Tuesday, June 19 , 2018, 10:28 am | Fair 64º


Paul Mann: Outside Lands Festival, Day 2

Sun, surf and Syrah provide a perfect sideshow to the day's highlights, including the Dave Matthews Band and The Black Eyed Peas

When I was a boy growing up in Florida, my imagination was captured by a story I read about a Woodstock-like music festival called Mar y Sol.

The festival took place in Puerto Rico, near a famous surfing beach named Los Tubos. I thought it must be heaven on Earth to attend a three-day music festival within earshot of good surfing waves. So, it came as a great surprise to find out that the main stage of the Outside Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park was only blocks away from one of the best surfing beaches in California. It may not be the warm tropical paradise I envisioned in my dreams, but it was pretty close when I heard that there was an out-of-season big winter swell headed to Ocean Beach on the second day of the event.

With hot, humid conditions persisting from a passing tropical wave, it was a perfect beach day. Paddling out by the huge Seal Rocks, a strong riptide aided in accessing six to eight barreling breakers. The waves were the scariest and most powerful I had seen since last winter at Rincon. A few miles to the south, even larger breakers could be seen breaking nearly a mile out to sea. A few surfers dodged the outside sets and looked like flies on a windscreen.

After the exciting but humbling surf session, I was dropped off at the entrance to Outside Lands, dressed in a T-shirt and jeans and covered with fresh ocean salt. I made my way into the festival and straight into the Winehaven tent for more Syrah wine tasting. What a way to begin my second day of the festival. I had a quick breakfast after my tasting and headed to the main stage to check out hip-hop group Zion I.

The talented duo have been producing their unique brand of hip hop for more than a decade. Lead singer Zumbi somberly dedicated his set to recently deceased pioneer mash up DJ AM.

Next, I decided to mix things up and catch a comedy set by Brent Weinbach in the Barbary Tent. Then I did an about-face to the main stage to hear an awesome set by Oakland native Raphael Saddiq. Yet another standard bearer for ‘60s soul, rhythm and blues music, this former member of the band Tony! Toni! Tone! and his exciting new band were on fire. His recent solo career has exploded with three Grammy nominations for his recent new album featuring performances by Stevie Wonder, Joss Stone and Jay-Z.

From there I jogged over to the Panhandle stage to catch an interesting set by Extra Golden, a band that fuses a unique blend of Kenyan benga music with American rock. I continued on to the Twin Peaks stage for part of an intense set by Street Sweeper Social Club. Fronted by Tom Morello, guitarist for Rage Against The Machine, the band is eerily similar in tone, style and message to RATM, one of the most socially relevant rock bands of our time. Morello even pleaded with fans to visit his Web site to help homeless people.

It was a short walk back to the Panhandle solar stage to catch another eclectic act, Portugal, The Man. Originally from Wasilla, Alaska, this indie band is now based in Portland, Ore. Its intense jams borrow from many genres, including soul, folk, rock and blues.

After another pause at Winehaven and more food sampling, I did an about-face to the Twin Peaks stage for Atlanta-based heavy metal band Mastadon. The Grammy-nominated group is the real deal and another one of the stalwart touring bands on the national festival circuit. Comparable in intensity and style to Metallica, the fiery-haired Georgians even look the part of Viking-like purveyors of ax-grinding metal music.

Later I took a detour to the more isolated Presidio stage to catch another one of my favorite jam bands, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. Playing flat-out New Orleans-style jazz rock jams, Shorty leads his band into one frenzied jam after another.

Then it was time to make the long haul back to the main stage, where a huge crowd had formed for one of the most anticipated acts of the festival, The Black Eyed Peas. As the backing band began to play, fans erupted into frenzied dancing and applause. The crowd went wild for the four rappers: will.i.am, Apl.de.Ap, Taboo and Fergie. One of the most successful rap groups of all time, with more than 20 million worldwide record sales, the band is well-known for its exciting live shows. I found Fergie particularly mesmerizing.

I jogged back to the Presidio stage to catch part of JJ Grey and Mofro’s set. The funky rocking blues band from Florida is yet another example of the classic iconic American jam band. They played to a small crowd, competing with big names on the other stages, but it was a frenetic, dance-crazed crowd of true fans.

After that, I walked across the meadow to the Sutro stage, where Conor Oberest & The Mystic Valley Band was playing to a large crowd. Touring with no fewer than five groups in the past few years, Oberest is always reinventing his folksy roots sound, sighting influences as diverse as Neil Young, The Cure and Elliot Smith. He has always been a popular player in San Francisco.

It was then time to head back to the main stage for the final act of the evening and the biggest surprise of the festival for me, the Dave Matthews Band. As I made my way through a vast sea of fans, I stopped to buy a long-sleeved concert shirt to stave off the first chill in the air in two days. I knew the band played popular and accessible hit songs, but I had no idea it could jam as intensely as Pearl Jam had done the night before.

The two-and-a-half-hour set, the longest of any band playing at the festival, may have been the best and most well-received of the three-day event. As I sat savoring the last few songs of the evening on a hill in back of the main stage, it occurred to me how much great music I had absorbed that day. The sheer volume of good music allowed other bands that I liked to slip by without a chance to see them. Groups I had seen at other festivals but that I had missed that day included Mars Volta, TV on The Radio and Jason Mraz, among many others.

What an amazing festival!

— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributor.

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