This Monday Morning Music will be a bit different as last Friday my brilliant friend Grant asked me to accompany him to Outside Lands, San Francisco’s premier annual music festival. I always wanted to go, but we had never been able to swing it. What a nice surprise to get the invite!
Here is a quick recap of our day with some music from the great bands I had the opportunity to savor.
Once there, I felt like we were entering some kind of traveling Westeros festival. Throughout the day, I was completely surprised by the diverse amount of events, art, bands, shops, food sellers and weird advertising stunts. Not to mention my favorite Lord Commander making an appearance...
“There were wonders for sale, and marvels, and miracles; there were things undreamed-of and objects unimagined … a wild place of puppet shows, of jugglers, of dancing animals, of horses for auction and all kinds of things for sale or barter” —Neil Gaiman, Stardust
While drinking our first refreshment, we were lured off to examine the StubHub tent from which there was a vaguely familiar indie pop-band. We peeked through a crack in the tent wall and were able to see The Drums giving a fairly intimate performance to a hopping crowd of listeners.
Then we headed to one of the smaller stages to see the Grant-recommended Speedy Ortiz. Of all the bands we saw on Friday, Speedy Ortiz reminded me most of what I had been listening to in college. And that's a good thing. Loud and crashing with nicely placed guitar squeals overlaid pretty vocals. I told Grant they reminded me of early Liz Phair mixed with Lois. He told me he thought they sounded like a combination of Heavenly and Helium. After which we agreed that we were kind of describing the same sound.
Leon Bridges had just started crooning when we made our way over to the Sutro stage. It was time to dance.
Leon's album Coming Home is one of the summer's staples in our household and it was all I could do to not spill my (second) beer while twisting away. Leon so echoes classic soul-singers it's hard to tell if he is being derivative or true to his roots. His intentions feel so authentic, and this is probably as close as any of us are going to get to seeing a Sam Cook-style musician cut loose these day, so I am all in.
FIRST AID KIT
I am a massive fan of the Swedish folk duo The First Aid Kit. Any doubts I had of their greatness had already been dispelled when Julie and I saw them perform at the Fox last year.
Their set started a few minutes before Leon Bridges ended. They were already in the middle of Stay Gold as Grant and I approached. It was hard to not flat out break into a run.
They played a great set. Midway through it they dedicated a song to their brother, which turned out to be "War Pigs." It was hard to deny the magic of these two harmony-loving folk ladies screaming out Black Sabbath on a sunny summer day.
Before I heard her play, I dug the few songs I knew from St. Vincent, though I had never purchased a record.
I have since learned that she is one of those performers you never really get until you see them live. She wields her guitar like a sonic weapon and has the perfect amount of theatrically to keep it interesting without being cheesy.
I can barely describe how powerful her set was. Go see her if you get the chance.
Also, great shoes.
After St. Vincent’s incredible performance, we grabbed dinner and found a spot of open grass where we could still see the stage. Wilco did their pleasant folk rock thing while we ate our Cubano sandwiches. I've always liked Wilco and had not yet seen them perform live, so it was the perfect way to end the day. After some of the earlier acts, they felt a bit like the Stately Fathers Of Americana and I was glad to be around their campfire.
Pro Tip: Wilco's new release Star Wars is currently available for free on their website.
I had to leave before the headliners, but I was lucky that during the slog back to reality, I caught the end of Chet Faker's sly set. It was the perfect amount of groovy chill that helped me wind down the day with a dash of dance.
I do hope that the stars align and I am able to attend Outside Lands in the future. I would love to take Luke when he is old enough and attend all three days.
Did you go to Outside Lands? If you did, what was your favorite set?
Do you have an other favorite music festival?