M.I.A. All photos by Kimberly Chun.
By Kimberly Chun
Outside Lands -- here and now gone. A final dispatch from the dusty, green groves.
Sunday, Aug. 30
Keeping your expectations low is key to smorgasbord fests. Still, I expected a sparser crowd today, the day of the canceled Beastie Boys appearance due to Adam Yauch’s cancer diagnosis, and those expectations were fulfilled. There was definitely less of a mob today: not quite as many specially propped-up cleavages and fewer well-heeled, supertanned oldsters (acolytes of George Hamilton?) than yesterday. What can you say? Dave Matthews definitely skewed the demographic toward the middle-aged, if not outright white-haired.
I don’t know how gramps and grammy would have felt about the fence-jumpers, but they were definitely hopping today as well: I spied about a dozen crash over the fence en masse near the Presidio stage mid-afternoon to the sound of congratulatory whoops from bystanders on the inside. Outside a few agile types peered in at the Sutro stage from the trees on the other side of the barrier. Low-key in comparison to last year’s gang fence-vaulting.
Matt and Kim.
Unfortunately I couldn’t get out of the house and to the Golden Gate Park grounds till about 2:30 p.m. with a moving-day-frenzied Kristy Geschwandtner on hand (the K.I.T. member is moving south to attend UCLA with the help of Evil Wikkid Warrior brain John Benson’s veggie-oil-fueled Bus). We arrive to catch a few distance grooves from Robert Randolph and the Family Band and the all-out happiness onslaught of Matt and Kim.
Matt and Kim.
Those two are high on hyper-positivity with the added “bonus” of Kim’s booty dance to distract the crowd from some drum repair issues. Smiles! And frenetic beats and Casiotone one-finger melodies for all. The crowd considers itself charmed: it’s amazing how far this twosome has come from the warehouse parties of the not-so-distant past.
Jury's still out on this smorgasbord: Fried macaroni and cheese from the Andalu stand (a thumbs up, though, for Maverick's barbecue sandwich and Yats New Orleans catfish po' boys and jambalaya).
Next out: the Dead Weather -- casting a gloomy tide of low-wattage, slow-jam dirges at the Twin Peaks stage. A perfect match for the overcast weather. Kristy and I agree that Jack White, flailing at his kit in the rear for the most part, resembles late-period Michael Jackson. Pre-death, of course.
Yes, the Dead Weather are keeping it real and remain true to their moniker, rocking a dark, gloomy look and bluesy grind. I decide I prefer the supergroup’s album to their more straight-forward delivery, though about halfway through the set, the energy finally picks up and Alison Mosshart is positioned with her feet atop the monitors, teetering, hair blown back out of her face (Astonishing, behold the face!), and crowd is gently revved up, as if a rumbling blue-rock lullaby has finally stirred it from its Sunday nod.
Never mind the Weather -- Kristy and I are distracted by a guy wearing a Chewbacca costume in the crowd. I want to poke the tags at the back of his neck back into the fake Wookiee fur. Gotta run before I lose a digit.
Speaking of critters, we’re just in time to see a good deal of Modest Mouse’s set at the Lands End stage. Dudes now resemble handsome dads, resplendent in plaid (Northwest, ho!), and they even break out the standup bass, squeezebox, banjo, and such for the more countrified numbers. The band seems to be slipping modestly into something prettier, folkier, and filigreed. I’m pleasantly surprised, but now I need a coffee -- or at the very least a blue Kool-Aid. So we head to the Intel tent, puzzlingly named the “Today Is So Yesterday Lounge,” where men and women in white lab coats, minis, and blue wigs hand out azure M&Ms and beverages and frug to, uh, AC/DC. Huh? Why not just call it the “Back to the Future Hut” and kill yourself by overdosing on Sudan 1 food coloring while you’re at it?
Speaking of “Back to the Future,” we head back to the Lands End stage for a real dose of the future: M.I.A., in what had to be the best performance of the day, in my semi-informed opinion, having only caught a fraction of Sunday’s acts. Nevertheless, consider our minds officially blown -- our grey matter probably splattered Boots Riley of Street Sweepers Social Club and the Coup, watching the set nearby, close to the stage. “Boyz” drifted through the performance like an unifying theme, as M.I.A. -- slender, post-pregnancy, and outfitted in a crazy-great, primary-colored, sequined leopard dress -- showed us how it’s done alongside a three-man percussion-DJ band. Initial mic issues be damned -- she had her two B-girls beside her. A pair of manic comically pale boys with crew cuts, double joints, and matching blue suits shook it up at key moments, as the video screen flashed a searing montage of Kala-style visuals, part African textile, part sensory-overload electro.
Toy horns were thrown out -- and it looked like baby daddy Benjamin Bronfman/Brewer helped with the tossing -- so the audience could generate a nice drone. And M.I.A. herself ventured out into the crowd on the shoulders of a security guard and tried out a new song titled “Born Free.” A Beastie Boys tribute of “Sabotage” and “Intergalactic” sent out well wishes to MCA -- and it all came to an end with a languorous, slightly slowed-down version of “Paper Planes.” Euphoric, we sailed out of the Outside Lands compound -- sorry, Tenacious D; we’re not that tenacious -- borne aloft by M.I.A., borne free.
At the Surfrider Foundation booth.