!!! (chk chk chk)
This quirkily named dance-punk group from Sacramento held nothing back during their theatrical performance at the Twin Peaks stage on Sunday. Groove and chaos filled the air as there was nether a still body to be found in the wriggling crowd.
!!! (pronounced “chk chk chk” for those in the know) delivered everything you could have ever wanted from a live show — flashing lights, unceasing attack of pounding rhythms and most importantly, a flamboyant lead singer with no qualms about his antics. Though vocalist Nic Offer held back and launched a more restrained spectacle, he still basked in the limelight as he strutted from one edge of the stage to another. His shenanigans had no limits, from his impressive pelvic thrusts to interactions with the audience (he came down and gyrated with the crowd for a good ten minutes).
Each song effortlessly blended into next, with the help of a never-ending bass line. Surprisingly, !!! opted not to play their hit single “AM/FM” but made up for it by unleashing a frenzied Prince cover.
— Cynthia Kang
The Black Keys
There’s nothing quite like the stomach-filling and wallet-depleting sensation of eating tasty, over-priced concert food. At least on Saturday, Outside Lands attendees were able to eat dinner whilst grooving to the Black Keys. The Ohio duo rocked the main stage as the crowd scarfed their food down so that they could join in on the swampy, blues fun.
Opening up with 2003’s upbeat smash “Thickfreakness,” the Keys didn’t hold back on the distortion. With guitarist Dan Auerbach perfectly in synch with drummer Patrick Carney, the former’s simple guitar riffs turned into massive, heavy bombardments of the blues. Every song came with a full dose of fuzz and a rugged, soulful vibe. The Keys continued to kick out track after track with recent hits like “Tighten Up” and earlier works such as “10 A.M. Automatic.” The Keys managed to cram in a plethora of songs from their discography while occasionally switching it up with freestyle jams. As they closed with the explosive “I Got Mine,” the thriving applause and shouts affirmed the Keys as one of the festival’s most impressive dirty blues bands.
— Ian Birnam
With a name like Cosmic Suckerpunch, you’ve got to expect a hard-hitting — ouch, painful pun — show. The LA quartet played a kickass, interstellar set opening up Saturday at the Panhandle stage. Although the crowd was small at first, it quickly grew as their set progressed, as their galactic wails and screeching guitar continuously drew the audience in.
With one album under their belt, Suckerpunch was able to get through most of their debut record within their 40-minute time frame. The croons and screams of charismatic vocalist Ari Welkom was reminiscent of Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale, while the group’s overall sound had a space-age, hard rock feel to it. The show-stealer of the group though was lead guitarist Fabien Hameline. From a crazy, wah-wah-infused solo on “The Great Divide” to his slide guitar skills on “Good Morning,” Hameline never faltered as he fed off of the crowd’s energetic “whoo’s” and head bangs. Depite the sound occasionally cutting out, Suckerpunch gave an incredibly powerful performance, disproving any negative stereotypes about opening acts.
— Ian Birnam
I know what you are all thinking: how can Deadmau5 consistently be such a crowd-pleaser when it is just a skinny white dude wearing an oversized mouse head and punching away at a shiny Mac? Granted, most of his audiences are probably swimming in self-induced euphoria and may be biased judges of his performances but there is no denying that Joel Zimmerman puts on one heck of a show.
Sunday was no different as concertgoers flocked to the stage, ignoring the enticing chords of Arcade Fire blasting behind them. Listen to a Grammy award-winning power group or rage to pulsating house beats? For many, the choice was clear and thankfully, Deadmau5 did not disappoint. Shaking the ground with reverberating bass and lighting up the evening sky with his seizure-inducing light displays, Deadmau5 dropped his hit singles, ventured into dubstep, brought vocalist SOFI onto the stage and even attempted to breakdance — emphasis on attempt.
All in all, a Deadmau5 concert is still merely a guy playing with a laptop. But the beats that he create are instantly eargasmic. And if all else fails, you can always bask in the pretty lights.
