I could have never anticipated that while listening to NIN play “Closer,” curiously trying to gauge the crowd’s excitement, I’d look straight into the eyes of a random girl as she sang “I want to fuck you like an animal.” Well it happened–and I’m writing about it because in addition to saying “I saw Paul McCartney,” I can now say I saw NIN and a girl sang to me “I want to fuck you like an animal.” Drops the keyboard and walks away…
Outside Lands always seems to attract musicians five years or more from their pinnacle, and NIN and Jurassic 5 are no exception. Typically, this trip down Nostalgia Lane is short for me, but with the aforementioned performances, it was a pleasant surprise. From “Quality Control” to “Concrete Schoolyard,” I had forgotten how many underground hits Jurassic 5 had. Each track was flawlessly performed, avoiding the sometimes-pitfall of larger hip hop groups that vie for vocal recognition (not sure what that means?). Similarly, while I was never an avid NIN fan, I was quickly taken back to my days as an angsty teenager staring blankly while the world failed to understand the ‘complex’ troubles from all my ‘responsibilities.’ Live, Reznor is clearly a perfectionist. He didn’t fill songs with banter. He played intently, eyes closed with a sneer sometimes crossing his face as he finished singing progressions (as though unknowingly expressing “yes, I just fucking killed that line”).
Earlier in the day, lead singer Edward Droste of Grizzly Bear teasingly exclaimed, “You guys have the bourgeois-est food I’ve ever seen at a festival!” It’s true; from Rich Table serving lightly fried whole sardines and calling them ‘sardine chips,’ to Del Popol’s brick oven pizza truck–there’s no other festival that can rival Outside Lands’ delectable options. Sandwiched between the two main stages in the jungle of eucalyptus trees, The Whole Beast chef, John Fink, was running ‘Outside Lambs.’ Next to industrial-sized roasting pits, spectators could watch whole lambs chopped into pieces before being integrated into one of three different stations. If you didn’t want a Spanish lamb paella, you could opt for a Vietname lamb bahn mi, a French Canadian lamb poutine, or Greek lamb gyro. This won’t be last you’ll hear someone say this: we like to taste the rainbow in San Francisco.
Other notable performances were Chromatic, whose time slot and smooth/soothing (not sure which you were going for) synth sound was reminiscent of last year’s performance by Washed Out; and Gary Clark Jr. who captivatingly played thirty minutes of rock that swayed from blues to Americana.
For a brief moment, the sun peaked out on Day Three at Outside Lands Music Festival–and that was it. The chilliest day yet was blanketed by a misty fog and gentle breeze that made jackets a necessity from the gate. Worn from the previous two days, many festival goers, including yours truly, seemed a little haggard, which in turned made those drugged, jubilant teens bouncing between the Heineken tent, A-Traks and Kaskade stand out all the more. But even half awake, A-Trak’s set packed enough energy and showmanship (even just sonically) that dancing (or even just foot tapping) was irresistible. The youngest DMC tournament winner showcased his scratching skills during breaks in the heavy beats, but never got too caught up to forget that most people just wanted to shake their ass.
It was Hall & Oats that brought me back. I wasn’t the only one. The crowd filled most of the field leading up to the Lands End Stage that played host to another legendary group. Playing through tracks like “Rich Girl, “Can’t Go For That” and so many more, I couldn’t help but get excited. And while the critic in me must feels compelled to say they couldn’t hit the higher notes, the fan can help but gush a little because let’s be real–this was Hall & fuckin’ Oats.
-Photographs by Darryl Kirchner