Despite dreary, chilly weather from heavy fog and steady winds during the three-day 5th Annual Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco this past weekend, the city’s biggest summer music event sold out thanks to a lineup packed with legends of rock and pop, break-out artists of the past few years, and many other bands in between. (See our pre-festival playlist featuring songs from artists in the line-up)
Tens of thousands of festival goers braved the cold in Golden Gate Park to witness performances by artists like Stevie Wonder, Jack White, Metallica, Neil Young, The Foo Fighters, Justice, Fun, Beck, The Walkmen, Of Monsters and Men, covering the range of musical styles from classic rock and R&B, to indie rock and electronic; from folk and jazz to pop and metal.
On Sunday, the festival’s largest stage, Lands End, hosted a superb line-up of artists – Franz Ferdinand, Regina Spektor, Jack White and Stevie Wonder, making it one of the best five or six hours of back-to-back performances of any music festival this year. Even festival goers who had spent up to 25 or more hours at OSL since Friday had no problem mustering up the energy by the time Stevie Wonder, his band and back-up singers took the stage roughly around 7:30pm.
The crowd on Golden Gate Park’s gigantic Polo Field had been growing larger and more enthusiastic all afternoon. Between the beginning of Jack White’s blistering set of garage rock and the first notes of Stevie Wonder’s closing set, the crowd swelled to full capacity, with over 60,000 festival goers witnessing the making of music festival history.
Wonder’s set started off with love and ended with love, and featured a whole lot of love in between. The iconic, international superstar, who has hit records dating back to the 1960s, kicked off his two-hour and ten-minute set with Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is,” complete with a crowd sing-along to the chorus before launching into “Master Blaster (Jammin’),” followed by “Higher Ground,” that introduced Wonder’s music to an entire new generation thanks to the hit cover by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Wonder and his band also performed mainstay classics like “Superstition,” “I Just Called To Say I Love You,” “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing,” “My Cherie Amour,” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours,” to name a few.
Marvin Gaye was not the only cover Wonder performed. In fact, for his two-song encore, he played two beloved hit covers: The Beatles‘ “She Loves You” and The Temptations‘ “My Girl.” Along with guest vocals from his daughter, Aisha Morris, Wonder ripped out a stunning harmonica solo on Jimmy Reed‘s blues classic, “You Got Me Runnin’.” The last song before the encore, “Happy Birthday,” is featured in the YouTube video above.
Jack White Opens for Stevie Wonder; Plays Surprise Gig in the Woods
Another musical icon, Jack White, who wasn’t even born when Stevie Wonder had his first No. 1 song, “Fingertips, Part 1 & 2” , warmed up the chilly masses of fans early Sunday evening with a blazing set of songs from his debut solo album, Blunderbuss. The best artists sound great live, and White, along with his backup band, Los Buzzardos, often sounds better live than on his official studio recordings, which in no way diminishes the latter. The fact is that his blistering guitar-centric songs compliment a large outdoor venue like Golden Gate Park.
White ended his second Outside Lands appearance (he played with The Dead Weather in 2010) with a trio of White Stripes’ songs – “The Ssame Boy You’ve Always Known,” “Catch Hell Blues,” and “Seven Nation Army.” His Outside Lands’ performance clearly demonstrates White’s place as one of the most original and talented guitarists of the past two decades, if not, of all time.
The Biggest Surprise Performance of Outside Lands: Jack White Rocks the Woods
Prior to his performance on the Lands End main stage, White snuck into a grove of eucalyptus trees (designated as ‘Choco Lands’) where his Third Man Rolling Record Store – a truck he had remodeled into a record-store-on-wheels to promote his indie label, Third Man Records – was parked. The impromptu gig was broadcast via a custom-installed PA system on the truck. Afterwards, Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, and his all-female back-up band, the Peacocks also performed a surprise gig on Sunday. (View more of Zimbio’s photo essay of OSL)
White busted out tracks like his solo single, “Love Interruption,” The White Stripes‘ “Hotel Yorba,” and two Raconteurs‘ songs – “Top Yourself” and “Broken Boy Soldier” – surrounded by a few hundred festival goers. As word got around, hundreds of more fans headed for the woods – some running from the other stages – to see White jam. However, the unscheduled gig ended within 20 minutes.
For those lucky enough to have seen White blaze it in the foggy woods of Choco Lands, it’s likely an experience they’ll never forget. The rocking duo ended in time for those in the comparatively small gathering to make it in time to catch much of Regina Spektor’s splendid performance during which she, and a small band, delighted fans with songs like “Fidelity,” “Don’t Leave Me” and “Ballad of a Politician.”
Prior to Spektor’s set, Scottish rockers Franz Ferdinand belted out a superbly tight performance of one terrific song after another, including tracks like “Take Me Out,” a cover of Donna Summers‘ “I Feel Love,” followed by the band’s popular 2009 single, “Can’t Stop Feeling.” The wildly popular and commercially successful band ,Fun, who are riding their prolonged wave of fame pretty much thanks to the hit song, “We Are Young,” kicked off the premiere lineup for the Lands End stage shortly after lunch, performing a number of songs from their growing discography, plus, an impressive cover of The Rolling Stones‘ classic song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
Each time we’ve seen Fun since “We Are Young” went to the top of the Billboard charts, one can’t help but to notice that the majority of the crowds have consisted of pre-teen and teenage girls. And the hit song is getting old fast; over-exposed and over-played Singer-songwriter Allen Stone broke in the Lands End stage with his brunch time set that included a sleuth of tracks from his debut album
Other OSL Day 3 Sets: The Nightwatchman, Santigold, Bloc Party, Skrillex, Dispatch, Caveman & More
Even though the biggest artists of Day 3 (Sunday) at OSL Fest were booked solid all day until the 9:30pm curfew, there were still plenty of terrific artists who delivered fine performances at the other three stages – Twin Peaks, Sutro and Panhandle. The second largest stage, Twin Peaks (located at the other end of the festival grounds opposite of the main Lands End stage), hosted sets from artist and bands like The Nightwatchman, Santigold, Bloc Party, Skrillex, Dispatch, Amadou & Mariam, Infantree, Birdy, Caveman, Trampled by Turtles, City and Colour and many others. Plus, just like every other day of the festival, there were also DJ sets at the Dome and special showcases, variety shows and comedy acts at The Barbary.
View the Outside Lands line up announcement video.
Reviews of Day Two and Day One coming soon.