Monday, August 16, 2010

Outside Lands, Day 2

The first act I saw in its entirety was neo-indie-funk-soul-punk-hop diva and self-proclaimed "arch-android" Janelle Monae, who arrived 25 minutes late and blazed through a dramatic half-hour set that featured hooded backup dancers, a whole lot of funky dancing, and of course the singer's fabulous hair.

64-year-old Al Green showed he still had the seductive cry he possessed in his youth as he blazed through his old classics, as well as a string of 30-second tributes to songs by other great soul masters. Unfortunately, the set consisted of about 40% singing and about 60% semi-comprehensible stage banter, which was amusing but not for an entire performance.

Peppy Parisian power-pop powerhouses Phoenix played perfectly at a performance that proved popular (say that 10 times fast). As they blazed through their radio hits ("1901," "Lisztomania") and material from throughout their career, singer Thomas Mars made regular ventures into the audience, surfing the crowd and high-fiving ecstatic fans. (He also decided to mount an amp stack.) During the group's set, I was able to get about 20-50 feet from the stage, packed in a tight mass with fellow Bay Area music-scene blogger Gabe Connor (The Subconscious), my Blue Bear buddy Bobby Dorward, Tyler English and Evan Greenwald from Handshake, and Matt Saunders and Ryan Meagher from the Heretics. Considering there were about 200,000 people at the show, it was pretty easy for me to find everyone I knew. Long live the Rebirth.

Capping off the day was Kings of Leon, who offered an hour and a half of moody, Southern-infused alt-rock ballads and barnstormers. The set featured three black-and-white Jumbotrons, what looked like a skyscraper of stage lights, and a firework finale. During massive hits "Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody," the whole crowd could be heard singing along and jumping in the air like an army of jackrabbits.

In between songs, one could hear Donald Glaude's house beats pumping from the depths of the Inspire dance hut--one wonders just how many people had chosen Glaude over Kings of Leon or alternative headliners Empire of the Sun.

In all, this year's Outside Lands was a significant improvement lineup-wise over last year's, despite a deficit of underground rock groups. The festival was not well-organized, and the lack of more than one box office created miniature clusterf*cks everywhere like black holes. But I had a good time, and the organizers did a good job of keeping everyone entertained.

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