— Cynthia Kang
During her set on Friday, the British pop singer faced a sea of starry-eyed fans — literally. Ellie Goulding brought presents, with her entourage emptying case after case of yellow star sunglasses into the audience. But she need not have bribed us with freebies (though they were definitely a plus) as her performance was unforgettably captivating all on its own. Girls wanted to be her, guys wanted to be with her and all were desperately wishing that her show would never end.
Ripping through favorites such as the sensual “Under the Sheets” and lovey-dovey “Every Time You Go,” Goulding was the epitome of unbridled energy. Her voice, ringing loud and clear, erased any doubt of her synthetic studio efforts. Clad in a bright red military jacket and tight, leather pants, she was a true performer at heart and her charm won over even the most apathetic person in the crowd. Granted, many filled up the Sutro stage with hopes of getting good spots for Big Boi’s performance but everyone found themselves swaying and singing along to the sweet croonings of Ellie Goulding.
— Cynthia Kang
The Joy Formidable
Despite the rampant fog and aggressive smoke haze, the Joy Formidable proved to be one of the brightest spots of Friday’s lineup. Perhaps it was the cloudy atmosphere that put them in their element because the Wales-based trio tore up the Sutro stage with their heavy rock rhythms and amplified attitude. Radiant in a vibrant red dress, lead singer and guitarist Ritzy Bryan bounded up and down the stage with a reckless command befitting the greatest of rock stars. Joined by her male chums, Rhydian Dafydd (bass) and Matt Thomas (drums), the Joy Formidable did their name justice.
They were violent. They were animated. Guitars were thrown and catty speech was exchanged as Bryan bantered with her fellow bandmates, “we’re not in a fucking funk band!” Damn straight, they’re not. They’re rock n’ roll epitomized with a sound that borders between raw punk and the more ethereal acoustics of alternative bands like Florence + the Machine. It’s an intoxicating combination and the crowd at Outside Lands seemed to agree as the audience left with awe-stricken faces.
— Jessica Pena
Booking one of the electronic scene’s most prominent artists for an afternoon time slot was a strange move on Outside Lands’ part. But despite not having the advantage of light shows, Major Lazer easily delivered a memorable performances. With warm sunlight basking over the park, it seemed that afternoon shows should be enjoyed on a blanket set down over the lawn. No, not for Major Lazer. Producers Diplo and Switch turned the crowd into a mass of failing limbs and general chaos.
Hype man Skerrit Bwoy was probably responsible for most of the bodily injuries experienced by the crowd. He constantly shout directions and, because everyone was in love with the reggae dancehall beats, we all obeyed. Bounce? Okay! Hand in the air? Sure! Shirts off? It took a few seconds of deliberation, but soon the audience was waving their clothes in the air.
Major Lazer ran through a varied setlist by remixing artists such as Chris Brown and Skrilex but dutifully pounding out hits like “Pon de Floor.” But no matter what they played, the crowd instantly ate it up and their unbridled energy further enhanced the already enticing beats of Major Lazer.
— Cynthia Kang
Does Muse’s performing ability really need to be questioned? From the grand stage theatrics to Matt Bellamy’s crooning falsetto, Muse’s headlining show on Saturday was nothing short of epic. Opening with the slow building “Uprising,” the funky distortion of “Supermassive Black Hole” and the intense bass thumping of “Hysteria,” the crowd was pumped to say the least.
The band are true performers, with laser lights, light-up instruments and giant confetti filled balloons dazzling the audience’s eyes, as their ears were pummeled with warped strings, air-tight drums and Bellamy’s extensive vocal range. Fans were treated to staple tracks like “Starlight” and “Time Is Running Out,” but also rare oldies such as “Citizen Erased.” The little fillers Muse played between songs — such as the “Star Spangled Banner” or the bridge riff of Rage Against the Machine’s “Township Rebellion” — provided some variety to Muse’s usual set list. Finishing with an encore of the classic “Plug In Baby” and a ghost-town cowboy intro to their grand finale “Knights of Cydonia,” Muse once again stole the show with another magnificent performance.
