Gentle People and Strange Vibrations: CoS at Outside Lands ’10

This was the easiest festival to attend in the history of attending festivals. The glory that is Outside Lands, the Bay Area’s biggest, finest, and currently most hip summer festival could not have been a more accessible festival to attend. Between the proximity of all the stages (four major ones total), the variety of bands (in one afternoon I saw a metal-head DJ, famous hippies, indie icons, and classic rock ‘n’ roll), the layout of the grounds (I could have walked through blindfolded), and the fact you left each night to one of the most amazing cities in America, all added up to make this weekend something worth remembering.

It’s already been a gloomy summer on the coast of California, so we needed this festival. SoCal already had its dominating festival, Coachella, and it was time for the Bay Area to strut its own breed of music festival again. And what better place to spend a weekend at than the legendary Golden Gate Park? The California coast might not have brightened up, but everybody was certainly in high spirits. In retrospect, how couldn’t you be?

This year, Outside Lands came off like a modern hybrid. For one, the lineup bridged a number of generation and stylistic gaps, opening up some people’s perceptions. This was one of the first festivals in which I can safely say a large chunk of the audience was over 40, and it didn’t seem creepy, or weird (a young girl asked about Furthur posting their set list online and everybody looked at her like she was insane). You had bands catering to the aged crowd who remembers what things were like “back in the day,” like Levon Helm, Al Green, and Social Distortion, but you had the top acts of generation-now like the Strokes, the Kings of Leon, Phoenix, and My Morning Jacket. This was a festival for all the freaks of the Bay to come out of the woodwork and unite under the sun, even if it wasn’t out.

And the freaks came out, rest assured, and it was wonderful to remember that if it weren’t for weird people like us, there wouldn’t be a festival to talk about. Outside Lands was a place this year where everybody could gather, be themselves, and rock out in one of America’s most historic spots in one of its coolest cities. Overall it was alright, I guess I’ll go next year.

Saturday, August 14th

People Under the Stairs
Lands End, 12:00 p.m.

Nothing could have made me happier than walking into Golden Gate Park to hear the San Francisco Knights themselves conducting some turntable Scientifics. “I think we got this party started,” they boasted to a crowd of “old hippies”: as they so eloquently put it. The titan twosome of Thes One and Double K threw it down to kick off the first day of the festival. The group had no problem representing the Bay Area, with their classic tune “San Francisco Knights”, and even discussed the weather, just before dropping into “Acid Raindrops”.

People Under the Stairs genuinely wanted to get the party going with their Mid-City Fiesta antics. Everyone around was totally indulging, as they lit joints all over the place, which was relished by the MCs themselves, who stated “shit was kicking in.” But they wanted to keep it positive, “It’s a little cold, but it could be warm if you believe,” Double K said. The group then launched into “Tripping at the Disco” to close their set of stoned age hip-hop for the early risers. -Ted Maider

Electric Six
Sutro, 12:40 p.m.

“That opening act was amazing. Rap rap rap. rap ra rap rap rap (in mock-rap tone). We are trying to start shit with the other bands so maybe they fight us and we get more press.” – Dick Valentine

Electric Six are instigators. They were out to start a party, get in trouble, make you dance, anything, really, to get you out of your 12:45 p.m. trance. And if you base you enjoyment of music by your engagement rather than what you actually hear, they were a success. Lead singer Dick Valentine is a ham, thrusting his pelvis, shaking his arms, and cracking jokes like he was at the Brea Improv, but I laughed at all of them, so I guess his mission was a success. When the group busted out “Danger, High Voltage”, I expected some kind of mass hysterics (like when I perform the same song at karaoke), but, alas, it was still the early afternoon and the moderate enthusiasm that was prevalent for everything was about as much as they were going to get. We sure had some laughs, though. – Philip Cosores

Freelance Whales
Twin Peaks, 12:45 p.m.

You can only read a band’s name so many times, and see them on so many festival lineups before you get curious enough to see them. Freelance Whales‘ brand of mellow indie seemed to win over the San Fran hipster crowd at Outside Lands on day one. Their music seemed mystical, and slightly warming on this dreary Bay day. But it wasn’t their show that drew me in, it was their bizarre instrumentation. For example, percussionist/keyboardist/guitar player Kevin Read had a watering can that he repeatedly beat with a mallet. Not to mention, Doris Cellar played some sort of tabled squeeze box for one of their slower and more melodic numbers. “We’d like to thank San Francisco for the last six months of our lives,” they said with pride towards the end of the show. So they thanked us, by playing some more cheery tunes. -Ted Maider

Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars
Lands End, 1:25 p.m.

