MAGNET’s Maureen Coulter reports from the 2011 Outside Lands Music And Art Festival in Golden Gate Park.
As festival-goers flocked into gates on Saturday for a second helping of Outside Lands, gone were the patchouli-scented, dreadlocked masses that had been flailing around and singing along with Friday headliner Phish. In their place were more than a few 17-year-old American Apparel hippies with designer sandals and flowers in their headbands. I also observed a much greater prevalence of tattoo sleeves, thrift-store duds and ironic moustaches. There were significantly more people here than in 2010, as I became acutely aware when I had to juke around a chick holding two beers and a slice of pizza, bound over multiple blankets occupied by canoodling couples and hack my way through a stone(r) wall of people only to realize I’d traveled maybe 10 yards.
I finally managed to Nintendo my way through the human obstacle course to reach the media tent, where I caught the last few minutes of a press conference and got to ogle OK Go frontman Damian Kulash, one of the several artists and local foodie icons being interviewed. I then turned my attention to the Black Keys, who had just taken the stage. I never thought two dudes could create so much noise, and it became clear that the Keys were made for festivals. Despite consisting of just vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer/producer Patrick Carney, their instruments rolled into the Polo Field like a massive four-wheeler at a monster-truck rally. From the balcony of the press tent, I could see tens of thousands of heads packed together, stretching back for a good quarter-mile. All of them were chanting along to the band’s bluesy “Howlin’ For You” and crowd-surfing during “Tighten Up.” Throughout their set, the duo proved they were much more than just a soundtrack for movie trailers and Ford F-150 commercials.
Pretty Lights protégé Paper Diamond, the electronic/hip-hop/dub-step disc-scratcher from Colorado, unleashed an energetic performance for a crowd that probably saw Pretty Lights play at Outside Lands last year. The throng of girls in furry animal-eared hats and boys wearing aviator sunglasses at 8 p.m. skewed young, which probably contributed to the high number of crowd-etiquette transgressions. Note to future live-music audience members: When grooving in tightly packed quarters, do not jump up and down, even if the lyrics are instructing you to. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten elbowed in the face because you can’t keep both feet on the ground.
When I tried to mind my own business and soak in Paper Diamond’s glitchy beats and deep, fuzzy bass, I was sandwiched between two random guys who were definitely interested in more than a waltz. One of them, sporting a crew cut and a boozy expression, assumed that since we were both from the same neighborhood in San Jose we had a deep emotional connection going on. “What’s your name?” “I like how you dance.” “You have gorgeous eyes.” “I love your red hair.” “What’s your name?” I spent a fair portion of the set doing the groove-and-dodge shuffle and swatting his hand away from my waist.
I arrived on the scene 10 minutes before Girl Talk was to play, and the Speedway Meadow was already more congested than a Los Angeles highway at rush hour. To top that, the line for the Porta-Potties was 12 deep, but I had no choice. At least I could still catch a view from where I was standing. When Girl Talk bounced up onstage and cried, “How y’all feelin’ San Francisco?” dancers swarmed on to the platform, and the mashup artist let loose remixes of Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga. Maybe to take their minds off relieving their bladders, or maybe just because they couldn’t handle not dancing, all of the people in line started grinding up on each other, swinging their arms and waving glow sticks. I’ve never had so much fun waiting to pee.
Girl Talk kind of reminded me of the times I was forced to attend my sister’s cheerleading competitions, and every single team choreographed their pom-pom thrusting to Jock Jams. The samplings and mixes of top-40 artists were a far cry from the articulate indie-pop instrumentals and naval-gazing lyrics of the Shins the night before. But if you were looking to have some “wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care” kind of fun on Saturday night, this was where you needed to be.