By now you’ve read as much as you’d probably care to know about last weekend’s Outside Lands festival. Either you were there yourself and needed to get filled in on whichever acts you missed; you weren’t there but experienced it vicariously through tweets, blogs, and livestreams; or didn’t care in the first place (in which case it seems doubtful that you’d be reading this now, so maybe that third option doesn’t apply).
You’ve heard that Hot Chip closed out their set with a Springsteen-into-LCD cover. Tame Impala was transcendent. Wilco subjected the audience – once again – to the entirety of their new Star Wars LP before obligingly playing some hits. Kendrick Lamar was king; Fantastic Negrito was rolled up. The Barbary Tent was too far away; but the mini golf addition to Winelands was a neat idea. The weather was awesome.
But this isn’t a music blog. It’s my blog. Yes, it masquerades as a music blog, but that’s all part of an elaborate long con to occupy a corner of the Internet with personal memoirs puzzled together via handstamps, ticket stubs, and record sleeves. Shows are signposts, really. Reminders to write. About… whatever.
And today’s whatever is all the other stuff that resonated with me during my Outside Lands weekend. Objectivity and setlists can be found elsewhere. In fact, MH is working on a more thorough Oral History of Outside Lands 2015 for the parent blog. Maybe some of my more review-y comments will show up there.
In the meantime, here’s the other stuff.
The Givers live up to their name. We were among the first people in the park on Friday; I had a beer at a quarter after eleven in the morning. On Saturday we sauntered in as the first acts were performing on the Sutro and Lands End stages. On Sunday, nobody wanted to leave the house. A few times I said, mostly to myself, “The first band I want to see isn’t on until after 4:00 PM.” MH responded to every question or comment with, “I am soo tired.”
But we rallied (thanks in no small part to MMJ’s chilaquiles), and were back on the Polo Fields by 1:00. I looked at my phone and lied: “The Givers. I’ve heard good things about them.” I’d heard nothing about The Givers, but I felt obliged to at least act like I had a plan. Four festival companions had zombie-shuffled down 36th Avenue behind me and needed assurance that I hadn’t planned on doing much more than visit the merch tent again and agonize over whether or not I really needed a Ranger Dave bobblehead. Truth was, I saw the words “indie pop” and “Lafayette, Louisiana” in the band description on the OSL app and figured that was good enough for me.
It was better than good.
Seeing two drumkits on stage before they played a single song was already a promising sign. And within two songs drummer and vocalist Tiffany Lamson had destroyed the downstage kit, lost her sunglasses, and stolen MH’s heart. The entire band, sensing how much we needed an adrenaline shot on our third day of festivaling, gave us all they had. They gained five new fans in the process.
Porcini doughnuts. Eat one. Part of the OSL experience has become the food. Each year it seems the tented grub areas get more expansive and the offerings more interesting. On Friday I made note of Rich Table’s porcini doughnuts served with raclette and promptly sent a pic to my dad (this was early in the day before my Sprint network became useless). I didn’t try any until Saturday, however (my designated food foray day), and was promptly handed a paper bowl full of misshapen darkly dusted doughballs that looked like something a pig might have uprooted from beneath a chestnut tree.
Despite being reminded several times that these doughnuts were savory – and “mind-blowing” – I neither anticipated how unpleasantly salty they were going to be nor appreciated the mind-blowing aspect of what I was eating. The only thing I was thinking was how the hell anyone was supposed to eat more than one of these. MMJ had a bite of one, politely wrinkled her nose in a “that’s interesting” expression, and then declined to eat any more.
I’m glad I tried one, but I shouldn’t have eaten the rest. In fact, this year’s OSL was filled with pleasant surprises and cautionary tales. And I’m still talking about the food.
Woodside Fish Co.’s clam chowder is the only thing I ordered more than once; a hot-link-corndog thrown on top of funnel cake was simply a bad call on my part. The Malaysian nachos were underwhelming; El Huarache Loco’s alambre and cactus salad was one of the best dishes I’ve had anywhere, festival or otherwhere.
