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Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

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outside lands 2011 260x260 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011In the 1960s, San Francisco certainly seemed like the place to be. The hippie counterculture movement of that period, specifically in this city, is something that’s popular among historians, musicians, politicians, travelers, ramblers, and all in-between. And that’s not a surprise… it was a pretty radical time. Many people today often talk about wishing they could time travel to the ’60s to spend a day with Jerry Garcia and Janis Joplin. Maybe I’ve just been hanging around too many hippies lately.

Outside Lands marked its fourth year by showing that after all this time, San Francisco still remains one of the coolest cities on the planet. Hosted by Another Planet, a company known for having their fingers on the pulse of the Bay Area’s musical community, Outside Lands took all the elements of the Bay’s music culture and tossed them into the city’s most beautiful natural environment: Golden Gate Park. There was pretty much something for every Nor-Cal dweller to enjoy; from the jams of Phish to the electronic-dance of deadmau5 and the electro-dance-jams of bands like STS9 and Lotus. Not to mention indie rock icons like Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, and The Shins.

But Outside Lands also kept it local in terms of everything else, which is inspiring to see in a time when everything is done via internet, with people who might live thousands of miles away. Between the food trucks, local wine tasting, local musical acts (Stone Foxes anybody?), and aspiring artists who filled the park with their good vibes, Outside Lands was a festival that compacted all the artistic elements of the city into the polo fields at Golden Gate Park. It literally was a taste of the Bay Area.

sutro Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Ted Maider

And while they did encompass all the good things about the city, they also managed to showcase some of the downsides of it. For example, there was too much going on at once. Like any night you spend partying in the Bay, Friday involved a million conflicts, the worst being Vermont’s Phinest up against indie-rock legends The Shins. And Sunday contained another hard decision: deadmau5 or Arcade Fire? And there even managed to be rush hour traffic similar to that found on the Bay Bridge whenever you tried to get from the Lands End to the Twin Peaks stages. It was just utter chaos in that small, grassy section outside the trees.

But it didn’t matter, though, because in the end, everybody’s spirits were lifted. Everybody inside just cared about the good vibes, hearing some groovy jams, and enjoying the rare sunshine. In San Francisco, that’s just about all you can ask for.

-Ted Maider
Media Specialist

Friday, August 12th

The Joy Formidable – Sutro Stage – 1:10 p.m.

Blaring their noisy, little pop gems that are fast proving too big for tiny clubs around the world, Welsh trio The Joy Formidable continued their world domination with a stellar early afternoon set at the Sutro Stage. The band found themselves sudden stars, their foot-stomping rhythms and shout-along chorus of “Austere” proving especially effective as they drew the weekend’s first big crowd. -Möhammad Choudhery

Phantogram – Sutro Stage – 2:25 p.m.

phantogram3 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

The surprisingly large crowd that showed up for Phantogram received a treat: two brand-new songs from a forthcoming EP and…the duo of vocalist/keyboardist Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter on guitar/electronics just sounded good. Really good. Yet Sutro Stage and moments on other large stages weren’t exactly “sound,” but more on that later. Phantogram pulled heavily and at an efficient pace from its debut, Eyelid Movies. (“When I’m Small” and “Mouthful of Diamonds” got great reactions; “As Far as I Can See” live sounded like Portishead doing club bangers.) Barthel and Carter, joined by a live drummer here, debuted “Don’t Move”, which has a distinct shimmer similar to U2’s The Edge. New song “Sixteen Years” didn’t mess around with a pretty gloss, however. Carter plugged a straight Kevin Shields-type shoegaze solo in, showing that while most of the crowd gawked at the beautiful Barthel, she wasn’t, as Karen O put it, “bigger than the sound.” -Paul de Revere

Foster the People – Sutro Stage – 3:40 p.m.

