Ah, Golden Gate Park on a crisp, sunny Sunday morning. Well, afternoon. There’s nothing else like it. When I finally made my way out to Outside Lands, the highly recognizable vocal stylings of tUnE-yArDs were piping through the brush and bramble. Sweaty, shirtless men – fried to a near-crisp – rain danced far back from the Sutro Stage. And those free-jazzing saxophonists that I mentioned in the pre-festival rundown were indeed beside Merrill Garbus.
Next up, I high-tailed it to foodlands, where I shared gourmet tator tots from Q and later, a falafel snow cone – not as odd as it sounds – from Straw. As we munched, I caught a few songs by the legendary Mavis Staples, but apparently missed it when Arcade Fire singer Winn Butler came out to join Staples in a cover of “The Weight.”
I then hit the Twin Peaks stage for !!!, a dance-punk band I’ve had ongoing mixed feelings about, but I have to say: they put on a good live show yesterday. Nic Offer, wearing teensy jean shorts, sprang across stage, arms open wide, shaking his hips and calling on the crowd to get moving. On route to the set, I overheard a girl yell, “Is that how you say that? ‘Chick, chick, chick’?!”
I’m glad I ran out of !!! during the last couple of songs, so I could be front and center for local garage rocker Ty Segall, working it in the unrelenting (read: not that hot) San Francisco sun. Segall opened with a new song then headbanged his way through older favorites. It was a small stage, but Segall’s show was highly attended. He asked if the crowd would circle pit, then took it back and recommended they just pogo. A few crowd-surfed, at least one lost a shoe.
Major Lazer was a whole otherworldly affair. While dapper Diplo and Switch stood behind a table of mixed electronics and laptops, a hypeman hopped around stage whipping a towel while a woman in a bright tropical onesie and neon pink slotted shades ran back and forth, bending into contortionist-yoga poses.
I watched a few John Fogerty songs – all CCR – and thought how proud my father would be if he knew my proximity to Mr. Fortunate Son. I wanted to get prime viewing distance to Beirut so I made my way back to the Sutro Stage. With a mighty three-horn brass section (when Zach Condon wasn’t playing his ukulele) and a particularly lovely accordion, Beirut played songs off 2006’s Gulag Orkestar and 2007’s the Flying Club Cup, along with at least one track off upcoming release the Ripe Tide.
The exhilaration was palpable for Arcade Fire over at the Polo Fields/Lands End main stage. Thunderous screams rang out as each musician appeared on stage. Behind the band there was a marquee movie screen showing fuzzy, nostalgic images of tree-lined streets, warm sunsets, and cars on open roads – fitting in nicely with themes of its most recent album, the Suburbs. I’ll admit it, I got a little choked up. In the other direction, there was a sea of people, shrouded in the purple-blue lights of the stage, with lit-up booths lined up past them, and the dark tops of trees out in the park beyond those.