On to day three, commonly known as “Sunday” to the real world. There was a definite different energy in the air, as much of the crowd was unaware of the extent of the activity happening in Charlottevile, NC the day before, and you could kind of see that a lot of people were “trying” to muster up the motivation to be there. Really, there is only one person on this Earth that is capable of taking that feeling when humanity has let you down, and it seems like there is nothing left to look forward to. We were damn lucky that he was booked to play at 12:15 on the Lands End stage.
Lee Fields & The Expressions are a powerhouse of a band. They are old school soul music, and are doing exactly like it was done in 1969, which happens to be when Fields released his first record. His voice rings of pure passion, and he managed to get the sizable (for being the first act on the last day of a festival) crowd up & moving. He sang songs of love and perseverance, never once directly bringing up current events, while still showing us that we can rise above this all.
After this, we slowly made our way over to the Gastromagic stage to find it was already packed solid for something simply titled, “An Annotated Guide to Eating Well with Action Bronson.” I was expecting this to be a Action Bronson reading from his book, and maybe talking with a local restaurateur and doing a song or two. Instead, we had Tony Cevrone of Souvla, a fine casual Greek eatery in SF, on stage with Bronson, and he brought a ton of food from his restaurant, and they simply started throwing food into the crowd. Not just small samples, but full meals in boxes, pints of yogurt, large sandwiches, and so on. And, humans being humans, once face with the prospect of free food, the performance went from being a civilized affair to full on “Lord Of The Flies” anarchy. People were climbing on top of each other to get their Pork Shoulder sandwich. Somebody even climbed a tree in order to get a sandwich thrown to him. The boldest moment, of course, came when an entire lamb’s rib cage was tossed into the crowd and passed along. I’m pretty sure this was all practice for armageddon. And, since all I ended up getting was a single cube of (amazing) lamb, I’m pretty sure I won’t survive long once we hit the end of the world. Oh- and he did play a song, but I really don’t remember anything about it because we were still cleaning up after the chaos.
It’s a little sad to be coated in food, without actually getting to eat any. And with all of the chicken sandwiches that flew over my head, I decided I needed one, and that helped me decide what I was going to enjoy next. I picked up a sandwich at Proposition Chicken, and wolfed it down while Bleachers played a set behind me. I never was a fan of their records, but this live show was amazing. Fronted by fun. Guitarist Jack Antonoff, this was a set of unadulterated pure Springsteen inspired rock n roll, full of huge choruses, epic sax solos, and Antonoff putting his entire body into the performance. Not bad for something that I only stumbled across because i was hungry.
I opted to just stay comfortable at the Lands End stage. This proved to to be an excellent decision, as the next band up was Young The Giant. I kind of forgot about this band, as I saw them frequently in the early part of the decade, and stopped paying attention. In the last six years, they became a live performance powerhouse, with lead singer Sameer Gadhia reminding me of the perfect synthesis of Cat Stevens and Mick Jagger. The band kept sliding between folk, radio rock, and world music with ease. It was another fine surprise.
(Photo by Dakin Hardwick)
Lorde was up next, and this was one of the most highly anticipated sets of the festival. This is her first time in the Bay Area since the release of her sophomore album, Melodrama, and, for much of the audience, this is their first time seeing Lorde at all. This set did not disappoint. She come out to a nearly bare stage, with only her small four piece band backing her. Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” faded out, forcing us to make a now obvious comparison throughout the set, and she jumped straight into “Tennis Court.” She kept the facade of minimalism going through the next song, but slowly throughout the set, we had dancers dressed in all blue slowly appear on stage. The choreography was closer to classical ballet than modern pop dancing, supporting Lorde’s dark interpretation of modern pop music with emotional scenes to accompany these songs. The only time the set veered from this was when she pulled Bleacher’s Jack Antonoff from backstage to do a quick acoustic duet of “Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard.” Her set was a stunning display of artistry, proving that Lorde is in this for the long haul, and is determined to keep inventive.
I returned to The Barbary stage to catch what appeared to be one of the best lineups of the festival. This was a stand up set hosted by one of the best comics working in the Bay Area today, Irene Tu, telling a brief set of relevant jokes, particularly a bit of what it’s like to be an androgynous looking person using the restroom. (Turns out that it doesn’t go over well) Former Bay Area resident Amy Miller was next, doing a set that was slightly less political than her last visit home, but still hit home with some potent belly laughs. Sam Morril pulled out a decent set. Shane Torres, who is prepping to release his first record, opened up with an extended set about Guy Fieri. Specifically, everything “good” about Fieri. Discussing his charity work, and what it’s like to work with the guy, and how unfair it is that people speak so poorly about him. Then he did the same with Nickelback. The set was closed out by Daily Show correspondent Roy Woods Jr. His set was filled with the kind of biting political commentary you’d expect, only wearing a hoodie that says, “DAMN.” on it instead of his signature suit.
I’m not going to give away any bits, but my favorite part of his set was this line about being a black man at a Muslim ban rally: “Somebody asked me why I’m here because this cause doesn’t directly affect me. And I told them that I came here because if I don’t help stop them from coming for you, they will come for me next.” Profound, and properly timed.
My Outside Lands experience was closed with a performance by the younger Knowles sister, Solange. Backed by a full band, complete with horns and backup singers, Solange is doing a great job of proving her own without trying to emulate her sister. She created a dark and cerebral affair, with a stage bathed in red lights, and the music was dark and bathed us all in those tones. Her band was fully choreographed, moving deliberately, and succinctly. This was an impressive and moving performance, and a great way to end the 10th year of one of the finest music festivals in the USA.
Words by Dakin Hardwick on behalf of Spinning Platters / Photos by Ben Irwin
Outside Lands 2017 – Day 3