fosterthepeople1 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Apparently, lots of people seem to enjoy Foster the People. This was evident by two things: 1) Their crowd was huge in the sense that you could not get close to the stage if you arrived “just in time” for the show and 2) People did not stop talking about their show all weekend. Foster the People have literally skyrocketed in fame this past summer and rightfully so. They don’t just write catchy songs like some of their electro-pop counterparts; they know how to play. Members switched up instruments constantly in a playful, yet talented fashion, while the crowd sang along to tracks like “Houdini”, the charming “Waste”, and mega-sensation “Pumped Up Kicks” (even though everybody left after that song). Foster the People’s Torches album certainly has put them in the spotlight. Let’s just hope they stay lit. -Ted Maider

Toro Y Moi – Twin Peaks Stage – 3:50 p.m.

For an artist with such lively, fresh beats, Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bundick is, as Bay Area bros would put it, “hella” subdued. But there’s still something imposing about Bundick’s sounds. The Stevie Wonder-like monosynth tone of opener “New Beat”, possibly Bundick’s best song to date, filled the large Twin Peaks Stage like it was gaseous. And the vamp only one minute into the song? Forget it. It was full. Toro’s sound filled up the space exactly as much as it needed to. Screw “chillwave,” this is ambient funk. To paraphrase old-school rapper 4-Ever Fresh, “Creating funk music ‘cause I never dug chillwave.” Indeed. -Paul de Revere

MGMT – Lands End Stage – 4:35 p.m.

mgmt5 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

As the initial racket over how very antagonistic and unfriendly Congratulations was dissipates, people finally seem to be coming around to the record. Not that MGMT mind how long it took. In what more than a few in the crowd interpreted as arrogance (but was probably a bit closer to a “told you so”), MGMT blasted through a stellar sub-headlining set with their usual sort of understated awesomeness. Even as many in the crowd sounded legitimately disappointed at the lack of props, onstage antics, and the conspicuous absence of the band’s megahit “Kids” from the setlist, MGMT simply did what they do best. Andrew VanWyngarden cut surprisingly close to a young Mick Jagger as he howled his way through the band’s neo-psychedelic gem “Weekend Wars”, while James Richardson played guitar hero for a couple minutes, finger-tapping his way through a stellar solo at the end of “The Handshake”. Extra points for the dreamy little jam at the start of “I Found a Whistle”. -Möhammad Choudhery

Ellie Goulding – Sutro Stage – 5:00 p.m.

One of at least three victims (all female) to vocal issues due to the San Francisco’s seasonably cold August, Ellie Goulding hung in there for her set like a champ. She hit some of her vocals tremendously well, holding back a bit of her soaring vocals, of which there’s much in her light, airy, feminine dance-pop. Some of her vocals weren’t ideal. And it was her last U.S. date on her first earnest U.S. tour. But no matter, because it was ladies night (er, late afternoon) at Sutro Stage. The crowd’s female-to-male gender makeup was approximately 5-to-1, and Goulding dressed for it, looking amazing in her bright red coat (she is British, but somehow I don’t think she’s politically in the tank for King George) and heels. -Paul de Revere

Phish – Lands End Stage – 6:30 p.m.

phish5 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

A giant billboard appeared on the monitors shortly after MGMT left stating, “Phish 6:30-10:30.” To some, this was a sign to turn around and head as far away as possible, but to others, it was a glorious declaration. After Furthur headlined Outside Lands last year, it made total sense for the Vermont quartet to take the reigns this year.  And Phish festival sets…well, they’re a different breed.

