Last weekend the second annual Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival was held only a few blocks from our very own campus situated on the polo field of Golden Gate Park. The festival placed around the park seven stages featuring large acts such as Pearl Jam as well as indie up-and-comers Matt and Kim. There was even a stage devoted to Bay Area DJs. USF’s own radio station KUSF was at the park broadcasting live from the back of the Lands End stage, interviewing acts such as Tom Jones and The Silversun Pickups, and even hosting short four-song sets from Portugal. The Man and Ryan Bingham. KUSF DJs Strummer and Cupcakes were also seen broadcasting during the weekend.
On Friday, Outside Lands brought the heat not only with the lineup but with temperatures around 85 degrees. It felt like I was at Indio, California’s Coachella festival rather than in San Francisco. After spending most of the day getting press credentials and browsing all of the stages and interactive booths, I posted up and watched Incubus’s entire set, which was spot on, even with singer Brandon Boyd suffering from a sore throat. A little less than an hour after Incubus ended their set, Pearl Jam took the stage, playing for two straight hours and bringing everyone at the festival back to the mid-nineties. Over on the other end of the park, I went to see the last half of my favorite dub act Thievery Corporation before walking back home to rest up for Saturday.
The next morning, I booked it to the festival early to get breakfast. Unlike many huge music festivals where all there is to eat is overpriced carnival food, Outside Lands decided to invite the best San Franciscan and Bay area restaurants to sell some of their most popular dishes and sides. My Haight Street favorite Asqew grill had a booth selling items from their entire menu. Another Clement street diner, Q, was sellling “Smilin’ Andy’s famous tater tots” with their special aioli dipping sauce.
After pitching a spot in the press viewing area, I watched the bay area hip-hop act Zion I, who put on a set that put most concert goers in a good mood for the bands that were to come. Over on the solar-powered “Panhandle” stage, Alaska’s Portugal. The Man took to the stage, playing songs from their new album “The Satanic Satanist” with a lot of old favorites from their three previous releases. Later that day I had a chance to speak with Portugal’s singer John Gourley and ask a few questions about his band and life on the road.
San Francisco Foghorn: To a fan it seems that Portugal. The Man is a touring band; you were in San Francisco twice last school year, you’re here this weekend and you’re coming back to San Francisco next month. Does it seem like you never stop touring?
Portugal. The Man: Yeah, basically we’ve been on tour for almost four years straight. This year we had the most breaks we’ve ever had, just in playing festivals every weekend and spending the whole summer in Europe, so it’s nice to have breaks here and there.
SFF: Do you enjoy the festival or club circuit more?
PTM: It’s so different. I know people say that festivals are not as intimate a setting for sure, but it’s amazing to be around all these people all coming for the same cause to hear music even if it’s not for my band or even the headliner. The people who come here just want to hear music and want to have fun, and it’s a different experience than for me to play a club show. Lately we’ve been touring so much that days off are almost a setback in a way and you just want to keep going and play better everyday. It’s something we’ll keep doing and still doing as long as we’re having fun.
SFF: How do you go about writing a song?
PTM: I write the guitar and melody, and then lyrics come together when I make the record, where I find the right word combinations much like you find the right note combinations and fills. I then find the subject I want to write about.
SFF: What is your full take on on illegal downloading?
PTM: To get the full take it would be the three page speech I wrote on the site, but it needs to be said that when you’re downloading, it’s a great source of finding new bands and if you like a record. I feel like our music is fair game just like everybody else’s music is, but people need to understand that, not just as a musician or an artist, but you don’t have great architecture without funding from the city to pay for it. You don’t have these things unless people pay for them. You don’t have sandwich shops or whatever it is without supporting it somehow, and The Flaming Lips and Radiohead are the best examples, and those bands like The Flaming Lips have a pool to jump in and say, “All right, we’re going to have the coolest tour of the summer,” and you get to go to that show and be a part of it because they have the financial means to back the tour.
After the interview I walked off to the small and intimate “Sutro” stage where Conor Oberst and his Mystic Valley band played a set devoted to that band’s catalog, without a Bright Eyes tune. That evening I skipped the Dave Matthews Band to view The Mars Volta from the back stage where they played a phenomenal set, impressing not only fans but people who were walking to Dave Matthews and changed their mind. The next day, with clouds over the park and a small drizzle, I viewed Atmosphere’s set featuring Brother Ali, Matt and Kim’s set where fans brought bubble machines to cover the stage and M.I.A, who relied too much on back up dancers and left the stage 20 minutes earlier than her scheduled set times. Since I wasn’t very excited for The Beastie Boys’ replacement, Tenacious D, I stayed for a third of their rock opera before heading home. While fans and critics said they enjoyed this year’s festival, it paled in comparison to the list of headliners from last year which featured Jack Johnson, Tom Petty and Radiohead. Fans also stated that it felt less crowded this year. Outside Lands is still set to host the festival again next year, and the message boards are already chatting about who may be on next year’s schedule.