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Chillin’ at Outside Lands

05:01 PM Thursday 8/16/12 |   |

Pollstar contributing photographer John Davisson describes his three-day adventure exploring San Francisco’s Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival and its lineup featuring Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Metallica, Jack White, Foo Fighters, Beck, Skrillex and more.

  • Metallica

    “Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival,” Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
    August 11, 2012

    (John Davisson)

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Outside Lands at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco has developed into one of the biggest festivals of the year. It is also one of the coolest festivals, with temperatures dipping into the 50’s at night. But that is how the fog rolls in Golden Gate Park, home to many historic concerts over the decades. I knew to bring a sweater and I was fine. The first day was a slow start due to a long line at the press check-in, but I made it in time for some electronic indie music from Tanlines and some hip-pop by Wallpaper in Hellman’s Hollow.

Navigating Golden Gate Park is a long walk from one main-stage to the other (over a mile I’m told), with smaller stages in-between. After checking out Wallpaper on the Twin Peaks stage, I travelled to the other main-stage, the Lands End Stage in the Polo Field, for the retro soul sounds of Fitz And the Tantrums. The Lands End Stage was difficult to shoot because of the black backdrop; when the performers wear black, the pictures tend to lack some oomph, but most festivals favor the black background for some reason. I wish they would try different colors to make the photos stand out more. By the Time Beck performed there, I figured out a way to get some different background color though. Beck seemed upbeat and played plenty of the hits like “Where It’s At,” Devil’s Haircut,” ”Loser,” and “Novacane,” as well as covering Dylan’s “Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat,” and Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush.”

  • Fitz And The Trantrums

    “Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival,” Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
    August 10, 2012

    (John Davisson)

    | 

The next shoot was a tough choice; Of Monsters and Men were playing at the same time as Die Antwoord and I could only photograph one or the other. I chose Of Monsters and Men at the Sutro stage in the Lindley Meadow as I have really fallen in like with them lately. After shooting the standard first three songs, I thought I could make it back to the Lands End stage for Foo Fighters but Of Monsters and Men started late and the crowd was too huge to navigate quickly. I just saw them last week with a huge crowd at Lollapalooza, but this crowd was even larger, stretching the entire length of the meadow.

  • Of Monsters and Men

    Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.
    August 10, 2012

    (John Davisson)

    | 

Amazing! So I stayed for the entire set by Of Monsters and Men, and I enjoyed every minute of it, mostly from the hillside near the stage. They really get the crowd engaged.

I ended the first night with one of my favorites (and a hometown favorite for the Bay area), Neil Young & Crazy Horse. I always enjoy the Horse and they played some extended jams that were perfect as a fog settled into the Polo Field for the night. Although they did not play anything from the latest album Americana, they did play some new tunes that will probably be on a new album soon. “Born in Ontario,” “Twisted Road,” and “Walk Like a Giant” (I’m guessing at the names) sounded like the classic Horse that filled most of the set. “Psychedelic Pill,” which is reportedly the title of their soon-to-be-released new album was also a good preview. Hearing “Powderfinger”, “Cinnamon Girl” and “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” swirling amongst the cool night air in Golden Gate Park with unreleased Horse songs was a wonderful end to the first day at Outside Lands.

  • Neil Young & Crazy Horse

    Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.
    August 10, 2012

    (John Davisson)

    | 

On Saturday, I arrived in time for Zola Jesus on the Lands End Stage. Because Metallica was headlining, the stage now featured ramps from either side that came to a point near the soundboard to create a center pit for some lucky fans. Zola put on a fine set, using the ramps to reach the fans that arrived early. For the rest of the afternoon, I bounced between the Lands End and Sutro stages photographing local singer Sean Hayes, Australia’s psychedelic rock band Tame Impala, and the bluegrass style of The Be Good Tanyas. Portugal. The Man’s new ferocious sound worked great on the Land’s End Stage, ending with a cover of the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.”