See, Phish plays nothing but solo shows throughout the country. It’s never Phish on tour with MGMT or Foster the People or The Shins for that matter. It’s just Phish. The band has played two big rock festivals since their reunion (Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits), and both times they played shows that were not necessarily geared towards their core fan base but rather baiting newcomers. At Outside Lands, plenty of people in the crowd had never seen Phish nor necessarily listened to them, so what happened for the next three hours with tens of thousands of people was a sensation you can only experience in this setting.

phish4 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Phish arrived with “Kill Devil Falls” and continued to amp the pace for the entire first 90-minute set. The band cut deep with pieces meant to get people moving such as “Wilson”, “Funky Bitch”, “Possum”, the exhilarating “Axilla I”, and a rendition of “Sample in a Jar” that was one of the best versions of the past year or so. After delivering a sonic punch of a first set, Phish left the crowd for 40 minutes as everyone tried to cram in even further. The next set involved more spacey jams like “Piper” and “Fluffhead”, including a showy new track titled “Steam”. But that didn’t stop them from continuing to crank out gold: a cover of “Life on Mars?”,  the now-rare “Birds of a Feather”, and a “Tweezer Reprise” that made Bassnectar’s bass sound like complete shit. It was the perfect way for Phish to play Golden Gate Park.

Basically, what I’m trying to say here is, you haven’t lived until you’re in a 30,000+ Phish crowd, sweating, dancing, singing, and jammed up against the barricade. -Ted Maider

Big Boi – Sutro Stage – 7:00 p.m.

Ah, the set that never was. Big Boi did not, in fact, end up performing on Sutro Stage after having his set pushed back 40 minutes (a fairly last-minute announcement by the festival), leaving the audience, much of which slowly peeled away, hanging for another 30 minutes. Instead, Dave Chappelle, who had a stand-up gig in South Bay that weekend and is a known lover of San Francisco, came out and riffed for about five minutes. ”A lot of black youth never get to go to a concert where there’s beach balls,” Chappelle said.

With great resistance from the wind, the crowd passed one Chappelle’s way. And with seemingly great glee, Chappelle kicked the ball back into the crowd. It almost made up for the fact that Big Boi would end up not performing at all.

According to Big Boi’s Twitter, his DJ went to the wrong stage (apparently taking a fair amount of time getting to the right one). Big Boi continued on Twitter, saying festival staff would only give him 20 minutes to perform because of the delays, which he judged as not worth it. “I will NOT do a half-ass show,” he tweeted. “Tried to go on after Badu. Not possible. Sorry.”

Big Boi cited “artistic integrity” in the matter. -Paul de Revere

Best Coast – Panhandle Stage – 7:50 p.m.

No joke: Best Coast‘s Bethany Cosentino rivals Neko Case, a singer-songwriter nearly twice her age, in withering stage banter. In response to a random audience question between songs: “On a scale of 1-10, how much do you love rock ‘n’ roll?’” Cosentino answered back, “Negative zero.” Ouch.

To be fair, Cosentino talked as well as rocked. She had to save her voice, too, which held up well. And guitar-wise, it sounded better than ever in terms of her live sound, which stayed true to Crazy for You’s analog studio drone, no doubt using the remainder of the Panhandle Stage’s solar power for her and guitarist Bobb Bruno’s amps. There was the one-two step of slow dance numbers “I Want You” and “Our Deal”. “Bratty B” and “Honey” drew sweet coos from Cosentino, where charm actually snaked its way into her repertoire.

“This is our last song,” she said before launching into “Each and Every Day”. “After this, we’re gonna watch Phish.” Deadpan. “Just kidding. I don’t even know what Phish sounds like.” -Paul de Revere

The Shins – Twin Peaks Stage – 8:40 p.m.

shins1 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Though they haven’t played a proper show in four years, haven’t put out any new material since 2007, and James Mercer is their only remaining original member, The Shins still warranted a headlining slot way across the park from Phish’s three-hour jam extravaganza. Mercer’s placid voice and The Shins’ calm, serene back-catalog were a perfect fit for the breezy, starlit evening, taking the reported crowd of 40,000 on a nostalgic trip back to cardigans, high school, and otherwise related sweet, sensitive times. Rather than devolving into a greatest hits affair, Mercer sounded as fresh as ever, indeed infusing his tracks (which, at their oldest, are now a decade past) with the energy of his work with Danger Mouse in Broken Bells. Classics such as “Caring Is Creepy”, “Australia”, and “New Slang” were delivered in pitch-perfect fashion, as was the new track — reportedly titled “For a Fool” — that the band debuted. So, uh…how about that new album? -Möhammad Choudhery

