Just because summer is drawing to an end doesn’t necessarily mean that adventures have to follow a similar fate. Enjoy the last few days of warm sunshine and carefree days with the annual Outside Lands Music and Arts festival, one of the Bay Area’s most iconic events. Set in the sprawling fields of San Francisco’s gorgeous Golden Gate Park, Outside Lands offers a chance to see, hear and taste local culture as well as indulge in performances from headliners the Shins, Muse and Arcade Fire.
Outside Lands 2011 continues with its traditional 3-day lineup, despite having scaled back last year due to changes in the economy. “We’ve felt like things were getting better in the industry…so we were able to take the chance at going with a bigger lineup,” says Rick Farman, one of the partners in festival co-promoter Superfly Presents. “Also, what you’re seeing is that Outside Lands is now becoming one of the premier festivals in the industry so we had the opportunity to attract some of the bigger talent.”
Besides the influential headliners, this year’s lineup also features up-and-coming acts such as Foster the People, Phantogram and Ellie Goulding yet while also including local favorites like the Limousines and the Stone Foxes.
“We try to build a diverse, but at the same time, complimentary lineup,” said Farman.
“We’re creating a broad appeal but also a thread where people can come out experience bands that they’d be interested in (but also) be exposed to new bands that they’ve never heard of.” The festival certainly succeeds in constructing diversity, as it showcases the best of each genre from remix-extraordinaire Girl Talk, folk rockers Wye Oak and chillwave leader Toro y Moi.
Though music is the main attraction, Outside Lands’ impressive array of local food vendors and wineries rightfully deserve a share of the limelight as well. With over 100 different wines and 50 local restaurants serving a wide variety of cuisines, concertgoers are free to eat and drink to their hearts’ content.
But all ups have their downs and despite all that the festival has to offer, transportation stands as the biggest issue. Getting in and out of the park has empirically proved to be a tough challenge. This year, however, festival coordinators have been working closely with the city to provide more efficient alternative means of transportation. MUNIs are running more frequently and now, there is the Esurance shuttle pass that carries passengers from Bill Graham Civic Auditorium directly to the park.
“We started with a concept of building an event that would be beyond just the music (and) really kind of an offering of the culture of a couple of key aspects of the Bay Area: wine, food and art,” said Farman. “And as we go forward, what we hope to develop and what we think we’re well on our way to is to make Outside Lands become the iconic event that represents those facets of San Francisco culture.”
— Cynthia Kang
Friday, August 12 officially kicks off the 2011 Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival. Held in the lush and spacious Golden Gate Park, the San Francisco festival will play party to over 50 bands with wine, food and a bevy of enthusiastic fans. Here are some upcoming highlights for the weekend’s musical festivities:
The last time Arcade Fire was in the Bay Area, they already felt like superstars. With two sold-out shows at Berkeley’s Greek Theater, they sent crowds soaring with their stadium-sized sound and explosive on-stage chemistry. Since then, they’ve only gotten bigger. This last February, they shocked everyone (including many confused audience members wondering who exactly they were) by winning the coveted Grammy for Album of the Year only to follow up their success the Brit Award for Album of the Year and the Juno Award for the same prize.
But, to those who are fans, these triumphs are hardly surprising. The Montreal-based septet (sometimes octet, sometimes more) has been gaining an ardent fan base since their impressive 2004 debut, Funeral. Blending the raw sounds of alternative rock with eclectic lyrics and sinister vocals from front man Win Butler, Arcade Fire has always produced the kind of anthemic music fit for large arenas. Now, with their headlining slot on the final evening of Outside Lands, they’ve finally found the venue to fit their larger-than-life sound.
— Jessica Pena
THE BLACK KEYS:
Like their fellow blues players, the White Stripes, the Black Keys sure do make a lot of noise for only two members. Formed by vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney in 2001, the Ohio-based band has achieved not only an avid fan following but a developed style of raw, garage rock. With six albums to their credit in less than ten years, the rock duo has displayed a knack for guitar-heavy blues perfectly tailored for an outdoors music festival bathed in booze.
With their latest album, Brothers, the Black Keys have continued to successfully fuse the rough guitar riffs of traditional rock blues with more contemporary effects and clever lyrics. It’s the loosest and most relaxed the band has sounded since their 2008 collaboration with DJ wunderkind Danger Mouse. Over the years, they’ve matured sonically, but don’t be worried. The Black Keys may be settled into their ways as champions of hybrid blues rock, but they’re as playful as ever and ready to take on the party atmosphere of Golden Gate Park.
— Jessica Pena
Some people would rather catch a few winks on Saturday than see Outside Lands’ opening acts. Yeah, that’s cool I suppose, except you’ll be missing out on the bass bruises and guitar gashes courtesy of LA’s Cosmic Suckerpunch. Formerly known as Ghost Robot, the SoCal quartet switch from dreary, reverb-rich chords to heavy, brutal riffs at breakneck speeds, kicking all sorts of ass across the musical cosmos.
