2009 Outside Lands Music Festival Review

I was lucky enough to attend the 2nd annual Outside Lands Music Festival in San Francisco this past weekend and having attended many festivals in my life (including last years Outside Lands) I can honestly say that this was one of the best.

Friday


After driving north from Los Angeles last Friday I made my way over to Golden Gate park to start the festival off right by getting acclimated to my festival surroundings. When entering the festival, you find yourself right by the Twin Peaks stage, which is the second biggest stage at the festival. From there you have only one direction in which you can wander, so while en route to the Lands End stage I saw food vendors, merchandise, an oyster bar and a tent called Wine Haven (which offers up some of Northern California’s best wine selections).

Since I drove 6 hours to San Francisco, the first band that I was able to see was Silversun Pickups. The interesting thing about Silversun Pickups is that only 5 years ago they were a small band that no one had even heard of, and now here they are playing the main stage at a festival. After Silversun Pickups I made my way over to the Media Tent, which was located slightly above Polo Field directly facing the Lands End stage, giving the people who were there covering the festival a perfect place to view some of the festivals biggest acts.

Incubus was the next band that I saw. The funny thing about Incubus is that I wouldn’t classify myself as a one of their biggest fans, but as they were playing their set, I found myself singing along to many of their songs, including “Pardon Me” “Wish You Were Here” and “Anna Molly.” I was lucky enough to into the photo pit for a portion of their set and was able to see them do their thing up close and personal.

I left three quarters of the way through their set and hopped on a golf cart with some new friends from Film Magic and we took a tour of the festival via golf cart by cutting through the field and by going backstage. While on this tour I got to catch a little bit of Tom Jones set at the Sutro Stage. I was talking to a photographer who had just come out of the photo pit and said that the Tom Jones fans were crazy for him. After our pickup, we made our way over to solar powered Panhandle Stage and caught the end of Kinky, who gave a highly energetic set to a sweaty crowd.

After our tour of Golden Gate Park, there was only one place that I wanted to be, which was at the Twin Peaks stage for Thievery Corporation. I have now seen them at three of this year’s festivals, and each time has been better than the next. I started out in the photo pit, capturing everything that the band from DC had to offer and then decided that I needed to be onstage. While onstage, I was able to capture some amazing pictures as the band played songs such as “Sound the Alarm” and “Radio Retaliation.” I knew that I couldn’t stay at Thievery until the end because I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t make my way back to Lands End to catch the final hour of Pearl Jam.

What can I say about Pearl Jam that hasn’t already been said before? They are a legendary band that has been making timeless music for almost 20 years. I can remember being maybe 9 or 10 years old and sitting in my sisters’ white Saturn while she drove me around and we listened to Pearl Jam. Though I am not that familiar with some of their newer music, whenever I hear songs like “Better Man” “Corduroy” and “Jeremy” I can’t help but not feel nostalgic, and I am happy that they played each of those songs. One thing that wasn’t great about their set is that Eddie Vedder informed the audience that he wasn’t feeling well, and honestly I couldn’t tell until he let us in on his secret, so it kind of ruined the whole experience when I found out he wasn’t giving it his all. Pearl Jam closed the first night of Outside Lands and as I was exciting the Polo Field I became even more excited for day 2 to begin.

Saturday


With Saturday came a day of big expectations and very intense heat. In the morning I had to spend some time with family, so I made my way over to Golden Gate Park around 2:30 and took in some more of what the festival has to offer. Over in Polo Field, they have this area that I dubbed the Outside Lands Mall because it was filled with vendors selling clothes, records, posters, and most importantly sunglasses. At Outside Lands there is one vendor who sells sunglasses for $5 a pair, being a sunglass addict, a friend and I ended up purchasing ten pairs at a discounted rate. If you are ever able to attend an Outside Lands in the future, I highly recommend making your way over to this sunglass stand to outfit yourself in cheap sunglasses for the weekend.

After spending a solid hour walking around the various vendors, I made my way over to the media tent to grab a free beer and find some seats for Jason Mraz who was scheduled to play the Lands End stage at 3:50. I found a great place in the sun and listened as the singer-songwriter played hits like “The Remedy,” “You and I,” and his billboard chart record breaker “I’m Yours.”

Before Jason Mraz’s set was over, we walked inside the media tent to see what was going on in there. The entire weekend, they were offering up free tastings to members of the media and during Jason Mraz’s set we were able to enjoy Philz Coffee. As an avid coffee drinker, I have to be honest and say that Philz Coffee is some of the best coffee that I have ever tasted. They have locations throughout California, and if you are interested in trying it out you can order some online at http://www.philzcoffee.com/.

When Jason Mraz was finished I flagged down a golf cart to get me over to the Panhandle Stage so I could finally see Bat for Lashes live. She was playing the smallest stage at Outside Lands but had so many people at her set. I was expecting her set to be somber, but she was anything but. Her live performance is full of energy as she played songs like “Daniel” “Pearl’s Dream” and “What’s a Girl to Do?” I am so happy that I finally got to see someone that I have been dying to see for so long and she fully met all of my expectations.

