Originally from San Diego and formerly known as The Muslims, The Soft Pack now calls LA home. Blending garage and punk rock with a surf twist, they have created a nice little home within the indie landscape that currently seems to have lots of real estate available for such a sound. Although their performance sounded great, their stage presence had very little angst, contrary to what their music suggests.
Melbourne’s alternative rock sensation, The Temper Trap, has had quite a year. Releasing their debut album, Contitions, in Australia last summer and shortly therafter in the UK and US, they have basically skyrocketed to fame in their home country as well as the UK – and aren’t very far behind here. Infectious hooks and powerful vocals with impressive versatility has been their formula for pop stardom, and getting their single Sweet Disposition placed in a number of commercials around the world, including Rhapsody and Chrysler spots in the US, hasn’t hurt the process either. As much as I want to shovel them into the steaming pile of generic rock out there, I have to admit, there are enough striking elements to their songwriting and overall sound that keeps me from tossing them out yet. The true test of their creativity and legitimacy will no doubt be tied to their second effort, which they predict will be out in late 2011.
[mp3] THE TEMPER TRAP – Sweet Disposition from Conditions (2009)
Another artist that I underestimated as far as appeal and quality of performance was the iconic Al Green. Armed with dozens of roses to periodically toss to adoring fans, the 64 year old sang and even danced a little with the zest of someone half his age. Belting out his classic hits like Lets Stay Together, Love and Happiness, and Let’s Get Married, Green also took the opportunity to pay tribute to those that came before him singing a medley of classic soul hits from the 50’s and 60’s as well as giving a nod to Roy Orbison by covering Pretty Woman. It was clear he was one of the days biggest crowd pleasers and couples throughout the audience, overt and implied, seemed to vibe with one another a little more during his set. I guess it’s true that some things never change.
[mp3] AL GREEN- Love And Happiness from The Definitive Greatest Hits (2007)
Funk. Electronic. Hip Hop. Guitars. Synthesizers. Talkboxes. All of these things are encompassed and mastered by the Montreal duo Chromeo. Childhood friends Dave 1 and P Thugg have proclaimed themselves the only successful Arab/Jewish partnership since the dawn of human culture. While that fact is arguable, their ability to excite fans into a frenzy of gyration is not. Playing their dance hits such as You’re So Gangsta and Tenderoni, the crowd let loose more than any other set I saw at the festival that day. Also playing songs from their forthcoming album, Business Casual, it was clear that there is still plenty to look forward to from the pair. I know I will be keeping my ear to the ground to find out when they plan to come back to SF.
[mp3] CHROMEO – Don’t Turn The Lights On from Business Casual (2010)
Punk legends, Social Distortion stormed on to the Sutro Stage just as the sun was getting ready to disappear behind the trees. Frontman Mike Ness with his signature growling vocals and slicked back hair showed that the veterans still knew how to rock a party. It’s hard to believe that their self titled album, which was their most critically acclaimed and commercially successful effort, is now 20 years old. Containing their most well known single, Ball And Chain, and the now classic cover of Johnny Cash’s Ring Of Fire, the band had already released two albums and been together for over a decade. Ness has been so instrumental in sculpting the Southern California punk sound that he is practically revered as a god in some circles. Not a bad thing to aspire to, and at 48, he is still performing and he sure looked like he was having fun doing it.
[mp3] SOCIAL DISTORTION – Ball And Chain from Social Distortion (1990)
Closing out the festival at the Twin Peaks stage, Australia’s Empire Of The Sun definitely topped the list of unique stage shows. Their lights, costumes, and dancers all seemed to be envisioned in a dream state. Despite being relative unknowns when compared to the other headliners like The Strokes or Kings Of Leon, for their elaborate stage show to be effective, playing at night was a necessity. I believe the band got the benefit of the doubt and was granted this juicy slot only after some apprehension of the organizers, but they weren’t about to squander the opportunity. Proving how they have won legions of fans the world over, Empire Of The Sun shone as a prime example of the diversity of talent that was brought to SF to dazzle us at Outside Lands. Despite some questioning of this choice as a headlining act, they definitely put those questions to rest with their performance. Parallel to that, I think now it’s fair to say that this is also true of the festival line-up as a whole.
– Tanner Pikop, writer/photographer