You got to have yourself some sort of reggae act at a festival to get the early and sunny crowd in high spirits. Well, there was no sun for Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Star’s performance, but they brought forth hypothetical sunshine with their slick reggae grooves. All throughout the crowd, girls splashed with tie dye and dancing in hula hoops were present, as well as several other patrons smoking copious amounts of marijuana to accompany the world music Sierra Leone and company put on. People didn’t necessarily sing along with lyrics that were a) in a different language or b) indecipherable, but the vibe of the music asked everyone to groove, and that’s exactly what they did. -Ted Maider

Pretty Lights
Sutro, 2:15 p.m.

I wandered around for quite some time before Derek Vincent Smith, aka Pretty Lights (aka the sole DJ I wanted to see at this festival), took the stage, and I planned on staying for every second of his jaw-dropping show. Just one year ago, I saw the guy at one of the tents at Bonnaroo, at 3 am, with the e-tard crowd coming down from Phish. Now he had his own slot on one of the bigger stages at Outside Lands in the middle of the afternoon, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t know how to throw down.

The thing about Pretty Lights is he embodies everything about the modern DJ. He’s got some sort of turntable scenario going on (whether they are digital or not is beyond me), as well as two laptops (one Mac, one PC) set up on both ends of his operation. Then, he takes his fantastic contraption of an instrument and brings in samples from all over the spectrum, from eerie piano to distorted guitars, thus getting everyone in the crowd to break it down. But he turns these samples into all different types of electronic music, making his work totally accessible to anyone endorsing in that medium. Pretty Lights is going to make things happen in the electronic world if his show keeps building and building up like his live music. -Ted Maider

Gogol Bordello
Lands End, 3:05 p.m.

Just prior to Gogol Bordello arriving on stage, I passed their singer while roaming through the VIP section. He looked, for lack of a better term, fucking menacing. And let me tell you, that menacing dude can rock in quite the menacing fashion. The high-tempo Gypsy insanity that is Gogol Bordello was a sound to be reckoned with at three in the afternoon. The band blasted through songs like the sonic insanity of “Start Wearing Purple” and “Wonderlust King”, while the audience proceeded to go into a gyrating frenzy. It’s not like the band took it easy either, though. Lead singer and guitar player Eugene Hutz sweat out his entire body weight as he rocked to the band’s furious songs.  To pronounce their ending, Hutz jumped up onto the drum set and took a bow. Everybody was quite pleased. But did you expect anything less from them? -Ted Maider

Levon Helm Band
Twin Peaks
, 3:45 p.m.

Levon Helm and his gang of cronies showed up at the Twin Peaks stage in the mid-afternoon to lighten up the mood a bit. Between all the electronic, hip-hop, and rock music, it was finally something the older and Dead-Head crowd could truly appreciate. The group launched through some Band classics (like “The Weight”), covered the Dead (“Tennessee Jed”), and played a number of post-Band tracks, as well. His 10-plus unit performed some crunchy tunes that hippies gladly twirled around to in the grass. Meanwhile, the band had a good time by improvising with acoustic fury as they used their unique and large group of instruments to perform tunes for a sleepier, more laid-back crowd. -Ted Maider

Sutro, 4:05 p.m.

Bassnectar is the scariest DJ ever. In fact, the whole time I was watching him all I could wonder was how in the fuck he became a DJ. As soon as the guy came out, everyone immediately lost their shit and began to rock their hardest electronic moves. Accompanied with hundreds of giant, black, beach balls, Bassnectar broke it down with his rare form of alternative metal dub-step, mixing bits from all over (most notably his remix of “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn”). The multi-genre mixer caused the earth to quake, people’s hearts to pump up a few notches, and me to freak the hell out. -Ted Maider

My Morning Jacket
Lands End, 5:00 p.m.

