Outside Lands: Inside with Deerhunter, Street Sweeper Social Club, Mastodon, and more

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Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder. All photos, except where noted, by el fotografo clandestino.

By Kimberly Chun

O Outside Lands - how sprawling thou art. So many acts in the dusty, leafy grounds of Golden Gate Park, so many goings-on at night at the Independent and Rickshaw Stop. A few dispatches, then, from the periphery and about.

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Zap Mama.

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Zee Avi.


Friday, Aug. 28

I get to Golden Gate Park's Speedway Meadow at around noon-ish for the press check-in/media briefing. Alas, the line for the media, to get the bare essential bracelets, marching orders, etc., at the box office is long and languorous. Eesh. I wait, I roast -- the sun is blazing today -- and miss the media briefing. Guardian contributor Josh Rotter is panicked that he’s missing West Indian Girl and is heading over via cab, while folks are fretting in the line snaking out behind me. No worries -- things seem to be starting slowly and there’s barely anyone here apart from the fourth-estaters.

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The Dodos.

At the main stage -- Lands End -- Autolux is doing an admirable job of rocking moodily to the sparse mob -- swathes of gentle feedback, Moe Tucker-style beats, and drones of yore. Lovely -- and I love the fact that no one is here.

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The Barbary.

Over at the handsome, woody, faux-stained glass lined Barbary hut, Sherry Strof is joking about 99-cent store pregnancy kits: “Let’s face it, if you’re shopping for a pregnancy kit in a 99-cent store, you’re pregnant.” Sorry to miss Zap Mama, the Dodos, Black Joe Lewis and the Honey Beats, and the National, but I gotta jet. Lucky for you, our brave shooter was there (and at Street Sweeper Social Club that night at the Independent).

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Sexy shenanigans at the Barbary.

Saturday, Aug. 29
Whoop-whoop -- it’s hella cooler today, though the Black Eyed Peas crowd won’t be winning Hipster Bingo anytime soon, I suspect. Overheard: “Are they bigger than U2?” I hear they’re on this crazy little widget called radio.

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Dengue Fever at the press tent. Photo by Kimberly Chun.

I like to relax into Outside Lands. Missing most of TV on the Radio’s set, way out over the dusty hill at the Twin Peaks stage? Love where you land instead: here, have a massage in the VIP tent (and here’s hoping some soused dorkus in a striped shirt doesn’t try to flirt with my therapist from her oh-so-public and delicate ministrations).

First up for me, Extra Golden, waxing fresh and lively at the Panhandle Solar area. The Kenya Benga-indie rock blend has the inner hippie in us all shaking our ‘hinds and undulating like happy handmaids to an Afropop Bacchus. Hot drumming from Onyango Wuod Omari.

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Street Sweepers Social Club at the Independent Friday night.

Off we ramble to Oakland rapper Boots Riley and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello’s Street Sweeper Social Club at Twin Peaks stage as they enter dramatically to the Death Star overture from Star Wars. Luke, they’re your daddies -- and despite initial mic issues for Riley, the group delivers big-time, jumping around, hopping in tandem -- a super-energized combo of Rage Against the Machine-style distortion and extra-crunchy riffs and Riley’s raps. Was that a cover of M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” -- fists punching the air with every “bang-bang-bang”? SSSC’s performance definitely makes up for what seemed like less-than-dynamic-sounding studio album -- next time Morello ought to hand off production duties to someone who can really bottle the group’s live power.

Ice cream break for a lemon cookie cone at Three Twins, then back to the same stage for Mastodon, who take the crowd on a little heavy, heavy journey (much like the fella beside me who declared, “I like jam bands because they take me on a journey” -- the train’s leaving now, man). Dudes are experimenting with new rock modes, sans hooks and conventional song structures. Nice -- though companion Dr. Fluffy is less than impressed.

Much better: Os Mutantes, who are even better than they were at their first SF appearance at the Fillmore in 2006. Awesome -- locked in psychedelic pop with truly rocking trajectories. The added treat: tunes from their first studio album in decades. Does it get any better than listening to the brooding gloom funk of the new “Querida Querida” in the sweet grass beneath the bowers?

Os Mutantes is so entrancing we nearly miss Bat for Lashes -- Natasha Khan is on point, warbling breathily with a white head band and white kitty-cat shirt as her group pours out the synthpop -- night to the day of her once-folky, almost Cocorosie-like sound. Still, lovely though brief -- and an ear cleaner before taking in Black Eyed Peas briefly. All the hits are there -- “My Humps,” “I Gotta Feeling,” et al -- but despite the jazzed-up, stylish, electro-lite video treatments, I’m still not feeling ‘em (though they give all the old-schoolish shout-outs to their first SF shows at Maritime Hall and Justice League -- yes, they’ve been around that long!).

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Deerhunter's Bradford Cox. Photo by Kimberly Chun.

I’m ho-humming it outta there early and off to Deerhunter -- who are back in my good graces. So different from their early SF performance at 12 Galaxies -- still the most powerful show of theirs I’ve caught -- yet much, much better than their bland and forgettable turn opening for Nine Inch Nails at Oracle Arena not long ago. I could do without the cliched rock ‘n’ roll poses coming off, say, bassist Josh Fauver, who looks like he thinks he’s Jean-Paul Belmondo crossed with Johnny Thunders, with his cig dangling from his pouty lips. Still, excellent, imaginative sounds come pouring off the group -- it’s safe to believe the hype.

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Clare Rojas artwork.