  • Zola Jesus

    Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.
    August 11, 2012

    (John Davisson)

    | 

  • Sean Hayes

    Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.
    August 11, 2012

    (John Davisson)

    | 

  • Portugal. The Man

    Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.
    August 11, 2012

    (John Davisson)

    | 

Alabama Shakes must have been on everybody’s bucket list for the day as they drew a huge crowd to the Sutro stage, much like Of Monsters and Men did the day before. I photographed the first three songs and then heard most of their set as I slowly made my way out through the huge crowd. Thankfully, the music was great and kept me from getting too claustrophobic in the crowd, even when I got chewed out by the keeper of beer wristbands for trying to walk through his real estate.

  • Michael Kiwanuka

    Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.
    August 11, 2012

    (John Davisson)

    | 

Fortunately I was able to make it to the first three songs of Michael Kiwanuka at the Panhandle stage. With a rough, old soul voice reminiscent of Otis Redding or Marvin Gaye, he attracted a good crowd and threw in a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Waterfall.” When I returned to the Sutro stage to photograph the Grandaddy reunion, much of the Alabama Shakes crowd was gone and maintenance workers were repairing downed fencing (I guess the claustrophobia got to some people). The Kills drew a nice crowd and kept it loud at the Lands End Stage (and they had a nice animal print backdrop that made a nice backdrop for photos).

At the end of the day, the local band Metallica ruled the Polo Field with plenty of power, pyro, and production. They even had lasers shooting into the foggy sky and Metallica classics like “One,” “Enter Sandman,” ”Creeping Death,” and “Nothing Else Matters” were perfect excuses to form mosh pits on the Polo Field. By the time they ended with “Battery” and “Seek and Destroy,” they had earned their headlining status.

  • Metallica

    Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.
    August 11, 2012

    (John Davisson)

    | 

I entered the grounds on Sunday in time to hear some soul music from Allen Stone on the Lands End stage, although I was too late to photograph. The first act I photographed on Sunday was Tom Morello: the Nightwatchman on the Sutro stage and then I hustled back to Lands End to photograph fun. Then it was the long walk to the Twin Peaks stage for some Big Gigantic jams and back to Lands End for a huge crowd at the Franz Ferdinand set (with a nice backdrop instead of standard black).

  • Big Gigantic

    Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.
    August 12, 2012

    (John Davisson)

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Then, on the way to the Sutro stage, I saw a familiar yellow truck and found Jack White playing a pop-up surprise set in the woods for several hundred fans. The crowd was big enough that I couldn’t see Jack from any angle, although I could hear him. Some fans tried climbing into the trees for a view. When I heard him end his set, I continued to the Sutro stage to photograph City and Colour, and then photographed Regina Spektor on the Lands End stage.

  • Jack White

    Playing a surprise pop-up show at the “Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival,” Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
    August 12, 2012

    (John Davisson)

    | 

Jack White was next on the Lands End stage, and his fans filled the Polo Field as he cranked out tunes from his entire career, “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” and set closer “Seven Nation Army” thrilled fans of the White Stripes, and The Raconteurs were represented by “Top Yourself,” while The Dead Weather were represented with “Cut Like a Buffalo.” Of course he played plenty of songs from his new album Blunderbuss.

  • Jack White

    Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.
    August 12, 2012

    (John Davisson)

    | 

Not many artists could follow Jack White, but Stevie Wonder was up to the task. He walked across the stage with a keytar to sing “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” and included Motown classics and funk gems like “Superstition” “I Wish,” and “Higher Ground.” More surprising were covers of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” and Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.” He ended a generous set with an encore of a Beatles song (“She Loves You”) and a Temptations song (“My Girl”).

  • Stevie Wonder

    Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.
    August 12, 2012

    (John Davisson)

    | 

A mile away, on the Panhandle and Twin Peaks stages, Wolfgang Gartner and Skrillex were dropping beats and bass for the younger fans. Both Stevie Wonder and Skrillex had huge crowds to close out the 2012 Outside Lands festival.


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