Outside Lands 2012, Day 2: Passion Pit, The Kills, Metallica and More
by Stephanie Benson | August 12, 2012
If you've ever wondered what it would be like to see live music in a cloud, get your booty over to San Francisco's Golden Gate Park for the annual Outside Lands Music Festival, where the fog -- which even had the gall to literally overshadow Saturday headliner Metallica's bombastic burst of fireworks -- is free and aplenty. No fog machines necessary! Follow me on my mission to conquer Day 2 of the fifth installment of Outside Lands, which featured The Kills, Passion Pit, Tame Impala, Grandaddy, Metallica and more. Here we go!
10:57 a.m. Listening to Outside Lands performers Caveman in my own personal cave. Dumping strong coffee down my throat. Pumping myself up like Michael Phelps before a race (except with lovingly melodic indie pop instead of hot-headed rap). Checking the schedule. Re-checking the schedule -- damn, this Caveman album is so good! Motivating self: "It's gonna be cold; it's gonna be okay. You're from Minnesota, for cryin' out loud!" Re-re-checking the schedule -- wait, Caveman play tomorrow?! WTF!
Finally make it through the gates, and I'm pretty sure I've already walked a mile, so I don't feel so bad about taking a hard left, straight towards Choco Lands, where my childhood dream of a real live Candyland comes true! Except I don't remember $4 cupcakes in that game.
I make it just in time for Londoners Animal Kingdom, who announce that today was their first day ever waking up in California. They are on their first tour of the States, and I have a feeling the Americans'll like 'em. Powerful rhythms and hints of Coldplay, Snow Patrol and Temper Trap fill their sweet melodies. They mostly played songs from the recently released The Looking Away. "White Sparks" stood out with its slinky underlying drone, a bit like Death Cab for Cutie in its sweet subtlety.
First Metallica shirt spotted. And then another T boldly stating, "I prefer the drummer." I hope it's not referring to Metallica. Sorry, Lars.
After booking it through a surprisingly already-dense crowd, I land at the main Lands End stage and Tame Impala have just skulked out on the podium looking as stoney as their music. My adrenaline starts to slowly melt away -- those psychedelic tones just sound so good, mannnnnn. No, seriously, new single "Elephant" has a catchy, propulsive rhythm that translates great live. And it reminds me a little of what MGMT were working toward on Congratulations.
OMG, I get to interview Caveman! Probably the nicest guys to hit any of the stages this weekend, the Brooklyners divulge their favorite music videos of all time, which span from Billy Joel's epic "We Didn't Start the Fire" to Guns 'N Roses' epic-er "Estranged" to one (I didn't catch the title) from Insane Clown Posse. Just what I would have guessed.
Portland psych-art-rockers Portugal. The Man liquefy "Helter Skelter" into something more Sgt. Pepper than White Album. I dig it.
Random crowd check: Grateful Dead shirt. Alicia Keys shirt. Metallica shirt. Grateful Dead shirt. Newly hired software engineer type in sombrero. Forty-something man in white clown makeup, topped with blue lips. Reggie Watts-sized afro sitting atop the dome of a middle-aged white dude. Two bros in wrestling singlets and a patriotic towel used as a cape. Guy looking dazed and confused in gorilla suit (ya know, what, though, he's smart: It's gotta be warm in that thing). Grateful Dead shirt.
Texans Explosions in the Sky get all deep and cosmic on the main stage. A photographer yells at them to open their eyes. Dude, they're into it. The bassist goes down on his knees, looking almost possessed. Big, crashing, thunderous bangs break through the rich, rocking layers.
As I dazily absorb Explosions from a distance, a hula-hoop girl directly to my right quite abruptly unleashes an ear-piercing howl that I'm pretty sure has the same pitch and vibrato as a loon's mating call. This has something to do with the band, I'm just not sure how.
Another solo hula-hoop girl nearly clocks me in the head with her circular toy. Is there an Explosions in the Sky hula-hoop cheerleading squad I don't know about?
The theme to Welcome Back, Kotter welcomes us to an afternoon set from the recently reformed Grandaddy. "CLICK!" plaid-shirted Jason Lytle shouts into the mic before looping the sound through "Now It's On." The crowd is sadly smaller than it should be: The youngins cramming into the EDM Heineken dome (which I've been avoiding like the plague -- I'm pretty sure you can catch something in there) don't know what they're missing. I glance at stage right and see funny man David Cross (also in plaid) alongside fiancée Amber Tamblyn. They're bopping their heads. Cross looks giddier than a, um, chipmunk?
Lytle: "This almost feels good... No, yes, it does feel good," he assures himself. I agree as the fuzzy and spacey "The Crystal Lake" begins.
A girl carrying a tote advertising Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" is just feet away from David Cross. That's funny.
The Kills' Alison Mosshart struts on the stage, back and forth, treating it like a catwalk, giving coy smiles and seductive eyes. "She's nice to look at," says the photographer behind me. Her cohort Jamie Hince is the perfect foil, digging ferociously into his guitar like he's searching for treasure. It's hard to keep the eyes off Mosshart, though, who flails her multicolored tigress hair around like she's got bees in there. "Heart Is a Beating Drum" kicks in as four anonymous drummers, dressed in black with red handkerchiefs draped over their faces, pound out that heartbeat.
Approaching the Twin Peaks stage, I discover a well-treed area that seems to now be the men's bathroom. Ugh. Stupid boys.
Passion Pit take the stage to the spirited "Take a Walk." It feels triumphant and joyful, even as main man Michael Angelakos sings about taxes and socialists and other downers you wouldn't typically shake your booty to. This juxtaposition seems even more poignant and revealing just a week after Angelakos had revealed his struggles with bipolar disorder. Outside Lands is one of the few shows the band is playing this month; I don't think most people in the crowd know this. But it doesn't matter. This is the bubbliest, liveliest set of the night. Rock on, Angelakos.
Yes, Metallica. "Give me fuel/ Give me fire/ Give me that which I desire!" shouts one James Hetfield as blasts of fire shoot out behind the stage, providing a much-needed splatter of heat. Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo swagger out onto the catwalk circling the front of the crowd, striking rock-god-esque poses above a sea of pumped fists. My intentions are to traipse the mile back to the Twin Peaks stage to catch Iceland's own rock gods, Sigur Ros. But fire ultimately trumps ice on this blustery evening. I must obey the masters.