The Flaming Lips

The third and final day of Outside Lands 2014 was much the same as the previous two, save for the promise of an exciting finale from a compelling headliner.

I missed hometown heroes Gardens & Villa in favor of catching The Flaming Lips on the fest’s Lands End Stage, where watching a vacant, half-hearted session of ball walking proved about all I could take without returning to one of those gourmet cocktail booths by the cooking stage. (I heard Duck Sauce actually made duck sauce there, BTW).

Outside Lands is, for better or for worse, San Francisco’s music festival, and in 2014 that isn’t as exciting a prospect as one might think. Australia’s Flume was brought in to do what he does — the very same thing he did in our own La Casa de la Raza earlier this year — which is to say he whipped one of the weekend’s largest crowds at the Twin Peaks Stage into an absolute frenzy for most of his less-than-an-hour-long set. Then there was a mass exodus to the main stage for Spoon (a transition that makes perfect sense with one visit to Spotify’s current homepage). Swedish alt-pop star Lykke Li did an admirable job of imbuing some sense of cool to the otherwise drab Sunday afternoon. Her band’s bass-laden version of Kanye West’s “Send It Up” sent ripples of fist pumps clear across the field from the same not-quite-headlining stage that would be closed out by Cut Copy and Tïësto.

By the third day, most of the bumps or uncertainties that come along with wandering around in a park with hundreds of thousands of people had been ironed out. The lines at the less-than-awesome food booths were minuscule, and the number of passive-aggressive confrontations over accidental steps on ambitiously laid-out picnic blankets similarly dwindled. And since the atmosphere is less new (thereby making it less distracting), everyone was able to efficiently get down to the business of watching some of the bands. The crowd was lighter earlier on than in days prior, the result of large-scale hangover recovery or last-minute sight-seeing for those who flew in for the weekend.

Keeping true to form, the Sutro Stage would provide one of the days most pleasurable lineups, playing host to the likes of Jenny Lewis, Ben Howard, and Ray LaMontagne — all of which made for excellent sitting-on-a-hill music, as well as a nice refuge from the plaid-shirted, freshly-hired tech industry professionals who use Outside Lands to reunite with their former teammates/college fraternity brothers on a seemingly never-ending basis.

Outside Lands (OSL) is, apparently, a festival built first and foremost for people who work in San Francisco (or their international, “tech-savvy” equivalent). There are vaguely youthful aesthetics (including walls where graffiti painters freely tagged their Twitter handles), highly functional apps, and a diligently assembled roster of talent, as well as amenities comparable with those at a Sandals resort.

Similarly, OSL is itself reflective of the transitive state that it’s host city is currently in, with longtime San Franciscans demonstrating citywide in the face of an eviction crisis that’s been exacerbated by the influx of hotel-priced short-term rentals (made popular by services like Airbnb).

“This is where it all started,” said Wayne Coyne, wrapped in a shiny fur coat with people in giant mushroom costumes flanking him on either side. “Right up there on Haight Street.”

The Flaming Lips’ 6:40 p.m. set would hit a snag when Coyne’s giant inflatable hamster ball got stuck on the ground near the main stage’s sound booth because there weren’t enough people present in the Lands End area to properly transport Coyne back to the stage. Security eventually intervened, though, and launched the ball back onto the crowd and, eventually, onto the stage. “We love San Francisco!” Coyne would declare throughout the hour-ish-long sing-along set (which was still awesome, albeit a bit tragic). During all three days of the festival, every mention of the city would draw jubilation from the crowd of selvedge denim and Pendelton-wearing twenty-somethings, and for good reason — they just moved there, and they love San Fran, too!


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