The band has been compared to being the descendant of Pink Floyd, Radiohead and Led Zeppelin, which sounds like one hell of a lovechild. Suckerpunch have torn up the Bay Area before when they opened for Electric Six at the Independent in SF. They now return to NorCal shores, where Outside Lands attendees can expect to see the interstellar fighters romp and wail their way through Golden Gate Park with slow-bending strings and crashing drums. Although they have only released a five song EP, the quirky band have finished recording their debut album, Good Morning, bumping up their set-list up to a comfortable number. Suckerpunch are definitely worth losing some Z’s over, as their performance at the Panhandle stage is sure to be a hard-hitting way to open up the festival.
— Ian Birnam
Hopping across the pond for Outside Lands, Ellie Goulding is the sweetest female vocalist that you could ever hope to meet. This brown eyed and blonde darling of the pop genre has only released one album but Lights is instantly irresistible. It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly it is about Goulding that captures listeners’ hearts, as her music is not really what you’d call groundbreaking. But her unique voice (that can only be described as a beautiful dichotomy of breathy whispers and raw strength), combined with uplifting electropop backings, makes for tracks that you’ll be singing to yourself over and over again.
Lights is a stunning compilation of little gems, bursting at their pop seams. Yet despite their similar threads, Goulding’s debut flaunts her flexibility with a variety of styles. The dark “Under the Sheets” paints a kind of friends-with-benefits type of situation, but with eerie undertones. But “Every Time You Go” and “I’ll Hold My Breath” are so inherently sweet that you can’t help but smile at her heartfelt portrayals of first loves. Be sure to check out this British sweetheart’s set on Friday as her powerful anthems will send you swaying and singing along.
— Cynthia Kang
FOSTER THE PEOPLE:
Charming, dashing and damn good at what they do, newcomers Foster the People have been climbing up the charts since their recent debut. It’s hard not to see why, with their smooth blend of highly infectious beats and dazzling pop hooks makes every track on Torches an unforgettable hit.
Hailing from L.A., Foster the People consists of Mark Foster, Mark Pontius, Cubbie Fink. The trio started working together in 2009 and released their self-titled EP in the beginning of the year. The extremely short, 3-song album only gave fans a small taste of what the band has to offer but luckily their full-length, Torches, delivers a rich indulgence of everything that is catchy and easily pleasing.
Their studio sound becomes even more polished and aggrandized in a live performance. Foster the People’s unbridled energy translates to an unabashed and ultimately endearing showcase. With such handsome guys dancing around and flashing beaming smiles, you can’t help but be won over by their irresistable charm. Pounding rhythms and amplified guitar hooks are certainly memorable facets, but what you’ll end up remembering is their good-natured enthusiasm.
— Cynthia Kang
Girl Talk would have had a hard time applying to DJ school back in the day. He would have checked the most unflattering boxes: middle-aged white male, studies in some science, skin bleached to fluorescent translucency by the midnight light of his laptop. Overarching all this, the most vanilla of names: Gregg Michael Gillis. Yet seven studio albums and a couple of world tours later, it appears that Girl Talk’s habitat is not in an underground science fair, but in a sea of bikinis where it’s raining sweat.
At first listen, his music may sound like a mashup of top-40s drone — layers of “fuck dem hoes” and “ooh baby” upon a grinding bassline, and yes, his music consists completely of samples. But the way in which he manipulates pop music so that it all falls on the same rhythmic grid displays his genius: He lures us in with familiar licks, then weaves all those pop songs into megapop songs to show the triteness of the popular genre.
While Gillis is widely known for his legendary shows in intimate venues where the crowd is literally on top of him — his setup is in the middle of the dance floor, his first appearance at Outside Lands this year is definitely not to be missed, as only Gregg Gillis can turn a ten-thousand people crowd of nonchalant beer sippers into a raging house party where everybody is your best friend.
— Belinda Gu
In a music scene primarily dominated by synthesizers, house beats and electropop, it would seem like the traditional instruments of guitars and drums (the ones you bang with sticks, anyways) have been sidelined to the racks. If you happen to find yourself longing for some dirty blues or good ol’ fashion rock n’ roll, check out the Sutro stage on Saturday for a bitchin’ performance from San Francisco’s the Stone Foxes.
Winding down from their nation-wide summer tour, the trio of Shannon and Spence Koehler and Aaron Mort have been nailing notes and taking names through with their riffs, twangy melodies and the occasional face-melting harmonica breakdown. If their name sounds familiar, you may have recently heard their cover of “I’m A King Bee” on the new Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey Whiskey commercial. The vulpine rockers have been pounding away at their instruments since 2005 and haven’t let up with last year’s record, Bears & Bulls, and the recently released tracks “Psycho” and “Serious People.” Armed with some new tracks and their usual gritty Southern swagger, the Foxes’ bluesy onslaught is an act that shouldn’t be missed this weekend.
— Ian Birnam