Outside Lands 2013 Day One: McCartney, The National, Twenty One Pilots Bring Magic to The Foggy Forest
When rain, fog and chilly weather are an expected part of a Summer music festival, you can be sure we're talking about Outside Lands. Nestled in San Francisco's majestic Golden Gate Park, there's very little of the usual neon spandex and tank-top crowd to be found at this three-day music marathon. This crowd comes layered and bundled, ready for weather in the woods – and that's half the magic in itself. The lack of image obsession allows for a more genuine energy transfer between artist and audience, as evidenced by the rising tide of enthusiasm in response to Twenty One Pilots' earnest efforts to bring the crowd out of its hazy coma (details below).
Moving into Day Two, we're looking forward to Nine Inch Nails bringing out the fangs, and with Phoenix up against the ropes after a relatively sparse and modest Lollapalooza headlining slot last weekend, it'll be interesting to see what they bring to the stage across the field in a competing time slot. For now, however, take a run through the highlights and oddities of Day One at Outside Lands 2013.
What a difference a little fog makes. Last week in Chicago, The National made a damn strong case for festival headliner status with an impeccable Lollapalooza performance. This week, their hypnotically sleepy delivery was initially met with wet-blanket murmers. There was a widely evident lack of oomph throughout the early part of their performance – until Grateful Dead's own Bob Weir joined the band for an excellent version of their original "Terrible Love," from 2010's High Violet. The National also recruited the Kronos Quartet for string support, which added new colors and nuance that earned appreciation.
Behold, the chocolate covered s'more. Outside Lands recruits the Bay Area's most unique food vendors to set up shop in the forested area between the main stages, with curated delights including Outside Lambs, the new Cheese Lands, Wine Lands and the dessert magnificence of Choco Lands. For foodies, stoners and the famished, there are few better festival options across the entire nation than what Outside Lands has to offer.
Twenty One Pilots singer Tyler Joseph knows damn well how to wake up a crowd. Look, the weed is spectacular in northern California – let's just address that right off. So the sleepy hillside crowd who wasn't showing much life or love throughout the first half of the band's freakishly danceable and catchy set clearly needed some rustling up. Like a 1992-era Eddie Vedder, Joseph climbed the stage's side scaffolding and sang a song from the very top, demanding a reaction. He got one, as the entire crowd – hillside included – lost their almighty shit.
Nile Rogers, on a high step from his current collaboration with Daft Punk, left the laptops and future gadgetry behind to throw the play-button DJ's right off his proverbial lawn when he and his Chic band tore through a barrage of disco hits and glory-days jams including Sister Sledge's "We Are Family," David Bowie's "Let's Dance," Chic's own "Dance Dance Dance" and the biggest hit of their careers, "Le Freak." As a replacement for D'Angelo's last-minute cancellation, Outside Lands could've done no better.
When you see Paul McCartney, there are moments you know you're not going to forget for the rest of your life. As he plays most of the Beatles songs you grew up on, you know without looking that some are singing along with their eyes closed in memory, some with tears streaming down their faces, while others are stunned to delighted, appreciative silence by a man whose music transcended time, language and culture. Couples kissed with quickening hearts during the flutter of "I've Just Seen a Face". "Blackbird"'s ethereal sweetness simplified all thought, and "Eleanor Rigby" reminded us of just how deeply this man among four pushed his footprint into rock n' roll.
The forest's traditional copious cannabis consumption at the festival wasn't missed by the Beatle: "It's a strange smell I'm smelling," he said with a coy smirk. "Something wonderful."
The fireworks were excellent, though perhaps unnecessary, as the song "Live and Let Die" packs a powerful enough punch on its own, let alone framed by gorgeous, fog-filled forest. Though he could've rightfully closed out the entire festival on a high note, McCartney's send-off on Friday allows us to return for the second and third days with the best kind of rejuvenated enthusiasm. We've already seen the greatest heartsong-jukebox legend of our time play his heart out – the rest is just icing.