Outside Lands San Francisco – An audio disaster of no proportion

Yeah, Yeah…this post is incredibly late, but I’ve been thinking a lot about what I witnessed Friday, Aug 22nd and Sat, August 23rd at Outside Lands, an incredibly ambitious 3 day music festival in Golden Gate park, San Francisco. Something happened that I have never in my life seen and heard at a show…something so insanely out of the realm of possibility that when this particular moment arrived 100k+ people’s jaw hit the floor…back to this moment in a sec…let me brief you on the day.

We arrive at the show early (a SMART thing it turns out) to an incredible fairytale layout of tents, windmills, lighted Cypress trees, and music from all angles. If I were still in college I probably would have seen dancing bears and Chinese dragons too. Excited we walk into Steel Pulse who set the mood as an opener for this festival perfectly…great call concert promoters. Even though Steel Pulse has been around for many moons they were extremely tight and bled the peaceful Rasta vibe that got everyone moving and in the mood. Awesome so far.

Manu Chao is up next on our agenda, GREAT! I’ve been hearing great things, but wait…BECK is scheduled to start 10min after they start. Fuck. Ok, 10min of Manu Chao and then let’s go to BECK. Manu Chao is KILLING IT. The crowd is going crazy and fuck it all if we have to leave…I mean it’s BECK for God’s sake. So we journey across Golden Gate fields running into the largest corralled group of people bottlenecked into an area 25 feet wide trying to get from the main stage to where Beck was playing…NOW we understand just how big this thing is. After an incredible fight for positioning like no other I’ve ever experienced…BECK! or should I say beck 😦 If that wasn’t the most lack luster show I’ve seen in a while than you can shove your foot up my ass and shit down my neck. GAWD, what a disappointment. Beck seemed to almost SLEEP through the set barely moving, metal hair in his face, shitty guitar tones…disappointing. Ok, let’s go…20min to Radiohead!

So we knee, elbow, and fight our way through 25k+ people back to the cattle drive to get back to the main stage to claim our land for Radiohead. We had been afforded VIP tickets (HIGHLY recommended if you can get them bought for you) so were front row stage left. AWESOME. Radiohead comes on to an absolutely fucking mind blowing set leaving no doubt that they are the rock and roll arena giants of our time…and then the impossible happens…every bands nightmare…every fans annoyance…every sound electricians pink slip…every sound man’s death certificate.

The sound stops.

It just cuts out like someone tripped over the main cord that powered the whole front of house speaker system. Confusion. A mass sigh of “Whaaaaa!?”. A faint sound of a band coming from the on stage monitors. The end is here. It’s the fucking Rapture. 15-20 seconds go by, but Radiohead is still playing…the sounds pops back on as quickly as it pop’s off. The crowd ROARS!!! ALL IS SAVED!!!! until 3 minutes go by and the same thing happens again…this time Thom York obviously pissed mentioning that “I don’t know what the fuck is going on” and apologizes profusely. Un-fucking-real. I’m surprised a riot didn’t break out. I about started one.

Now the good news is that the sound came back…the sun went down…Radiohead picked themselves up by the bootstraps and showed why they are professionals and beat out a perfect set being the first band in history to play Golden Gate Park at night…it truly turned back to amazing in a gratifying hurry… HUGE props to Radiohead. Amazing.

The nights over…the audio blunder behind us we head home with high hopes for Sat. thinking what we witnessed operationally would never happen again…oh contraire mon friar. To make a long story longer and skipping the best musical act IMO (I’ll touch on this later) I’ll jump to the most amazing blunder even WORSE than what happened during Radiohead’s set.

Imagine this…It’s night time in golden Gate Park. The Cypress trees are glowing red, purple, orange all around the park. Tom Petty is KILLING it on the main stage to a crowd where you can not see the end North, South, East, or West…this is fucking MASSIVE. People dancing all around…you get the idea…BUT! all of the sudden Steve Winwood pops on stage and The Heartbreakers bust into a full set of old Traffic tunes! HOLY SHIT! If this isn’t a moment in music history then you’re outta your mind. The crowd absolutely ERUPTS! And then…yes folks…it happens.

The sound cuts out. Once, twice, then three times during this magical moment. I fucking lost it…HOW? WHY? Where’s the sound man…I’m going to wring his fucking neck! Were people pissed, disappointed? You can only imagine…it was a disaster. Petty, Winwood, and the Heartbreakers finish like the pros that they are never acknowledging the audio blunders. The crowd leaves extremely satisfied, but with a dark hole in their soul.

Me? I leave with the thought that I saw the most amazing set earlier in the day at one of the side stages…a band like no other…a power trio coming together to absolutely crush this festival and make my musical concert going year. Primus. You Suck.

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