It's official: there's no such thing as genre-division anymore. The proof? The Outside Lands music festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park this weekend, which found boomer headliners sharing time with EDM youngsters, metal oligarchs, and AOR mainstays -- and an audience that lavished love on them all with equal aplomb.
It wasn't just chemicals at work, though: moderate temperatures and a sort of passive-yet-engaged overall crowd interest, coupled with a woody, never-neverland vibe (thanks to the naturally green surroundings), gave the fest a less hectic vibe than, say, its close cousins Bonnaroo and Coachella, with a lineup clearly on par with either of those powerhouses.
Some highlights from the weekend:
Organizers may have made a mistake on Friday by having Neil Young and Crazy Horse close the night out after the Foo Fighters, who delivered a typically consistent set of powerfully bludgeoning pop-alt classics, "Everlong," "Learn To Fly," and "The Pretender" among them. Young, on the other hand, chose to spend his first hour crafting feedback jams and one-note riffs, often for minutes at a time, clearing out the once-full field before early depart-ees had a chance to hear timeless jams like "Cinnamon Girl" and "The Needle and the Damage Done." Spotted among the wise music fans who stuck around: comedian David Cross.
Neil Young Rocks "Hey Hey, My My"
In what's becoming a festival tradition, Jack White played a surprise set by his Third Man records truck before blasting a full-frontal assault on Sunday's mainstage crowd, wowing about a thousand lucky passers-by (and their Twitter followers) with four songs including a mellowed-out version of "Hotel Yorba" with his all-female band before playing the song again, just an hour later, in tightened up form, with his dude-buddies, in front of a crowd at least thirty times the size.
Beck's inconsistent set Friday was a bit lackadaisical (in fact, it seemed like Beck himself forgot a fair number of his own lyrics), but it was clearly meant to showcase his recently-reunited "Odelay"-era band, which includes Justin-Medal Johnson on bass and Smokey Hormel holding down axe duties. He didn't debut anything from the forthcoming sheet music collection "Song Reader," though instead dedicating the "Sea Change"-era "Lost Cause" to Beastie Boy Adam Yauch and whispering his way through the third verse of "Where It's At."
Beck Plays "Loser"
The longest lines? They weren't to get in: those moved fast. They were for individual-sized, super-fresh pizzas, Korean tacos, and coffee. Yep, coffee.
Fog-filled forests dotted with giant eucalyptus and hidden paths set the stage for a quixotic experience at Golden Gate Park. The backdrop was only reinforced by the fashion trends, which could best be described as Lord of the Rings-meets-Dances With Wolves. Feathers, face paint and furs were routine, rounded out with occasional animal printed jeggings and makeshift grass crowns.
Watching Icelandic moodsters Sigur Ros play melodramatic songs like the chilly "Svefn-G-Englar" as the fog rolled in over the meadow on Saturday should have felt alien and moving in the best possible way. But, instead, it was interrupted by cannon-fire coming from Metallica's pyro-laden show on the other side of the field, inspiring at least a few of the lovelorn to give up on learning Hopelandic and instead make their way across the long field to sing along to a few bars of "Master of Puppets" and "One."
Metallica Bring "One"
Saturday's run at the Panhandle stage was a dream come true for blog disciples, with sets ranging from effective to majestic from 70's throwback Father John Misty (who ironically implored the audience to avoid taking the brown acid), soul-man Michael Kiwanuka (a slippery cover of Hendrix's "May This Be Love" was a weekend highlight), some retro-punk from the bay area's Thee Oh Sees, and finally Philly's Dr. Dog, who played to a massive throng that knew every word to "Shadow People."
The biggest non-headliner crowd of the weekend didn't belong to hitmakers fun., whose early hour prevented thousands from getting there on time to sing along to "We Are Young," or Norah Jones, despite a guest spot from the Dead's Bob Weir, but rather Alabama Shakes. The buzzy, rootsy band could have had a two-story audience filling the Sutro Stage's massive field as they played songs like their current single "Hold On," suggesting that, next year, their placement should be a bit more prime.
Uber-DJ Skrillex drew just about every fest-guest under the age of 30 away from Stevie Wonder on Sunday as soon as the latter had made his way through an inspired singalong of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," doling out a breathtaking lazertag-inspired set that found the odd-haired dubstep master atop what looked like a crashed Star Wars X-Fighter, commanding the audience to jump along with every boom-bip bass drop. Fans who held fast with Wonder on the Polo Field were treated to a rush of hits, a speech supporting Obama and biting jokes, including asking the audience to "put away your cell phones so I don't have to blind-handle you."
Skrillex Makes "Promises"
Making up for a day-of-fest dropout last year, former (and future?) Outkast member Big Boi made good on his promise to return this year, with a set full of hip-hop radio hits ranging from "Bombs over Baghdad" to "The Way You Move," though his sideman - while fluent and fluid - was no Andre 3000. Bring back 'Dre!'
The Kills singer Allison Mosshart didn't guest with former Dead Weather bandmate Jack White, but her current band did just fine in a prime mainstage slot, upping their aural ante with a phalanx of four hard-hitting percussionists dropping tom-tom-heavy beats.
The Kills Play "Baby Says"
Bits/Sightings: Electric Guest (with frontman Asa Taccone, younger brother of Lonely Island's Jorma Taccone) played one of the many after parties at the Mission's Brick and Mortar Music Hall. // fun. rocked an impressive cover of The Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want." // Danger Mouse was spotted backstage with Jack White's band at Regina Spektor's show on Sunday afternoon.
Ben Brown contributed to this report.