“God bless you, San Francisco.” –Jim James

My Morning Jacket never ceases to amaze me. The Bay Area crowd was genuinely stoked that Jim James and company had come to grace their presence with their rare, intellectual, and fantastic style of rock. The band kicked it off slow with tracks like “Tonite I Want to Celebrate with You” and “Gideon”. As the band jammed, escalated, rocked, and shocked, it really struck me that they truly work to perfection as a complete unit. If one member were to be replaced, the whole show would be at a loss. It’s the chemistry they share that speaks volumes. That… and their donkey, which happened to make an appearance at Sasquatch, too.

Eventually, the band busted out a chilling and hypnotic version of “Touch Me, I’m Going to Scream (Part 1)” and churned out a triumphant version of “I’m Amazed”, which sequed into a jet-fueled speedball rendition of “Highly Suspicious”, which fueled the crowd into a furious mosh. Towards the end, they brought it all back full circle as they lurched on with “Touch Me, I’m Going to Scream (Part 2)”.

Throughout the set, the band played a number of older tunes, too. “Golden”, “Off the Record”, “Steam Engine”, and “Anytime” were all showcased and all well-received. But, nothing came close to their powerful performance of “Wordless Chorus”, which saw the crowd uniting together under rain and through harmonies and reverb. But it wouldn’t stop there, either. Before they left, the group carved out a magnificent, 10 minute cut of “One Big Holiday”, which pumped out enough octane to tear apart the crowd. These guys may not be a jam band, but they sure do fucking jam. -Ted Maider

, 6:30 p.m.

The biggest surprise at Outside Lands goes to Wolfmother, hands down. I attended mainly because my brother is a big fan and he dragged me along. However, thank goodness he did. It was the best decision I was forced into making all weekend. Little did I know this would be one of the most unexpectedly awesome sets of the festival. The only person who had more fun than the crowd at Wolfmother was frontman Andrew Stockdale. And why shouldn’t he have a bit of fun? With lineup changes galore since 2005, he deserves to smile. Despite the group’s latest effort, Cosmic Egg, they stuck to mostly material off their self-titled album. Climax? When the band busted into “White Unicorn”, transitioning midway through into a very fitting version of The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm”, only to transition back into the end of “White Unicorn”. Like I said, unexpectedly awesome. -Winston Robbins

Cat Power
Twin Peaks, 7:05 p.m.

I’ve never seen Cat Power before, so I won’t be too hasty in my judgment. But is she always so boring? Julian Casablancas nonchalance is one thing, but seeming utterly bored is something different entirely. Maybe it’s just her steaz, but she looked like she just rolled out of bed for this show. With her hair pulled back in a ponytail, and frumpily dressed in a hoodie and jeans, she spent most of the set with her hands in her pockets. There was a portion of her show where she got down off the stage and into the photo pit to sing two songs, which I’m sure was awesome for all 53 people who could still see her, but eventually the rest of us just forgot she was there. It’s not like her being onstage was that much more exciting. But enough about stage presence. Musically, Chan Marshall couldn’t have been more spot on. “Sea of Love”, “The Greatest”, and “Metal Heart” were all pitch perfect. Every note hit, every inflection impeccable. I just wish she would have been a little more excited about her own talent. -Winston Robbins

Furthur ft. Phil Lesh and Bob Weir
Lands End, 7:25 p.m.

“They really did take it one step further…” –Dead-Head in Sculpture Garden after the show.

I have to start by admitting this straight up; I am not the biggest Dead-Head in the world. This has always been the biggest problem amongst my friends and I. Granted, I enjoy some of their songs quite thoroughly (how could you not), but I have never been one of those kids who goes through phases and phases of nothing but obscure Dead sets. But this entire set-up seemed like something I would totally be all about. For one, you have Phil Lesh and Bob Weir back together on-stage. Secondly, you have John Kadlecik of the Dark Star Orchestra, stepping in Jerry Garcia’s shoes, which he seems to have already done for a portion of his career. Take notice of the setting, though. It was the climax of Jerry month in the Bay, and the band was in Golden Gate Park, the place that pretty much spawned them.

Needless to say, all the tell-tale signs of a Dead-Show were there. All day, my buddy kept saying, “In San Francisco, Dead-Heads just seem to grow up from the ground.” Sure enough, this is what happened. Just prior to Furthur’s show, I watched the kid behind me drop a tab of acid into his friend’s mouth as a surprise. There were more Stealies than I could ever fathom in one place. And people had managed to sneak in recording gear to obtain what they would believe to be a priceless piece of live memorabilia. Well, this night, they were right.

