Outside Lands Day Three 2012 Review

08/16/2012

As Outside Lands kicked off its third and final day of festivities, two things settled into Golden Gate Park, a slowly encroaching fog and a quickly growing crush of people. Normally, when these two things combine it sends me running quickly to a warm spot with a fireplace and fine glassware to serve my tea in, of course, while quite possibly being entertained by quaint British accents and the sound of cups clinking and laughter drifting in the air. Thankfully I ignored this fantastic alternate reality and stuck it out in the park.

My earliest start yet, I arrived just in time to catch the last few songs from fun., which is the perfect way to catch a set when only a few of their tunes are catchy in the not-so-annoying way. After I heard “We Are Young” and “Why Am I the One,” I exhausted the full range of their sound. It’s not a bad sound.  It clearly caught the audiences’ sense of youthful joie de vivre; their set often reminded me of a sing-along.

Franz Ferdinand followed and put on a decent, but forgettable series. They played some of my favorites, but the performance was comparable to playing the tunes on my laptop. Seriously distracted by navigating through the crowd, I was missing their physicality during a good portion of the set. But shouldn’t the music be a draw enough?

Whatever disappointment I had from Franz Ferdinand dissipated at the stunning performance by Regina Spektor. Minimalist onstage with a few accompanists and her piano, she was seemingly swallowed in that big black space. Yet every one of her songs was more riveting to me than the entirety of the preceding set. “All the Rowboats” in particular caused a wave of goosebumps to wash over my body (though the chill breeze passing by probably contributed). Before this weekend I would have claimed to be an equally big fan of Franz Ferdinand as Regina Spektor. Post-OSL, it’s undeniably Regina who wins that battle.

My biggest regret of the weekend was missing Jack White’s pop-up performance in the forest. Need I say more? It’s Jack White, in a forest, playing music. His wild energy and the sheer weight of his joy at playing music (a joy not always reflected in his expression) would have been sublime at close range.

In case you had not heard, Jack White is quite a showman. On the wide Lands End stage his band and crew were coordinated in blue and black attire with ties. The minute they began checking the equipment a tangible vibe sprung up in the audience. And his performance did not disappoint, ranging from hits and lesser known songs, while he himself roamed about the stage. At one point he sat at a piano, guitar strung across his back, still, only to pop up a song later and return to his guitar. The only time he was completely still was in front of the microphone, and even then his mouth was running miles.

The night ended with an interesting juxtaposition of Stevie Wonder and Skrillex at opposite ends of the park. Classic and classy, Stevie played through his book of hits from across the years and captivated the most massive crowd of people I’d seen yet. They extended across the main section of the park and beyond, singing along and dancing without a care in the world.

And then Skrillex dropped at the Twin Peaks stage. Though his crowd couldn’t compare in size to Stevie’s, it made up for it in urgent dancing and, when the occasion called, singing. Yes, singing at a Skrillex set! The maestro called out to his fans, demanding they throw up light up cell phones and lighters, thrusting them in the air. It was the most impressive visual of the night: a sea of people emerging from the dark.

Thanks’ again, Outsidelands! I look forward to seeing you next year.