Saturday, August 13th

The Stone Foxes – Sutro Stage – 1:25 p.m.

stone foxes4 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Ted Maider

As stated, Outside Lands always showcases local talent, so they booked some of San Francisco’s hottest, homegrown acts. The Stone Foxes were one of the coolest bands of the entire weekend, not just because they lived up the street, but because they brought the rock. The blues-based quartet rocked super hard, thrashing about on stage like raccoons with broken necks to tunes with names like “Psycho” and “Stomp”. It was a call to go wild. Hook, line, and sink… they made me a fan. -Ted Maider

The Vaccines – Twin Peaks Stage – 2:00 p.m.

vaccines5 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

The UK’s very latest guitar-buzz band is actually pretty good. Who would’ve guessed? Armed with a handful of late-night TV performances, a solid debut record, and the huge sort of performance they put on Saturday afternoon at the Twin Peaks stage, the quartet don’t look like they’ll flounder anytime soon. Blasting through highlights off of their debut, this year’s What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?, The Vaccines peaked with an uproarious cover of Minor Threat’s hardcore classic “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White”. -Möhammad Choudhery

Paul F. Tompkins, Moshe Kasher – The Barbary Tent – 3:00 p.m.

Why perform comedy under a tent? Mr. Show alum Paul F. Tompkins isn’t sure why (“We have structures!” Tompkins protested), but, boy, the dapper gentleman sure dressed for the Barbary Tent’s grand occasion. It worked for Tompkins, but Tompkins’ hilariously offensive opener, L.A. comedian Moshe Kasher, just had to keep swearing he wasn’t gay.

Kasher’s story about witnessing a woman in an airport using Fritos to scoop the filling out of a king-sized Snickers ice cream bar is borderline surreal in its gross-out factor. Tompkins kept to his standard 10 minutes of riffing and then a structured story, mostly talking about his pre-comedy career odd jobs and his days at the Largo nightclub in L.A., striking up a creative relationship with director Paul Thomas Anderson and, subsequently, reading through Magnolia seated next to Tom Cruise, a punchline in his own right. It was a regular circus. -Paul de Revere

STRFKR- Twin Peaks Stage – 3:40 p.m.

strfkr2 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Ted Maider

Portland synth-poppers STRFKR couldn’t contain their excitement at the start of the biggest show of their young career, busting out their camera phones to capture the reported crowd of 15,000. With two records worth of tunes that are at turns emotive and very, very danceable, STRFKR turned in what was easily the breakout performance of the weekend. Touring guitarist Patrick Morris’s overdriven lead guitar lines stole the show on tracks like the hook-filled “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second” and “German Love”, while Josh Hodges’ hushed vocals lent the songs a nice, breezy touch. A bouncy, tripped-out cover of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was capped off by the raucous “Go Crazy”. At which point, of course, everyone did. -Möhammad Choudhery

Vetiver – Sutro Stage – 4:15 p.m.

vetiver3 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Maybe it was because Vetiver was going up against Arctic Monkeys or even because of the band’s local residency, but Vetiver’s set was not well-attended. It was all well and good, as it gave the Sutro Stage’s isolated blanket liers, dancers, and the like more room to relax, which was at a premium on the festival grounds. Vetiver’s textured, mellow folk-rock mostly put a relaxed, spa feel to everything… if the spa had pot-scented everything. A cover from The Grateful Dead (“Don’t Ease Me In”) picked up the energy a bit and Michael Hurley’s “Be Kind to Me” was a nice, simple song to change up the sonic drawl of songs like “Can’t You Tell” off Vetiver’s latest, The Errant Charm. -Paul de Revere

Arctic Monkeys – Lands End Stage – 4:45 p.m.