The band was no longer slow, dreary, and too-hypnotic. They were back to the old Dead-style, quicker and extensive jams that kept the pace up. Opening with songs like “Cassidy” and “The Loser” got people on their feet, and scribbling song titles on their notepads all around me. The band launched into a rendition of “Let it Grow”, which they wove into a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Time”. People were hip to the cover, considering cheers emanated throughout once those all-too-familiar sound of clocks chimed in.

But the band also launched into a number of Dead staples that belonged in Golden Gate Park. Extended jams on “Fire on the Mountain” and “Terrapin Suite” caused people to astro-project themselves back to the ’70s. To close off the single set, the band started up “Morning Dew” which spiraled into “I Know You Rider”, leaving all the Dead-Heads, who’d coughed up the 70 bucks to get in, very, very pleased.

When I was younger, I saw Ratdog and all the offshoots, but this to me was something far greater than a Grateful Dead recreation. This wasn’t a reincarnation; this was the future of the enterprise that is the Grateful Dead. Even I’ll admit it; they have had one of the best careers in history that any band could possibly ask for. Their material still impacts kids today as it did 50 years ago. So, the bottom line? I may not be a Dead-Head, but I can see that they have done a lot in their time, and they will continue to bedazzle their cult as time goes on. As I wandered off into the night, I heard techno drums going, infused the Furthur’s jamming, which somehow seemed to work in this modern age. Who knows what the future of music will bring? -Ted Maider

The Strokes
Twin Peaks, 8:45 p.m.

Let’s begin here: Why was Furthur headlining this festival? Look, we all know that Bob Weir and Phil Lesh are local Haight-Ashbury legends and were once a part of one of the most influential jam bands in the history of Rock and Roll, but does that really warrant a headlining slot? Seems like an irrelevant stretch to me. The tickets for day one sold, but they certainly didn’t sell out. The Deadheads are slowly dying off. The Strokes should have headlined. But that’s an argument for another time. It was funny, however, what a tangible barrier Furthur versus The Strokes created. In the impeccable words of Philip Cosores, everyone 30 and under was at one side of the park watching The Strokes, while everyone else was re-living their Dead days across the park.

At any rate, Julian Casablancas and company returned to performing on American soil once more after their Lollapalooza appearance, and I can only imagine that the shows were incredibly similar. I say that because tit for tat, the setlists were exactly the same, except Lolla got one more song that Outside Lands did. It was an unbelievable set in every way, musically, visually, you name it. But they were obviously missing one thing: chemistry. It was sad further proof that The Strokes might be on their way out.

However, it was fantastic to hear the songs that got me through the hard knock life of Middle School. They played mainly old favorites such as “Someday”, “Last Night”,  “Reptilia”, and “Hard To Explain” interspersed with only a couple First Impressions of Earth cuts. In between each song, they seemed to stall and talk amongst themselves about what they were doing, which showed a lack of preparation, perpetuating the rumors that they’re imploding. On a lighter note, though, Casablancas will never stop being one of the greatest frontmen of our time. He kept crowd interaction at a maximum and all night he made jokes and basically said whatever the hell came to his mind. It was an endearing, nostalgic run down memory lane that was ultimately enjoyable, but painful in that these are very much so not The Strokes I saw back in ’06. -Winston Robbins

Gallery by Philip Cosores

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Sunday, August 15th

Amos Lee
Lands End, 12:45 p.m.

The Philadelphia singer/songwriter had the misfortune of playing to a tired crowd in the early afternoon, but made the most out of it. Amos Lee has the kind of voice the can sooth both the weary soul and the weary bones, managing to bring the crowd both to lie for the moment and awaken them at to the fun that laid on the horizon. Lee sings with conviction, and for a writer who had never heard him before and feels a slight bit of shame admitting that he enjoyed the set, it was a pleasant surprise to start a day.  -Philip Cosores

Mayer Hawthorne and The County
Sutro, 1:30 p.m.

