Lands. When people asked me who I was going to see after Cat Power I responded with, “Wild Beasts! They rock!” I always got the same response, “Who?” Fair enough, the band isn’t exactly popular and headlining the Panhandle Stage doesn’t mean you’re on the up and up (however Portugal. The Man did the Panhandle last year and look where they are now). Their dreamy rock pop felt very soothing and easier to enjoy on the smaller stage as apposed to the other 10 foot stages that towered over the front rows. If you haven’t heard of Wild Beasts, check them out and see them live. It’s a very tranquil experience.
[mp3] Wild Beasts – Through The Iron Gate from We Still Got The Taste Dancin’ On Our Tongues (2010)
Ah yes, The Strokes. I am a This Is It fan first and foremost, so anything after that kind of falls to the wayside for me. So when songs like Barely Legal, The Modern Age, and Soma came rolling in, I frickin’ lost it. This was the record that changed how I felt about modern rock & roll and to hear these songs again in a live setting was a very special experience for me. But were they good? Yeah, I’d like to think so. It was quite clear that they were drunk but I always envisioned The Strokes as band that was always drunk anyways. While we were all rocking out to The Strokes, all the people over the age of 30 were losing their shit over Furthur (Bob Weir and Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead). I didn’t get the chance to make it over there to see what the big deal was, I was having too much fun remembering how much I loved this very special band.
New York City Cops
The Modern Age
Hard to Explain
What Ever Happened?
You Only Live Once
Is This It
Vision of Division
I Can’t Win
Take It Or Leave It
So Day One went well in my eyes. Like I said, still not the best line-up, but with Gogol Bordello, My Morning Jacket, Wild Beasts, and The Strokes; I’d be lying if I said I didn’t leave the festival smiling.
– Shawn Robbins, Editor-in-Chief, Photographer