arcticmonkeys5 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Arctic Monkeys really have harnessed the modern indie sound. You can always tell when it’s them and their high-octane brand of rock. The British crew arrived on the scene playing cuts like “Brainstorm”, a track that is enough to turn the crowd into a boiling pot of water. People sluggishly sang along while glancing at their iPhones to tracks like “Brick by Brick”, but it was during moments like “I Bet That You’d Look Good on the Dancefloor”, “Fluorescent Adolescent”, and “The View From the Afternoon” that people began to bring out the party. Overall, it made for a good afternoon set, but it seems like a waste that they didn’t play “Fake Tales of San Francisco”. Oh well. -Ted Maider

Ximena Sari̱ana РBarcade Tent Р5:30 p.m.

ximenasarinana1 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

It’s worth emphasizing this much smaller, more intimate set of Ximena Sariñana’s in the festival’s Barcade Tent, a welcome break from the vast atmospheres of even the festival’s smaller stages. Sariñana performed mostly for die hards and Spanish-language fans, with at least half of her set sung in Spanish. “Wrong Miracle” and “Bring Me Down” were an English language stand outs, conjuring the semi-formal, sweet and quirky songwriting of Regina Spektor. The jazzy torch song “Mediocre”, which Sariñana said would probably “shred” her remaining voice (again), was an incredible peak to end the set. She left it all out on the field and her fans were left wanting more, chanting “Otra! Otra!” -Paul de Revere

Eskmo – Panhandle Stage – 6:05 p.m.

In what was likely one of the best-sounding sets at Outside Lands, San Francisco-based electronica producer Brendan Angelides, aka Ninja Tune Records artist Eskmo, absolutely tore apart the Panhandle Stage with few there to notice. It hardly mattered. Eskmo was too busy recreating his own production: ripping pieces of paper against a microphone and using various wood blocks and a frying pan among other items. Angelides also created his own vocals and vocal loops live on stage. You can’t say that for, you know, 99% of electronica producers. If Four Tet and Squarepusher had a club-banger collaboration project that defied you to dance, it might sound like Eskmo. Truly one of the best sets of the weekend. -Paul de Revere

The Black Keys – Lands End Stage – 6:15 p.m.

blackkeys5 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

In the four years since the White Stripes forfeited their seat as the blues’ ambassador to indie rock, The Black Keys have seen a huge ascent that culminated in Brothers’ smashing success last year. Here, sub-headlining at Outside Lands’ main stage, the duo proved to be every bit the monolithic force they’re reputed to be, as they tore through renditions of their golden oldies “Thickfreakness” and “Busted” before inviting a couple other band members to play through highlights off of their latest record, including “Tighten Up”, “Howlin’ for You”, and “Next Girl”. The duo closed things out with the one-two punch of Attack & Release’s “Strange Times” and their very own blues epic, “I Got Mine”. -Möhammad Choudhery

The Roots – Twin Peaks Stage – 6:50 p.m.

roots3 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Everybody likes a show from The Roots. I mean, Jimmy Fallon picked them to be his house band for a reason. The Roots kicked back with their brand of funk-rap, and so did the San Francisco crowd. As the sun set behind everybody, people danced, climbed trees to get a better view, and enjoyed tracks like a sped up version of “The Seed 2.0” and the oft-covered “Jungle Boogie”. Seeing everyone in such high spirits certainly indicated that the Roots were there for the right reason: to spread the good vibes. -Ted Maider

Muse – Land’s End Stage – 8:10 p.m.

muse2 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

How’s this for an opening trifecta? “Uprising”, “Supermassive Black Hole” into a Jimi Henrix-style “Star-Spangled Banner” in full view of a United States full-sized stars and stripes flapping in the cool breeze, and then “Hysteria”. Perhaps the interlude paired with “Hysteria” makes an implicit comment about the state of U.S. politics. Perhaps. But wait, what about Muse’s home country? Things are literally on fire there.