If this day was about voices, Mayer Hawthorne was up to the challenge laid down by Amos Lee. Luckily for Hawthorne, where his voice lacks the immediacy of Lee’s, he has Mayer-ettes to provide the eye candy that the singer may lack himself. Sure Hawthorne may seem like a nerd, but he has soul and can get a giant crowd behind him. And somehow most of the crowd knew all the words (maybe this guy is huge) but even those that didn’t seemed to have a blast. Hawthorne may have made the most new fans of anyone at the festival. -Philip Cosores

The Temper Trap
Lands End, 2:15 p.m.

Well, I guess I just don’t get the appeal here. But people were sure excited to see The Temper Trap, to see their weird looking singer, to hear their harmless songs, even a new one that appeared three songs in and went absolutely nowhere. In hindsight, they are known for a song that came out last year with 500 Days of Summer, and oddly enough, it’s not really catchy whatsoever. <Shrug> –Philip Cosores

Janelle Monáe
Sutro, 3:05 p.m.

Most deserved Best New Music handed out by the almighty P4K should go to Janelle Monáe. Not only was her ArchAndroid fantastic from beginning to end, but she is quite the musician/dancer/fashionista. Playing mainly tracks from her most recent album, the crowd seemed to show particular interest in “Cold War” and “Tightrope”, and rightly so, as they were both spot on in every way (except Big Boi didn’t show up for his verse on the latter). Personally, I was quite moved by the stop-free four song medley which contained “Suite II Overture”, “Dance or Die”, “Faster”, and “Locked Inside” in one fell swoop. Impressive. Furthermore, her style is something that is to be simultaneously marveled and envied. Monáe is so much cooler than any of us will ever be, but we should love her for it, not be jealous. Some people were born to front bands (and Janelle is without question the best frontwoman I have seen in recent years), and others were born to write for/read music blogs. To each his own. -Winston Robbins

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Twin Peaks, 3:40 p.m.

“This is a fucking miracle!” –Edward Sharpe (Alex Ebert)

I made it to the front of the crowd by the skin of my teeth, but goddammit, I made it. And thank the lord I did. Four months ago, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros were just some band that seemed to be playing every festival I wanted to go to. Now, they’re a crucial portion of my 2010 soundtrack, with a record that continues to sell and a fan base that continues to grow. Hey, you can only appear in so many car commercials before everybody understands your band rules that much.

The 10-piece band wasted no time kicking things up, opening with “40 Day Dream”, one of the stand-out and triumphant tracks from their debut record. The crowd went nuts at the opening drum beats, and then began to sway majestically while singing all the words. Luckily for them, the band played the majority of their album, Up From Below, and in order. Following the opener, they launched right into the happy-go-lucky tune of “Janglin’” and then continued with the album’s titular track.

The Magnetic Zeros did some great renditions of “Desert Song” and even let Jade Castrinos take over on lead vocals for awhile. The real gem though, of course, was “Home”, which the crowd screamed for the entire time. When the hot single finally did come on, everybody leapt up and down in a united frenzy, which seemed warranted for the song’s enthusiastic beat. During the breakdown, though, Alex Ebert and Castrinos discussed the first time they came to San Francisco, and what they did, but most all Castrinos wished the sun would shine. We were all right there with her, but it didn’t matter, because everybody was just elated to be in the presence of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, a band who will clearly be remembered when 2010 music is discussed for years to come. -Ted Maider

Al Green
Lands End, 4:00 p.m.

After Furthur took us back to the 60’s, somebody had to represent the 70’s, and no man was better for the job than Al Green. At 64, our beloved soul singer took the stage to a massive, loving crowd to give them a taste of his era. Not only did he come out belting his own barn burners “Tired of Being Alone” and “Let’s Stay Together”, but he did a tribute to all his contemporaries. He covered The Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself”, The Temptations’ “My Girl”, and Otis Redding (whom he referred to as ‘Big O’)’s “Sitting On the Dock of the Bay”. At the end of the set, the soul mastermind was all smiles, as was the crowd. -Winston Robbins

Slightly Stoopid

Sutro, 5:00 p.m.