Insects & Robots hide in the trees. Our group passed on the majority of Mumford & Sons’ set Friday night, and looked forward to wrapping up festival day one with Amon Tobin’s spectacle. It was… pretty cool. Visually, for sure. And despite rumors that Tobin was going to destroy his set, literally, on this his last ever performance of ISAM 2.0, MMJ and I felt that we had seen and heard enough, and headed out maybe fifteen minutes before its conclusion, reserving some energy for the rest of the weekend.
But as we climbed the stairs behind Hellman Hollow and cut through Choco Lands, a band was just setting up at the crest of the hill, under the trees, in the creepy psycho-circus vaudeville encampment that we’d steered well clear of for the entire day. It was MMJ’s idea to check it out. I was still marveling at the fact that yet another undocumented undercover stage was tooling up a soundcheck, and this one was happening while the two headliners were supposedly closing out the night.
It was an incredible feeling – the overhanging trees and the small stage and the handful of audience members – that made me forget momentarily that we were at a massive music festival. Insects vs. Robots stomped and fiddled and broke out all manner of esoteric instrumentation reminding both of us that, sometimes, the best part of any music-soaked weekend is the pleasure of discovery and the enjoyment of spontaneity. MMJ still calls that brief set the highlight of her Friday.
Battery at 1%. Actually, considering how her day began, maybe it shouldn’t surprise me that that final, intimate outdoor party, on the way home, was her favorite part of day one.
MMJ had to work Friday, and since we anticipated problems communicating via text or phone call, we mapped out several plans to meet up based on bands I expected to see at various times. Right at the end of First Aid Kit’s set (and I really wish more people knew the words to the beautiful “Emmylou”) a call from her came through. I thought – great! I’ll tell her where we are, and she can join us just in time for St. Vincent.
Being camped out near the front of the Land’s End stage for much of the day, I had no idea what a chaotic horde had assembled behind me, and throughout the park. To make a long story short, after dozens of failed-to-send texts and inaudible, broken voice calls, I distinctly heard “I see you!” right as my phone was dying.
We were nowhere near any of the mapped-out meet-up locations. And I can’t even describe what an intense, maddening throng pulsed through us and around us for that entire hour that we scrambled back and forth around the park, like a spy movie chase scene through the crowded streets of a Middle Eastern city. I’m fairly confident that, had she not seen me when she did, we never would have connected on Friday night. And starting a festival with that kind of anxiety, as opposed to the feeling of relief and exhilaration that was accompanied by several loud exclamations of “I need a beer!” would have made for an entirely different weekend.
Jon Snow was everywhere I wanted to be.
— Kimberly Kaspar (@kkaspar) August 9, 2015
Speaking of kids and their signs… The pool noodles and blow-up pool furniture were topped with more creative signage this year. Last year’s festival summer, as MH reminded me, was dominated by giant emojis. This year, people totem’d outside the box a bit.
It wasn’t the most clever of signs, but I did realize that, halfway through Saturday, the group wielding Jon Snow’s head (not the one trimmed tightly around his flowing locks, but the one with the white border and #JonSnowLives scrawled on the back) seemed to be everywhere I wanted to be.
With one notable exception. After Givers, MMJ’s roommate asked if we wanted to meet up with her group at the Twin Peaks stage for DJ Mustard. I didn’t have any particular desire to see a hip-hop DJ (MH: “I feel like I can go to any bar in North Beach and hear the exact same set.”), but we had some time before Hot Chip, so… sure. Her group rallied around a totem displaying someone’s cat’s face on a fiery background and damn was that convenient. We actually saw and met up with her group because of that damn sign. Who knew? Shit works.
Oh – and look – on the far side of the lawn. Jon Snow. All I was thinking about was how I was going to pull myself through the quicksand of insanity and make it to the far side of the park for a good Hot Chip spot. Jon Snow was ranging deeper and deeper in the Twin Peaks mob. One very drunk guy in catfire group screamed “DJ MUSTARD!” in the face of three separate people and I thought, “Jon Snow? This is where you and I go our separate ways.”