Kanye Loses His Own Game, Grouplove Save The Day at Outside Lands 2014

Outside Lands crowd 

The magic of Outside Lands owes a great deal to the beauty of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, but festival organizers continue to improve on the annual event’s atmosphere with improved facilities, gentler security (despite a rash of fake-ticket incidents causing a ruckus at the entrance) and fewer scheduling conflicts onstage. Friday’s festival kickoff was a celebrated return to the fog-kissed hills, but a bit of festival-uniformity fatigue prevented the day from being a smash win.

Outside Lands crowd

When the same acts play every festival, and those acts engage in almost entirely unchanged sets and verbatim stage banter from festivals immediately prior, passion is a fantasy. Who really wins when geography and corporate-branding peripherals are all that distinguish music festivals from one another? It’s certainly not the music fan.

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I was distracted by these questions as I watched Chromeo turn in a performance that could’ve been laid over their Lollapalooza set in much the same way as the Michael Jordan/Kobe Bryant clip going around was. The two different sets were entirely indistinguishable, from the setlist to the commentary and right down to the clothes.

Warpaint

Maybe it was the feedback issues, or maybe something was distracting the girls of Warpaint, but their highly anticipated midday set didn’t have the desired impact for a few thousand revelers who hiked down to the Twin Peaks stage to catch the indie rockers. The single exception was that of adorably bubbly bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg, who we couldn’t take our eyes off of.

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We needed a sonic B-12 shot, and Grouplove delivered. The dancer-rockers brought some next-level energy to the Twin Peaks stage during their midday set, and it seemed that singer Christian Zucconi couldn’t get close enough to the enraptured crowd, diving into the sea of screaming festivalgoers more than once. Check out a full gallery below of their performance.

 

A massive turnout arrived at the Lands End stage for UK brother duo Disclosure, and the crowd didn’t seem to mind one bit that the sounds blasting in our ears appeared to be totally unrelated to anything happening onstage. Multiple vocalists were heard, but none appeared. When Guy Lawrence would sing, his vocals were always album-perfect, always accentuated with just the right effects, and often backed up by a nonexistent female singer. You do the math – we headed elsewhere.

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Refusing to let cynicism take the lead, we headed down through the little wooded area off the beaten path called McLaren Pass, where the freaks come out to play. Sword swallowers, an evil-clown circus and all manners of artery-clogging edible delight were waiting for us there, with Choco Lands bringing a little too much temptation for those $8 s’mores. My gut aches just thinking about it…

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Canadian indie rock duo Tegan Quin and Sara Quin, better known as Tegan & Sara, brought a lighthearted vibe and a whole lotta giggles to their performance. T&S followed Grouplove’s high-energy dance mania on the Twin Peaks stage with a run of quirky little singalong gems and a lighthearted sense of fun, punctuated by the celebrated “Back In Your Head” and a victorious take on “Closer” to end their set. 

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Kanye has worn out his angry-ego schtick. That may be the understatement of the year, but people at a music festival want to enjoy themselves and feel good about having to skip out on Arctic Monkeys playing across the way. That does not involve listening to endless, self-serving celebrimartyr bloviations, and even die-hard fans are hard-pressed to justify his bullshit at this point. Sure, the singalongs during his set were strong, through opener “Black Skinhead,” “All Falls Down,” “All of The Lights,” “Power” and so on, but nobody anywhere needs to hear another 20-minute version of “Runaway”. Seriously. Stop it with that shit.

He tried to start a moshpit during “Blood On The Leaves,” and the crowd reacted as if they’d never heard of such a thing. This frustrated Mr. Kardashian, who abandoned the song after multiple false starts and brought it back for the set closer. 

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“At the Yeezy show, everyone is a star,” he declared through Auto-tune. “I promote self-confidence! If you’re a friend of mine, you’re really just a friend of yourself!” Sure, Ye. You got it. The only problem is that every time the collective crowd would invest themselves in a beat, a singalong, a celebratory moment, West would grind everything to a halt for yet another self-congratulatory rant. Paaaaarty.

We broke off with about 20 minutes to spare and made a straight line to the opposite end of the park where Arctic Monkeys were grinding away through a set of sex-rock goodness that made us wish we’d skipped Mr. Gay Fish altogether in favor of our boys from Sheffield. 

Lesson learned.

 

All photos: Johnny Firecloud