Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Less Ag, More Culture

Lands End - main stage

This weekend was the long anticipated Outside Lands music, food, wine and art festival at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. This is only the festival's 4th year and it was the 3rd year we have gone. It spanned three days and included about 80 bands and DJ's and was attended by 180,000 people! It was by far the most crowded year but the crowd was surprisingly mellow (a testament to the amount of marijuana present?); most everyone was respectful of each other, the park and the neighborhood.

Crowded defined - At Sutro stage
Twin Peaks stage

Tall people are unfairly blessed when it comes to concert viewing; standing among a sea of people with no space to squeeze yourself any closer to the stage, it pays to be head and shoulders above others. The only advantage I found to being short at a concert is when the sun is beating down; sometimes you can hide in the shade of those envy inducing tall folks.

Here's my top three band countdown...

Wye Oak at the Panhandle stage
At the smallest stage that is reserved for up and coming acts you can sometimes feel like you wasted valuable time on a lame show (ie Matt & Kim circa 2009); conversely you can catch also catch a great new band. This was the case with Wye Oak, an "earnest folk-influenced indie rock band with touches of noise and dream pop." Jenn Wasner sings and plays guitar and Andy Stack plays drums and keyboard bass (at the same time!) They are worth a listen for sure and I imagine them well paired with a rainy afternoon.

The Black Keys are the soulful, hard rocking blues duo of Dan Auerbach (vocals, guitar) and Patrick Carney (drums). They have been around almost 10 years but are just now getting some well deserved recognition, including 3 Grammy's this year. They rocked the crowed and drank water (instead of shots or beer) proudly. Love that voice!

Without a doubt, the highlight of the weekend was Arcade Fire. They won a 2011 Grammy for Best Album of the Year, even though they are not well known in the mainstream. Arcade Fire is a band with purpose, conscious and heart.  Frontman Win Butler has mastered the ability to make each person in the audience feel like they are his friend; that he cares about them and their city. The music was wonderful, the show lively. They were the perfect addition to the soundtrack of our lives, as Matt put it.

The undercover hit of the weekend was the food. The festival organizers specifically choose local restaurants, caterers, sweet shops and food trucks to provide tasty fare for famished concert goers; no chains or crappy fair food allowed.

Farmer's market area featuring produce from Full Belly Farms & Urban Sprouts
This provided almost as many eating opportunities as band choices, so I got dinner and dessert from different vendors each day. Quality abounded in my selections, which included a grass-fed hamburger, empanadas made in a truck and an amazing BBQ pork sandwich from Split Pea Seduction.

Desserts were abundant also, with caramel apples dunked in dark AND white chocolate, coconut macaroons and frozen yogurt sandwiched between two chewy snicker doodle cookies. It was a good thing we had to walk so much at the concert because my pants would probably be feeling pretty tight this week.

Here are a couple more sights of Outside Lands 2011...

Interactive art installations
Human wind chime
Glowing skulls in the dessert land

3 large pieces of art were created each day
Creepy sideshow
Muse's laser light show
Way to much fun

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