Thursday morning’s headline “Outside Lands is sold out” was apparent as fans packed Muni trains in droves for day one of the festival. Call it quirky, but one of my favorite moments each year at Outside Lands is walking through the tunnel from the Lincoln side of the park on to the Polo Fields (or Land’s End Stage). The rite of passage welcomes you to the festival’s largest stage with a big bass of “HELLO.” After reaching the tunnel’s end, it didn’t matter how many people were at Outside Lands, San Francisco’s biggest festival was underway.
Fitz and the Tantrums was jamming away on the Land’s End Stage when I finally got my bearings (beer in hand, crew around me and a spot from which to watch). In typical Outside Lands fashion (two years too late), Fitz and The Tantrums played through their highly acclaimed album Pickin’ Up the Pieces from 2010 with the crowd taking notice of singles “Moneygrabber” and “Don’t Gotta Work It Out.” Lead singer Michael Fitzpatrick’s voice was muffled amongst the organ keys, and soulfully booming voice of Noelle Scaggs.
Like any festival, attendees take on foreseen (and unforeseen) obstacles with strong legs to stand, smile and dance. While most of the city basked in the seventy degree sun, the Ocean Beach fog (tourist joke: “you call this the sunset?”) blanketed the park in what can only be described as–unsurprising. The remedy is dancing and walking, and so I moved on catch Tennis.
The setting was perfect for the husband and wife duo. The intimate Panhandle stage was boxed in by haystacks arranged like bleachers. Alaina Moore’s sweet and sultry voice radiated over the dreamy 50s rock acoustics on “My Better Self.” Their recent album, produced by Patrick Carney (The Black Keys) unfortunately wasn’t given as much attention as their debut, Cape Dory.
Around this time the after work crowds started filing in towards the Sutro Stage in anticipation for Of Monster of Men. To my surprise Of Monster of Men sound similar to The Decemberists with the added female vocals of Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir. Don’t get me wrong, The Decemberists are great (in their own way), but I don’t care to overindulge in their sound (in same way I couldn’t handle multiple Sarah McLaughlins). Apparently, I’m not alone as the crowd awaited the group’s hit single “Little Talks,” jumping around in crazed excitement upon hearing the first notes and quickly leaving upon its last.
Following suit, I grabbed a quick burger overlooking the choices of organic and local for simple and quick. With a belly full, I made the long trek towards the Twin Peaks stage ready to dance to MSTRKRT. Three years ago, I was blown away by MSTRKRFT’s performance at Treasure Island Music Festival. On Friday, my balloon of excitement popped. The dynamics were muffled, which made the energy non-existent. Listening to soft dance music is an oxymoron. Even the group’s famous single “Bounce” sounded flat.
My disappointment was quickly forgotten after immersing myself in Washed Out’s lo-fi synth pop. Erneste Green’s cough syrupy vocals sound tracked the night’s beginning, as the evening’s haziness settled in. Billowing cloud of smoke were illuminated by lights flashing in sync with the heavy bass thumps. The crowd swayed back in forth in what made for a highlight of day one.
Then it was time for the moment many fans eagerly awaited: Justice’s set. Backed by a wall of sound that would make Phil Spector blush, the French duo filled the night’s air with sawing synths and slamming bass. The sea of people moved liked waves crashing, as fans jumped up and down, hands waving in excitement. The fitting end of the night left everyone, including this reporter–drunk with excitement for day two.