Well, Muse didn’t say a word, curiously. Though, the band’s cover of “Negative Creep” (yes, the Nirvana song) could’ve been a nod to a violent rioter’s state of mind. Nonetheless, “Negative Creep” isn’t very epic, and that’s what this show was for the most part.

muse3 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

But, really, Muse is epic in a totally different way. Muse is theatrical not like U2 but like actual theater. “United States of Eurasia” is basically the disembodied finale reprise of a musical. A really, really big rock musical, one akin to 80’s progressive rock band Queensryche… or Rush. A riff or two of “House of the Rising Sun” into “Time Is Running Out”? Come on, how is this even Britpop anymore, except that it’s from Britain?

Yes, Muse fans, you like what is essentially a progressive rock band. This band’s ambitions don’t just reach into politics (which singer/instrumental genius Matt Bellamy spoke not one word about), they reach for the stars, they reach for fantastical heights. This band wants to grab starlight in its collective hand and throw it onto a stage for its fans’ viewing pleasure. And the band’s lasers are cooler than Coldplay’s, anyway. Just sayin’. -Paul de Revere

Girl Talk – Twin Peaks Stage – 8:40 p.m.

You can try to prep yourself for a Girl Talk performance with what seems to be everyone’s simple description: a guy puts a 90-minute dance/electro set together on the fly by meshing together a ridiculous assortment of samples from nearly every genre imaginable. What you can’t quite prepare yourself for is how well said meshing is done. Or how perfectly it all comes together, for that matter. Kicking things off with the ominous opening riff to the Sabbath classic “War Pigs”, Girl Talk mashed together everything from 80’s radio hits to rap acapellas to Neptunes beats to create a sort of otherworldly dance music. The best part: a confetti-burst finale set to the solo from “November Rain”. -Möhammad Choudhery

Sunday, August 14th

tUnE-yArDs – Sutro Stage – 1:15 p.m.

tuneyard3 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

tUnE-yArDs, that’s one-woman band Merrill Garbus in particular, is so talented, it’s not even funny. So, why was she forced to play so early in the day? Perhaps because Garbus, an Oakland native, just had to cross the Bay Bridge to get to work. Who knows? Regardless, Garbus punched in early, and delivered one of the best sets of the weekend. Her performance on songs like “Powa” (for which the crowd stayed quiet during its long buildup), “Bizness” (the crowd followed Garbus’ instructions to limber up before dancing), and “Gangsta” (the crowd obliged with the song’s ritual fist-raising) speak for themselves. “I think this is the biggest crowd we’ve ever had at a festival,” Garbus stated. Yeah, that’s because you’re easily one of the best acts of the festival. -Paul de Revere

Junip – Twin Peaks Stage – 1:30 p.m.

junip2 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Led by folksinger José González (already with a successful solo career to his name), Swedish quartet Junip broke it down at the Twin Peaks stage while most of Outside Lands seemed to be racing down to Golden Gate Park’s other end for tUnE-yArDs. Though a bit more steeped in electronica than González’s solo work, Junip’s set mostly played like a fuller take on his own, spacious sound, as on the expansive “Without You”. -Möhammad Choudhery

Mavis Staples – Land’s End Stage – 1:45 p.m.

To be blessed by Miss Mavis Staples is a beautiful thing. It’s a passing of the torch, if you will. Colin Meloy of The Decemberists got the endorsement at Newport Folk Festival and so did Win Butler during Staples’ set at the Land’s End Stage, the festival’s largest. In a beautiful rendition of The Band’s “The Weight”, Butler took the fourth “Crazy Chester” verse of the famed song to huge screams. Otherwise, Butler demurred toward rhythm guitar. After he left, other Staples classics rolled out, including the Staples Singers’ “I’ll Take You There” (“The Staples Singers have been takin’ y’all there for 61 years… Now we want you to take US there,” Miss Mavis said) and gospel standards like “Wade in the Water”. Staples, at over 70 years old, still has it and had the best voice, gutbucket soul and all, of the festival. -Paul de Revere

Grouplove – Panhandle Solar – 2:20 p.m.