— Ian Birnam
The day was already beaming on Saturday, with the sun shining in full over the thousands of milling music-lovers. But, when the pop rockers OK Go stepped on stage, with their Crayola-colored coordinated suits (in yellow, red, blue and green), the day went from bright to brilliant. The LA-based quartet, probably most notable for their treadmill gymnastics in the music video for “Here It Goes Again,” brought a level of zest and zeal far surpassing the better-known headliners.
With the charisma of frontman Damian Kulash, who waltz into the crowd with his acoustic guitar and charming humor, OK Go wooed a heat-stricken audience with their catchy pop hits. Kulash rocked the wide-legged guitar stance as he and his mates doled out hit after hit with a potent dynamism. The only obstacle to OK Go’s onslaught of perky pop was some technical problems in the middle of their set. In an attempt to play a song with hand bells, the mics failed to pick up the sensitive croon of Kulash. But, despite minor hiccups, OK Go delivered a bombastic explosion of colorful tunes and personality befitting their dazzling attire.
— Jessica Pena
With groups like the Black Keys and the Stone Foxes, this year’s Outside Lands seemed to be booked with bands that brought equal parts funk and rock. But, no musical collective combines these genres with more panache and unadulterated vigor like the Roots. Formed in 1987, they’ve been at this whole live show business for awhile. But, they’ve never been stale or boring. Opening with a blustering torrent of keyboard, horns and Questlove’s stellar syncopation on drums, they brought the funk. The only thing missing was Questlove’s trademark fro.
But, despite the absence of the afro, the Roots are at their best live, reveling in an improvisational atmosphere of joyful jamming. The Philadelphia-based group delved out some of vintage numbers, like “The Seed” and “You Got Me,” but they also incorporated some covers of “Sweet Child of Mine” and “Bad to the Bone” that cemented their status as the chairmen of cool. The Roots may play live every night with their gig on Jimmy Fallon, but their jazzy riffs and hip-hop swagger can’t be contained by a studio. The Roots’ magnetic gusto requires a venue like the open fields of Outside Lands.
— Jessica Pena
The Stone Foxes
This is the tastiest treat a man could have besides ice cream!” exclaimed Shannon Koehler, drummer of the Stone Foxes, about the massive crowd at the Sutro stage on Saturday. The SF band played to one of their largest crowds yet this past weekend, and although they lacked ice cream, the Foxes seemed giddy as ever, giving one of the most killer performances at Outside Lands.
The explosive energy and refined musicianship shown by the Foxes could have easily rivaled that of some of the main acts. From the rompin’ tambourine sing-along “Stomp” to the busty blues riffage of “Psycho,” the Foxes’ fierce onslaught kept the crowd jumping and screaming for more. With the addition of their new fourth member Elliott Peltzman, the Foxes sounded as heavy as ever with Peltzman jamming away on the keys as he backed the ferocious, syncopated lines of guitarist Spence Koehler. The vulpine rockers closed out on a high note with an ecstatic rendition of “Mr. Hangman,” — complete with Shannon jumping into the crowd in between face-melting harmonica solos — as the band brought gritty rock n’ roll to new, foxy levels.
— Ian Birnam
James Mercer’s voice is the sonic equivalent of hot chocolate. It’s warm, smooth and above all, comforting and on a night as cold as last Friday, the melodic coziness was more than welcome as the Shins soothed the thousands of concert-goers with sweet serenades of their most-beloved hits. Even though the celebrated indie band have been somewhat out of the spotlight since their last album release in 2007, their on-stage exuberance and virtuosic performance was far from lackluster.
The Shins were in fine form, like the experienced veterans they are, playing classics like “New Slang” and “Girl Inform Me” as the crowd cooed along. It was like a welcome family reunion, where fans mouthed the lyrics to the soaring sounds of “Phantom Limb” and a guitar-heavy “Kissing the Lipless.” Mercer and the gang seemed to be equally excited as they amped up their sound for a resounding new number off their upcoming 2012 album. And, if the crowd’s enraptured reaction was any indicator, the long wait may be worth it. Outside Lands proved the Shins are still at their top of their game.
— Jessica Pena