With the first day of the 10th Outside Lands in the books, I thought it might be a good idea to look back on the five best things I saw today. But since I’m a generally cranky person you also get the five worst.
Best: Gorillaz — First off, Damon Albarn performed as a human rather than as a cartoon ape, and I’m not sure what to believe anymore. There are rules, man.
That bubble-bursting aside, the Gorillaz had a great set with a mix of early and modern tracks, though they saved “Feel Good Inc.” and “Clint Eastwood” for the end, which was an act of war against my already-aching feet. They made up for it, however, by bringing on stage just about every guest vocalist they’ve ever recorded with to reprise their parts, including Oakland’s own Del the Funky Homosapien. Seriously, every guest artist. If you’re missing a musician check backstage at the Land’s End stage and they’re probably there.
Worst: $12 grilled cheese sandwiches — I read that some Australian millionaire said this sort of thing is why millennials can’t afford houses. You have that on your conscience, sandwiches.
Best: Dr. Octagon — While named after the frontman, a rapping gynecologist from Jupiter, the stars of the show were producer-DJ Dan the Automator and turntable maestro DJ Qbert. The latter was introduced by the former as the best scratch artist out there before a performance of “Bear Witness,” which proved his point and then some. If you ever hear someone say scratching a record isn’t music that’s what you play for them as a counterargument. Octagon (or Kool Keith, as he’s known on Earth) provided the lyrics and was ostensibly the frontman but the DJs stole the show.
Worst: The steady, unceasing march of time — In my day we liked good music that the previous generation hated for some reason, not this nonsense the kids seem to like but I don’t understand! GET OFF MY LAWN!
Best: Sam Dew — My day opened on a strong note as songwriter-turned-singer Sam Dew eased me into the day with his mellow but complex set. Despite only having a bass guitar and drum set backing him, he turned his surprising vocal range into a deep, textured sound via the magic of live looping, which is basically recording audio clips and looping them with a sound board from the stage. He mentioned that he just started touring again so check him out if you get the chance.
Worst: People with giant signs, totems or flags — You’re blocking my view of the stage and, if we’re being honest, nobody likes you that much anyway. Your friends would probably have more fun alone.
Best: Sleigh Bells – Sleigh Bells on record do not do Sleigh Bells live any justice.
Having never seen them in concert, I expected a noise pop band like most others. That was not the case. In person they’re a melodic version of the angry, grinding industrial metal from the late ’90s and early ’00s. Imagine if original Marilyn Manson guitarist Daisy Berkowitz joined Garbage and you would be pretty close. And since I loved and still love both those things, this was right in my wheelhouse.
Also, you can never go wrong with women who rock.
Worst: Gravity — It’s the end of the day and my feet are killing me, and it’s all because of the pull massive objects have on their less-massive neighbors. Not cool, gravity. You have no chill.
Best: Henry Rollins — Yeah, I’m putting a lecture at No. 1 on a list of my favorite things at a music festival. Are you writing this? I didn’t think so.
Rollins was a characteristically brilliant speaker during his talk in the comedy-focused Barbary tent. He talked a mile a minute in an almost stream-of-consciousness path through music, history, politics, insecurity, his short-lived high school wrestling career, and at one point bats. I was enthralled and hung on every word. Rollins is a genius is what I’m saying, and I’m a big fan.
Worst: That guy who kept hitting me while attempting to dance during the Gorillaz set — Listen: The music moves you, I get that. It happens to us all. But when there’s thousands of people packed into a small space trying to listen to a musical genius do his thing, your drunken flailings really aren’t all that welcome.