The 2009 edition of the Outside Lands festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park took place this past weekend and our west coast contributor Joe B. was in attendance.
JB was nice enough to share his write=up from the weekend and I think he makes some very valid points on the ups and downs and gutters and strikes of the music festival experience.
Music festivals can be hard. Forget the outside venues with questionable acoustics. Forget the shortened sets that often lack the energy of a full show. Forget the hodgepodge of artists that attract a mixed crowd, and forget, in this particular case, San Francisco's inability to properly coordinate transportation for 80,000 to and from Golden Gate Park.
If you go to a music festival with a group of people who aren't interested in the exact same music as you, you'll likely leave feeling unfulfilled. Get a group of four or more people to head to a weekend festival and there's a 99% chance you're going to A) miss a lot of bands you wanted to see B) see a lot of bands you didn't want to see C) feel like you left too early or D) feel like you stayed too long.
All bitching aside, there were many high points to the second annual Outside Lands music Festival. From what I hear this year's fest was much better coordinated and controlled than last year's and despite the transportation issues there were plenty of the festival essentials -- vendors, toilets, volunteers, viewing areas, entrances/exits, and yes, cops. That said, if you find yourself feeling like you'll be let down by a weekend festival like Outside Lands your group is too big, here are some tips that helped me keep it fun:
1) Get into the VIP or Media area - Free booze and sun cover are the two greatest features of VIP. Let's face it, the acoustics suck at the main stage and if you weasel your way to the front, you're going to have to pee by the time you get up there, so might as well drink and hob nob a quarter mile from the stage. For the less savvy of you out there, here are some techniques I saw used at Outside Lands - have the smoothest talker or hottest chick schmooze his or her way in at VIP check-in and share the bracelet between up to 4 people. More than 4 gets a bit dicey. Refer to the schmoozer for ideas on how to share the bracelet. Or call your friend who works A&R at a music label or in marketing at the local sports or concert venue and have him put two in your name. When all else fails wait outside the exit closest to VIP and if you see someone leaving with their's on...grab them!
2) Plan at least one dinner and one non-concert related event - For us it was underground sushi and a day hike in Marin, but I'm sure you can come up with something awesome.
3) Enjoy your friends and don't stress about missing stuff - Got a favorite band that you've never seen before and you're gonna miss them because your friends are lagging? Rest assured that their set will suck and you'll be disappointed. You're better off catching them on their regular tour.
Now that we got the how to have fun part down, here's my review of the bands I did catch last weekend:
Pearl Jam: sucked. I normally love them, but Eddie's "I'm so tired from touring all over Europe" act was just that. We didn't all come to help him sing. My highlight was Crazy Mary, but it was a low light for the crowd which definitely took away from it. They are also an inside band.
Bat for Lashes: really good and another example of how the side stages are often the most fun at a fest.
Ween: pretty good. The crowd energy was amazing as usual and they sounded tight. Bananas and Blow and Roses are Free were early and great.
TV on the Radio: rocked.
Dave Matthews: Not bad. Let me re-phrase that. DMB is a really great outside summer band if that's what your in to and they lived up to their name. But why he drags that king of non-sequitur guitar solos named Tim Reynolds around with him I'll never understand. Also, did he really have to bring Fergie on stage?
The Dead Weather: pretty good, but Jack White is so f'ing pretentious. Hey Jack, why don't you just find an instrument you like to play and learn to play it really, really well like every other musician.
M.I.A: she shorted her time slot, was visibly angry about not being the headliner of the evening and at one point shouted
"We love you Southern California!" She's hot though. And a great dancer.
Band of Horses: - Surprisingly good and the side stage they were on possibly had the best acoustics of the entire place. They are only limited by their oeuvre...meaning I shouldn't have reconized all of the songs they played even though I don't own an album.
That's it! Out of 40+ bands I caught exactly 8 if you don't include the band dressed up as clowns that we watched in stunned silence for five minutes. $250 well spent. And I'm sure I'll be back for more next year!
Head over to Joe's blog to read this and the rest of his posts.
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