How many Slightly Stoopid shows do I normally hear about within a summer? Way too many is an accurate answer. Slightly Stoopid has been able to strike a chord with the cannabis culture, and in California, that’s about ¾ of the population. Basically, these guys picked up right where Sublime left off, and now their brand of reggae-rap-rock has begun to get extremely popular. Throughout the entire show, a cloud of smoke loomed over the crowd, while the band played their cheery reggae tunes. However, they were not afraid to bust out the punk rock when things got a little too mellow. This has always been one of the band’s more positive traits; that they appreciate their punk roots. Not to mention, they covered Ol’ Dirty Bastard, while the crowd held W’s in the air with their hands. After enough Slightly Stoopid, I began to feel slightly stupid due to how spaced out I was, so it was time to vacate the smog and see some other aspect of our culture. -Ted Maider

Twin Peaks, 5:15 p.m.

As soon as the sexy leg keyboard stands were unveiled, the cheers began to roar: Chromeo was on their way. Taking the stage to their signature Fancy Footwork intro, the crowd went berserk. It was a very distinct crowd too, filled with college frat boys, but that didn’t take away from the show in the slightest. Dave 1 and P-Thugg know how to work any audience. By the first song, they had us in the palm of their hands and we loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, they didn’t play anything from their forthcoming album (due out in September),  but maybe that was for the best because hearing their old songs just got me super pumped to hear the new record. The kids went nuts for Chromeo classsics “Tenderoni” “Bona Fide Lovin’”, and “Needy Girl”, and they had every right to. Chromeo knows how to write quirky electro love songs like no one else. -Winston Robbins

Lands End, 5:55 p.m.

Holy… shit… dude. Phoenix has become somewhat of a cultural icon. Singer Thomas Mars has begun to acknowledge this, as he embodied what is true rock star persona while running around the stage with his bright red microphone chord. The rest of the band kept it going too, as their drummer pounded on each head mercilessly to keep the beats of all their high-energy songs going. This was easily one of the best shows of the weekend, and it’s so easy to see why the French five-some were given a sub-headlining spot.

The band kicked it off with “Lisztomania” and the crowd wasted no time diving into the grooves. But neither did the band. While they tore through the majority of their opus, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, playing songs like “Lasso”, “Fences”, and a thrashing “Armistice”, they were not conservative about pulling out past numbers. Tracks like “Run Run Run”, “Consolation Prizes”, and “Long Distance Call” resonated well with those watching, even though they didn’t necessarily sing along.

But the band kept everything interesting. Mars climbed up the amps, over the audience, and across the stage, all while his band kept mixing up instruments, bashing their equipment, and rocking their hardest. It was all straight up amazing and with so much energy.  As they’ve done for the past year now, the band closed things off with a nearly 10-minute rendition of “1901”. It didn’t drag, but at one moment I felt they were playing a different song altogether. As the band’s set came to a close, all the clouds parted for the day, and the sun finally came out. It felt good to feel the warmth again, but it wasn’t the miracle we needed. The miracle we needed was another four songs from Phoenix. -Ted Maider

Nas & Damian Marley
Twin Peaks, 6:50 p.m.

I’ve always been intrigued by Damian Marley & Nas‘ collaboration. I respect both artists  in their respective genres quite a bit, and their duet on “Road to Zion” (off Marley’s 2005 album Welcome to JamRock) was fantastic. But a whole album? It seemed a stretch. I was wrong in thinking that. The second I heard the album, it all began to make sense. It was like I finally go the joke that had been eluding me for weeks. They’re obviously distant relatives due to their African-American complexion, but musically they’re distant relatives as well. Hip hop draws so much from reggae, and contemporary reggae is constantly borrowing from hip hop. And these two make for quite a pair. Two of the most talented in their respective genres, it only makes sense that they are incredible together.

At the Twin Peaks stage, the two played mainly tracks from their latest effort, Distant Relatives. They came out with barn burner “As We Enter” and hit us with a couple of curveballs just before exiting the stage. First, Marley (and his floor length dreads) pulled out his mega-hit “Welcome To Jamrock” out and got the entire place thrashing. Then, Nas and Marley both went back to play their JamRock collaboration “Road to Zion”. They closed the set off with a cover of Marley’s father’s classic hit, “Could You Be Loved”, which of course won the crowd over and had us all singing in unison like a bunch of drunk Irish soccer fans. Lesson learned? Damian Marley and Nas are a perfect combination. -Winston Robbins

Social Distortion
, 6:55 p.m.