After Bat for Lashes is was time to get my dance on, so I decided to start walking towards the Lands End stage to see the Black Eyed Peas bring their dynamic catalog of music to a chill festival. Say what you want about the Black Eyed Peas, but they put on a great show because you pretty much know the words to all their songs. They quickly went through hits like, “Boom Boom Pow” “Let’s Get Retarded” “My Humps” and “Don’t Phunk With My Heart.” We were even treated to a solo song by Fergie who performed her hit song “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” The Peas ended their set with the massive single “I Gotta Feeling” and I must say that they were a definite highlight to the weekend.

When the Black Eyed Peas finished it was time for the day’s headliner, Dave Matthews Band. I had never seen Dave Matthews Band live in concert before, but he is one of my generation’s biggest bands, and I was eagerly anticipating what his live show was going to be like. The crowd was becoming more restless as it got closer to the beginning of his set and the minute the band walked onstage, the crowd erupted with some of the loudest roars I heard all weekend. He opened with “Why I Am” from the bands latest album, and it got the audience ready for the two and a half hours of music. A major highlight came when the band played the song “Jimi Thing” because Fergie and apl.de.ap from the Black Eyed Peas joined them onstage during the jam portion of the song. Dave and Fergie even had a mini dance off during the song that ended with Dave gyrating on the floor. Another highlight of his set came when the band played “Ants Marching” and then went right into “Two Step” is was almost 25 minutes long and I can honestly say that it was probably the best 25 minutes of the whole festival. After a short break, the band came back on stage and was joined by Robert Randolph for “All Along The Watchtower” and “Thank You.” In the end, I went from someone who would never go to a Dave Matthews Band concert to someone who was anticipating attending another one.

Sunday


The last day of a festival is always filled with mixed emotions because you don’t want the weekend to be over, but you’re still excited to see more live music. With Sunday came a drastic change in weather, it went from being in the 90’s on Friday and Saturday to about 55 degrees on Sunday. So I layered up as best I could and made my way to Golden Gate Park just in time to see the hip-hop group Atmosphere perform. Brandon (of Super Good Music) just saw their show at the Palladium, and I wish that I had atteneded that because I felt that something was lost at Outside Lands due to the chilly weather and the fact that it was 2:15 in the afternoon. Regardless, I enjoyed their entire set standing on a bench and would definitely attend an Atmosphere concert in the future.

After Atmosphere, I made my way over to see Matt & Kim at the Panhandle stage. I have seen them once before in concert and knew that I was in for a highly energetic set by the duo from Brooklyn. They charged through songs like “Cinders” “Cutdown” “Good Ol’ Fashion Nightmare” and the hit “Daylight.” If you have never seen Matt & Kim before, then you are really missing out because they have one of the most spirited live performances of any act I’ve seen.

Once Matt & Kim were finished, I headed back over to the Twin Peaks stage to see The Dead Weather. I was curious to see what this band was going to be like live and I have to say that they did not disappoint. The only concern that I had was that the sound was not nearly loud enough and I felt as though something was lost. The stage was packed with people so I had to be further back than I wanted, but The Dead Weather were solid and I can’t wait to see them again.

Modest Mouse was the next band that I wanted to see, so I made the long trek over to Lands End, found a nice little area on the ground and sat down to enjoy their set. I used to love Modest Mouse, and though that love has faded over the years, I found myself smiling every time they started to play a song that I love. They played “Dashboard” “Bukowski” “Float On” and my favorite song “Blame it on the Tetons,” which was totally unexpected but very much appreciated.

After Modest Mouse I found myself back up in the media tent to find the perfect viewing spot for M.I.A. With her set came a bit of controversy ever since she tweeted about how disappointed she was that she woud be playing right before Tenacious D, who were brought in after Beastie Boys had to drop out due to health issues. She started her set with “Bamboo Banga,” and immediately had the crowds attention. About halfway through her set she mixed together “Intergalactic” and “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys with her own song “Bird Flu” as an ode to the band that couldn’t perform at the festival anymore. She did treat the audience to a new song that she had been working on called “Born Free, but the reaction from the crowd wasn’t great because they had never heard it before, but she changed that mood very quickly by launching into her massive hit “Paper Planes” to close out her set. I’ve seen M.I.A. six times now and although I prefer to see her in a much smaller venue, I was still happy that I got to see her again.

Because of the colder than anticipated weather and the fact that I had to drive 6 hours to Los Angeles on Sunday night, I left as M.I.A. was finishing her set to get a head start on the drive. Overall, Outside Lands once again provided me with an exceptional weekend of music. They really have put together a well-run festival that I hope to attend for many years to come. I have to say thank you to Chris at Big Hassle Publicity for bringing SUPERGOODMUSIC to The Outside Lands Music Festival.

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