Outside Lands 2013 – Day 2 Outside Lands 2013 – Day 2

Words and Photos by Ben Irwin

Outside Lands 2013 Coverage:
Outside Lands Day 1 Photos and Review
Outside Lands Day 2 Photos and Review
Outside Lands Day 3 Photos and Review


What Outside Lands does better than any festival I’ve been to is provide so many different experiences for people to choose from. A wide selection of microbrew, craft cocktails, Napa wines, and the best food in the Bay are welcome distractions at the midway point of the festival; a literal palate cleanser. The musical Choose Your Own Adventure that Outside Lands provides was prominent during Day 2. Talking to my friend after the fest we realized we had seen a completely different lineup that day. Her day was filled with fun and lighter hearted bands like Atlas Genius, Youth Lagoon, Grizzly Bear and Phoenix. Of course I like to pull at the frayed sweater strings of my brain, thus my day belonged to groups that either made we want to rip asphalt up from the ground with my teeth, or put on a flannel jacket with some wide corduroys and relive the 90s.

The Growlers:

Growlers might be from Southern California but I can’t think of a better place for their surf meets psych style than San Francisco. They bring a tipsy sound like an absinthe-fueled stumble through the back alleys of a traveling circus. Something about the effortless delivery of lead singer Brooks Nielsen makes it that much eerier when the vocal delays and echoes kick in. Dressed in a dapper vest and a beanie that Steve Zissou would faun over, Nielsen led The Growlers as they washed through Golden Gate Park. Their set had a good handful of fan favorites like “Nosebleed Sun” and “Gay Thoughts” along with a couple new songs that got me excited for what they’re doing next.

Jurassic 5:

I can’t stand the Dodgers but I love the brass it takes for Mark 7Even Of Jurassic 5 to come out wearing an LA ball cap in the heart of Giants country. Unfortunately that was the most exciting thing about this set for me. I grew up listening to backpack hiphop and J5 was a good part of that. It wasn’t like J5 had gone soft, they just didn’t bring anything real strong. They went through the hits like “Power In Numbers” and “Feedback,” they flowed nicely, and they had good interplay between all the members. Yet it just felt like status quo, just going through the paces. Considering J5 has been broken up since 2007 I was hoping that this show would be a glorious renaissance. Instead, it was just another set.

The Tallest Man on Earth:

It’s damn hard for one guy and his acoustic guitar to generate a ton of energy in a festival environment, especially when it’s still midday. Credit Kristian Matsson, aka The Tallest Man on Earth for breaking through that barrier. Kristian came out animated, eyes bugging out of his head with the glee of a child who just discovered ice cream for the first time. Tallest Man drew a pretty big crowd, and considering their proximity to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs set it was a pretty major accomplishment. The thing that stuck with me from this set is how many people in this crowd knew each and every word to this Swedish-born artist’s material. It’s a testament to how global music is today, how much a tour with Bon Iver can help a career, and how amazing The Tallest Man on Earth’s label Dead Oceans is.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs:

You ever eat pixie sticks by the handful in grade school? Yeah Yeah Yeahs are like that. Bright, disorienting, and fun as hell. Karen O is one of the best live musicians of the last 20 years; she just gets what a performance is. Pageantry, controlled chaos, and enough energy to power a city, Yeah Yeah Yeahs just put on a genuine rock show. Karen O commands undivided attention, and the crowds eyes look like they’re watching a tennis match as she runs back and forth for an hour straight. YYYs didn’t mess around, playing two of their biggest singles “Gold Lion” and “Heads will Roll” within the first handful of songs. A lot of the early part of the YYYs set was the dancier part of their catalog which grabbed the crowd and laid the road as the sun started to give way towards a misty night. Nine Inch Nails couldn’t have asked for a more perfect direct support act than YYYs. They’re rough enough to engage the black eyeliner wearing, Doc Martin donning crowd who were camped out all day for NIИ, as well as bring in the aloof hipster types that would shortly be heading towards the Twin Peaks stage to see Phoenix. As the set wound down with the sing-alongs “Maps” and “Pin” the crowd was at a full boil and ready for the final sets of the evening.

Nine Inch Nails:

I’ve been a Nine Inch Nails fan since my cousin turned me on to Downward Spiral when I was twelve. It was way before I possessed any analytical views of life, and roughly a decade before I began to understand the interplay between pleasure and pain. Suffice it to say, when I first started listening to NIИ I couldn’t grasp the immeasurable depth and texture of the music. All I knew was that “March of The Pigs” was the loudest, fastest noise I could get my hands on and that was plenty for me to go nuts over. Fast forward to my junior year of high school when NIИ released The Fragile, and all of the sudden things started to fall into place.

I’m not knocking anyone who decided to see Phoenix on night 2 of OSL. Truthfully, of all the closing acts NIИ had the most modest crowd, but for those who stayed for NIИ’s entire set their reward was catharsis. Trent Reznor is still just a wad of frayed nerves, and that’s the not-so-secret ingredient behind the raw and visceral nature of his music. For some, especially those who haven’t repeatedly listened to NIИ in the privacy of their own headphones, their style of music can come off as gratuitously vicious and/or just an overall bummer. For those who’ve put in the time, NIИ can be a purification process that combs through the turmoil of everyday life to reveal a pearl of hope.

Special effects company Moment Factory, production/lighting designer Roy Bennett, and art director Rob Sheridan once again delivered a visual spectacle to compliment NIИ’s brand of intensity. The show which built power brick by brick, in a quasi-homage to David Byrne’s Stop Making Sense, was matched in stride by the magnificent lighting and visuals. It’s a compliment of the highest order when I say that the production team behind the band somehow managed to visually communicate NIИ’s ethos.

The single complaint I had about the show is that I wanted it to be longer. After 3 hours of Paul McCartney the night prior just 90 minutes of NIИ didn’t satiate me. NIИ did, however, get to most of the big ones like “Head Like a Hole”, “Wish”, “Terrible Lie”, “Closer”, and “March of the Pigs”. As Trent and company left the stage with 10 minutes before their curfew it was clear we were going to get just one more song as part of an encore. As one single light came on the stage and Trent walked back out it was clear how this was going to end; one note and then the words so many were there to hear, “I hurt myself today to see if I still feel”. As tens of thousands of people sang along to one of the most heart-wrenching songs ever penned, the dichotomy that is NIИ couldn’t be more obvious: even after leaving an entire festival “Hurt” every member of the crowd left on a high that they’ll remember the rest of their life.

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