True story: The last time I had seen Social Distortion, I stopped drinking for three years. Since then, I have not listened to the band nor paid any attention to where they are in their career. But, everything ends and so did my boycott of Social D on this Sunday afternoon.

The sun was finally out and the Orange County natives seemed no different that the tough thugs that drove me into a drunken frenzy of terror so many years back. Now that I can actually recall experiencing them, I was impressed by the level of professionalism they showed in their set. They covered all the bases of their long career, with Ness still as menacing as before. “Bad Luck”, “Don’t Drag Me Down” and “Mommy’s Little Monster” kicked things off, but as the set rolled on song’s like “Ball and Chain”, “Prision Bound”, and “Story of My Life” made their way into the set.

Even though their set has probably been similar for 20 years, the band never looks bored or withdrawn. In fact, Ness seems like he wants to relate to the fans just as bad as the young man who wrote these songs. In closing with “Ring Of Fire”, you can’t help but think that Ness has written some songs as timeless as Johnny Cash. It’s a weird thought, but remarkably, it’s true. -Philip Cosores

Kings of Leon
Lands End
, 7:50 p.m.

When did the Kings of Leon become this big-time, American headlining band? I think I missed this part in recent pop culture, because I still find the Kings of Leon to be a good band, but not a spectacle worth headlining some of the biggest festivals in America. The thing is though, most people like the Kings of Leon, so they are able to draw a crowd. Kings of Leon just embodies that simple, classic, and timeless American sound, and they actually do a decent job of it.

The Oklahoma quartet of brothers looked like classic American figures as they rocked their finest in front of tens of thousands of people. Jared Followill was dressed up like James Dean, while Caleb Followill kept up his gritty and down-to-Earth persona. The band kicked things off with the ultimate creeper-track, “Closer”, which sent chills down my spine as I watched them grace the monitors in a black and white color scheme. One could feel the ground vibrating as they got closer to the stage and as the sun sank over Golden Gate Park to the Kings of Leon’s gritty, welcomin,g and rocking tunes.

The band also played their hit songs like “Sex on Fire”, “The Bucket”, and “Use Somebody”, while also covering the Pixies’ “Where is My Mind?”, which all seemed to keep the crowd genuinely pleased. The main stage was packed as far as one could see, so this was clearly a hot ticket for the last night of the festival. At the start, Caleb asked, “Mind if I have a drink?” and then toasted to the wonderful city of San Francisco. Clearly, the guy was the right man to finish off the show. As the band drew to a close, fireworks lit up the sky behind them and filled the polo fields with smoke. One had to ask, though… where was the crowd’s groove? -Ted Maider

Empire of the Sun
Twin Peaks, 8:25 p.m.

If you don’t listen to Empire of the Sun now, you will soon enough. The Australian electronic space bots from beyond will invade your stereo much like they invaded my brain Sunday night. For one, no band nowadays has a visual show like they do. It’s hard to explain (or do it justice), but the show involves spacey videos, frantic lighting, synchronized dancers in weird costumes holding even weirder props, and lots and lots of techno-future rock. Let’s just say that at one point I wondered if I was watching humans. Actually, looking back at the hour that was Empire of the Sun, I’m still trying to figure out what I saw.

Singer and proverbial captain of the group’s spaceship Luke Steele stood in what looked like a docking station in the center of the stage, surrounded by synthesizers, guitars, and microphones. You’d think this would be all overwhelming, and it probably would to an average musician, but Steele traded off instruments with no problem, and at times, he even managed to play several at once. Opening with the gem “Standing on the Shore”, the crowd found a perfect outlet to a.) find their groove and b.) trip the fuck out.

Basically, the band played their entire debut record, Walking on a Dream, but in an order that was more like a journey than an actual album. The group jammed on songs like “Swordfish Hotkiss Night”, keeping the drums loud, wild, and futuristic by mixing up all sorts of instrumentation from the great beyond. Other tracks like “Delta Bay”, “Half Mast”, and “We Are the People” were all accompanied by a light and video show that would make any performer rethink the entire visual aspect of their show. Think Bowie, but on a rare combination of steroids, coke, and MDMA. To close off the amazing spectacle, the band thrashed out its single, “Walking on a Dream”, as the ecstasy-starched crowd went nuts to finish off a night they didn’t want to end. -Ted Maider

Gallery by Philip Cosores

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