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Photo by Debi Del Grande

With an opening tour with Florence + the Machine and a highly regarded EP under their belt, Grouplove seem poised for a big break. Christian Zucconi led the LA-based five-piece through a set of rootsy folk-pop that leaned heavily on their acclaimed self-titled EP, while offering a peek at their forthcoming full-length, Never Trust a Happy Song, in the lilting harmonies of “Lovely Cup”. -Möhammad Choudhery

Latyrx ft. Lyrics Born and Lateef – Sutro Stage – 2:30 p.m.

latyrx5 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Ted Maider

Latyrx had a big band to organize on stage, but the band was assembled on time by 2:30 p.m.. Ten minutes later, Lyrics Born and Lateef took the stage and began to rap. Their flows were totally on point, and their antics were appreciated by the crowd, as they gave shout-outs to towns in the Bay like Vallejo, San Jose, Emeryville, and of course, San Francisco and Oakland. Meanwhile, a majority of the backing band just stood there, while the two rappers stole the show. They should have just hired a DJ, and nobody would have batted an eye. -Ted Maider

!!! – Twin Peaks Stage – 3:05 p.m.

4 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Ted Maider

So, if LCD Soundsystem is retired and James Murphy stops performing, does that mean !!! inherits the live-disco DFA sound? Because it sure sounds like it. Like LCD, !!! use no computers of any kind (none that I saw, anyway) to create its disco jams. !!! lead singer Nic Offer is younger and less sedate than Murphy, jumping his silly ass around everywhere as a frontman. But similar to Murphy, he leans toward a bandleader role, indulging in an extended series of James Brown-style “hit me”’s. “Two times!! Three times!!!” And the band’s sonic textures make for interesting listening and great dancing: a rare combination. -Paul de Revere

Major Lazer – Twin Peaks Stage – 4:40 p.m.

Asses shaking everywhere on stage after cute girls get brought up, serious towel-swinging hype men, silly string sprayed everywhere, and a field of people helicoptering their shirts: This is a Major Lazer show. You might expect it on the beach or somewhere with warm weather or indoors in a club. Would you expect anything else? But the setting of Pacific Northwestern redwoods, pines, and oaks swaying in a chilly breeze with Major Lazer’s music? Well, that’s just incongruous as hell. And fun as hell.

The list of drops is too many to count, much less list. Major Lazer debuted a new, untitled song (with a martial snare riddim and clipped robot-rock vocals), two big dubstep drops that actually got the white folks really into it, a mash up of “6 Foot 7 Foot” by Lil’ Wayne with the Jamaican traditional “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)”, sung by Harry Belafonte, and a drop of “Jump Up” that shook the earth of Golden Gate Park when Diplo instructed everyone to pogo. Louder sound and better subs on the Twin Peaks Stage would’ve really put this over the top but it was insane fun regardless. -Paul de Revere

Wye Oak – Panhandle Stage – 5:30 p.m.

One of the most confident young bands in indie rock today, Wye Oak took to the Panhandle Stage with poise, having already performed earlier on Sunday. To a warm, setting sun, Jenn Wasner’s guitar growled and howled like a well-trained bear the way a trainer wields it. Wasner may be one of the best guitarists in indie today, as she may have already gained a Thurston Moore/Neil Young-like confidence in her guitar sound after only three Wye Oak records in five years. Andy Stack’s double-duty as drummer and keyboardist provides the ground on which Wasner’s trained animal can roam, providing so much bottom end. For a duo, Wye Oak make a lot of noise like Young or Sonic Youth but can be tender like Yo La Tengo. Their set’s second song “Holy, Holy”, off its Merge Records-released Civilian, was a perfect example. Wasner braved the chilly wind hurting her hands to bust out wash after wash of guitar. If Sunday was good for any kind of performer, it was good for scrappy, determined bands like Wye Oak. -Paul de Revere

STS9 – Twin Peaks Stage – 6:15 p.m.

