Owl and Bear’s Sylvia Borgo attended the recent Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival and reviewed and shot photos of several bands. Check out Sylvia’s report below!
Naia Kete: A young singer with a sweet demeanor, Kete kicked off the Outside Lands festival at noon on the Panhandle stage. During her sweet and soulful performance, Kete constantly smiled at her band members and the crowd. As she and her band played their fourth song, the sound went out — but the crowd cheered loudly to encourage them to keep going.
Smith Westerns: Chicago’s Smith Westerns was the first band to take the Land’s End stage at 12:50pm. Lead-singer and guitarist Cullen Omori welcomed the crowd by saying, “Good morning San Francisco! I mean good afternoon. It might as well be morning.” The band started their set with “Fool Proof,” and crowd favorites included “Varsity” and “Weekend,” the final song of their set.
Houndmouth: India’s Houndmouth performed after Naia Kete on the Panhandle stage. The band changed one of their song lyrics (a song that sounded like a country western ballad) to say, “…got a drink in San Francisco,” and the crowd cheered loudly.
The Heavy: The Sutro stage was brought to life when from Bath, England’s The Heavy played their set. The band is currently touring with the Silent Comedy, and similarly, lead singer Kelvin Swaby is a charismatic performer. During the fourth song, he had the crowd howl like wolves: he would sing out, “I’m the Big Bad Wolf,” and the audience responded with, “What you say?”
Band of Horses: Seattle’s Band of Horses played a short set, which prevented them from playing some of their biggest hits. However, the band nonetheless pleased the crowd with songs like “For Annabelle,” “The First Song,” and “Wedding Bands,” the set’s penultimate song. An hour before their set, lead singer Ben Bridwell was spotted hanging out in the field; he wasn’t in the VIP section, just among the attendees.
The National: When Cincinnati indie rockers The National took the stage, lead singer Matt Berninger said, “Did it start raining just for us?” Then, they launched into their set. The National was accompanied not only by the usual trumpet and trombone player, but also by the Kronos Quartet. The string quartet joined The National for their second song, “I Should Live In Salt,” and continued for six more songs. Aaron Dressner introduced the Kronos Quartet by saying, “We are honored to have them with us, they are heroes of ours and are from San Francisco.”
Although The National’s set included classics like “Fake Empire” and “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” (“Trouble Will Find You,” “Demons,” “Squalor Victoria,” “Graceless,”) the band mostly played songs off their most recent album, Trouble Will Find Me.” Matt Berninger used a lot of profane language during the National’s set until saying, “I just remembered my daughter’s preschool teacher is here, Miss Jennifer. We have to pull it together.” Before introducing “My Girl,” he said, “This next song is half about my daughter and half about my wife.”
As he usually does, Berninger went out into the crowd during “Mr. November,” the second-to-last song of The National’s set. There must’ve been at least 45,000 people on Golden Gate Park’s polo fields at the time; even though it was not easy to move around, Berninger braved it anyway. Special guest Bob Weir joined the band for The National’s final song, “Terrible Love.”
Paul McCartney: The excitement for Paul McCartney was palpable prior to his set. Audience members were heard saying things like, “I can’t believe I’m going to see a Beatle,” “T-minus 75 minutes to McCartney,” and “There is a Beatle in the house.” About twenty minutes before McCartney took the stage, the multimedia production that announced the beginning of the show consisted of a video and photo montage with background songs like “Come Together,” “Why Don’t We Do It in The Road,” and “Twist and Shout.”
Onstage, McCartney was very funny. You could tell that he liked pleasing the crowd. And he was good, really good. McCartney does not have the same voice that he did four decades ago, but anyone expecting the 71-year old’s voice to falter during his set was sorely disappointed. The former Beatle sounded great and put on an excellent show.
During McCartney’s set, the polo fields and press tent were packed. People rocked out to “Helter Skelter” and some even cried during “Blackbird,” “Let it Be,” and “Yesterday.” Everyone sang along to the Beatles hits, the Wings hits, and the solo hits. From fans, to security guards, concession stand workers, to festival officials, everyone seemed to know all the words to all the songs.
The crowd favorites were many, but included “And I Love Her,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” and “Blackbird,” which McCartney said he wrote for the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. He said he wrote the song thinking that if it got back to the people of the South, the song might bring someone some hope.
During the set, McCartney said, “What is that strange smell, it smells wonderful,” obviously alluding to all the marijuana smoke wafting across the venue. He mentioned that at concerts, people always bring signs, but that he can’t read them because he needs to focus on playing chords and remembering lyrics. At that point, he read a few of the signs in the crowd. One said, “Please Paul, let my first tattoo be you.” Another said, “Sign my butt,” at which point McCartney said, “We’ll let’s see it.” Before the encore, he brought out two young ladies (one from Oakland and one from Ohio) who were carrying signs seeking tattoos, and he signed their wrists.
McCartney played “Something in the Way She Moves” on the ukulele and introduced it with a memory of George Harrison. He said, “I was around his house one day, and I said ‘I learned one of your songs on the ukulele.’ You know, George was a great ukulele player, just fantastic.”
“Back in the U.S.S.R.” was another crowd favorite. After he played it, McCartney said, “Thank you, you little rockers.” He told a story about writing the song because The Beatles really wanted to play there: “We finally got an invitation to play Red Square. We were the first rock ‘n roll band to play there. The Russian Defense Minister came up to me and said [at this point McCartney spoke in a fake Russian accent], “‘Paul, the first record I bought was Love Me Do.’”
The second half of his set was more high-energy than the first. McCartney played “Live and Let Die,” with fireworks and giant flames shooting toward the sky. He also played “Hey Jude” and had the men and women take turns singing “Na, na, na, na.” He asked that the audience to join him by saying, “Okay, I’m gonna say ‘It’s your turn now,’ at some point during the song, and you will sing gloriously.” McCartney’s two-song encore began with “Yesterday,” and The Kronos Quartet joined him onstage. The final song was the “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End” medley.
I have been to many concerts, and I’ve been lucky to see many amazing artists, but McCartney singing to 65,000 people and playing for almost three hours is something quite spectacular. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried too.