Outside Lands takes over SF once again with acts like the Strokes and Further -- but is it possible to build a better music festival?
From my snug, perhaps too-smug armchair-quarterback position, I want to believe it's not hard to beat the megaconcert doldrums. I'd suggest adding these reliable — and excitingly unpredictable — ingredients to future recipes.
1) Blend in at least one must-see reunion/once-a-decade reappearance that get music geek diehards drooling. Noise Pop used to get this right with stunning regularity, resuscitating critical faves like Big Star and Mission of Burma. The closest thing to that this year for Outside Lands is the Strokes, who I'm guessing don't inspire the same level of intense passion as, say, Dinosaur Jr. This year Coachella boasted rare turns by Sly Stone and Friends (it would have been a coup for the Bay Area festival to score the NorCal genius recluse), the once-Bay-based Faith No More, the Specials, Public Image Ltd., and Pavement.
2) In lieu of the once-in-a-lifetime reunion, sift in a very special album-length performance that everyone will yap about on online message boards, Facebook, or Twitter. Bonnaroo made it happen this year with the Flaming Lips performing Pink Floyd's 1973 The Dark Side of the Moon, and ATP New York on Sept. 3 has it in spades. Bay Area-bred Sleep is performing 1992's Holy Mountain, Iggy and the Stooges are playing 1973's Raw Power, Mudhoney is bringing 1988's Superfuzz Bigmuff back to life, and the Scientists are playing 1983's Blood Red River for the group's first U.S. show.
3) Mix in a dash of artists at the very top of their game. Pitchfork got it on with Big Boi, who may have released the best hip-hop album this year. Treasure Island has LCD Soundsystem, whose engagingly brainy, pop-literate James Murphy had even Terry Gross of Fresh Air tossing her KISS LPs.
4) Toss in a dollop of bands that are freakin' party-starters. Dan Deacon brought it last year at Treasure Island, and you can bet that the Gossip and Titus Andronicus did at Bonnaroo and Pitchfork, respectively.
5) Make sure to add a pinch of artists that get the critics and the kids hot and bothered. Pitchfork dangled such rare treats as Panda Bear, Robyn, and Lightning Bolt.
6) Last but not least, make it transcendent. The Barbary tent and puppet-covered wagon at last year's Outside Lands was an eye candy start. How about handing over a funhouse to an imaginative installation artist, or creating an low-priced, locally-sourced oasis for a star chef and a few lucky random audience members who aren't necessarily VIPs? Another idea: opening a DIY art salon or music-making studio space or dance palace, sans overly pushy corporate sponsorship.
I bet I'm not alone when I say I want to see something that's going to make me rethink what happens at these nouveau carnivals for adult merrymakers, these hipster art and wine festivals — something that will make me levitate, like Shellac as the house band (ATP), or, hey, maybe even Darryl Hall & Chromeo. I can go for that.
Aug. 14–15, all day, $75–$395
Golden Gate Park, SF