sound tribe3 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Ted Maider

Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9) was exactly what a festival in the Bay Area needed, a band that combines elements of jamming with electronic music, although their blend was more hip-hop-based. Girls climbed on boyfriends’ shoulders and were still rocking harder than most people on the ground. People waved everything in the air, ranging from giraffe heads to inflatable chimps, all to emphasize their joy, excitement, and the fact they could feel the groove. Dancing refused to subside as STS9 ripped their many synthesizers, bongos, and bass heavy grooves. It was easily one of the most surprising sets of the weekend. -Ted Maider

The Decemberists – Lands End Stage – 6:15 p.m.

decemberists7 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

Following up a great performance by legend John Fogerty, The Decemberists were in high spirits late Sunday afternoon, playing a set heavy on songs from the old-timey The King Is Dead. Frontman and indie-folk’s poet laureate Colin Meloy cut a charming figure, as he worked his way through his own wordy lyrics and clever between-song banter, even offering up the band’s “The Soldiering Life” as camel-fighting music. (It worked. No less than three camelfights broke out in the crowd.) And who knew “The Mariner’s Revenge Song”, that weird nine-minute sea-shanty off of Picaresque, could be such a huge, crowd-pleasing festival set closer? -Möhammad Choudhery

Deadmau5 – Twin Peaks Stage – 8:00 p.m.

deadmau53 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Ted Maider

“I’m with deadmau5! And where you at, hater?” –Haley Morenstein

It’s clear that Joel Zimmerman, aka deadmau5, is appreciative of his fans. Just “Like” him on Facebook to find out. But everybody at Outside Lands was able to see it in person. deadmau5 and his cube of glory graced us with their presence 15 minutes ahead of schedule, and with the sun setting just in front of him, no less. That didn’t stop the one-man wonder from turning the crowd upside down. To kick things off, the celebrated DJ delivered newer cuts like “Bad Selection” and a rendition of “Some Chords” that caused the temperature in the crowd to raise to at least 10 degrees. But he also brought it back, playing the most hypnotic (and perfectly timed) version of “Arguru” and teasing with “Sometimes Things Get, Whatever”. People did not stop moving, though, and they continued to shove through the crowd to try and get closer. Their attempts were made more difficult when “SOFI Needs a Ladder” (complete with SOFI) and a new mix of “Ghosts N’ Stuff” came out of the speakers. People may knock on him as an artist in the blog world, but he can put on one hell of a show. Where you at, hater? -Ted Maider

Arcade Fire – Lands End Stage – 8:10 p.m.

arcadefire5 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

If nothing else, Arcade Fire winning last year’s Grammy for Album of the Year cemented their place as indie rock’s first graduate to stadium rock supremacy. Between headlining every festival in the book over the past year and earning the egotistical rep that comes with their new stature, Arcade Fire have grown rather nicely into themselves. Closing Outside Lands out across the fields from deadmau5’s electro-party, they put on a dance party of their own. Even though they work the same stage setup and Spike Jonze-directed film clips and rock the same setlist as they have this whole tour, nothing felt remotely canned as the musicians switched parts, beat at their instruments, and howled into their mics with a fervor more akin to a circus troupe than a band of Canadian arena-rockers.

arcadefire6 Festival Review: CoS at Outside Lands 2011

Photo by Debi Del Grande

At points on The Suburbs, such as the molten “Month of May”, it’s a bit hard to sell. Live, though, the band chug right through it, very at home in the heavy riffage before breaking into a spirited rendition of “Rebellion (Lies)”. The crowd was on their toes, dancing along and singing every line throughout the night. The band soon took their bows and left the stage, returning with their unforgettable symphonic anthem, “Wake Up”. For all I’d built it up to be, I couldn’t have possibly braced myself for that transcendental moment when all 30,000+ in attendance burst into the same wordless yell at the top of our collective lungs. Chills, man. Chills. -Möhammad Choudhery

The Culture of Outside Lands

Gallery by Ted Maider and Debi Del Grande

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