My West Seattle neighbor, Barin Skyes, is quite possibly the best neighbor anyone could have. He loves rock n' roll and marijuana, has thousands of LPs in his basement, and makes the best mix CDs you've ever heard. A couple weeks ago, he went to Outside Lands Music Festival in San Francisco. When he told me he was getting there by train, I asked him to write about it. Here's the second installment of Skyes' Bay Area adventure... Part One can be found here...
Saturday’s show started with Rupa and the April Fishes. A local San Francisco act, they were a nice blend of latin, salsa, gypsy, and tango sung in french, spanish, hindi and english. Part of their entourage included stilt walkers dressed in flowing scarves and caftans dancing in the hip-shaking crowd.
Next, we headed over to the main stage in the Polo Fields for the ensuing four acts. We had borrowed a king-size sheet from our hotel and used it to stake out a prime piece of real estate for the rest of the day. Galactic's Crescent City Soul Krewe was first up and they laid down the perfect groove as the ‘shrooms came on hard. There were many other acts to see between sets at the main stage but the crowd was growing thick. With our lovely, high-thread-count hotel sheet keeping our space in the grass, it made sense to stay put.Steve Winwood came on for an hour-long set at 4:10. This was not the Winwood lite of the mid 80s, but a funky, soulful Winwood of Blind Faith and early Traffic days. He played the Hammond B-3 while also laying down the bass line with the foot pedals, something you don’t often see. “I’m A Man,” “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys,” “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and even a few off his new album all sounded superb. He and his tight band were all smiles and clearly enjoying themselves and the vibe of the festival.
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals were next up with a 10 song set for their hour and ten minutes slot. Highlights included “Better Way,” “Diamonds On The Inside,” “Fight Outta You” and Bill Withers’ “Use Me.” Harper played mostly electric guitar but the real treat is watching him contain the power of his Weissenborn lap steel guitar. Like a partially caged rabid beast foaming at the mouth, the feedback and wailing distortion are just barely contained under Harpers fingers, waiting for the right moment to break free and lay waste to all things harmonious and melodic. It was also bassist Big Juan's birthday and he got to shine a bit with some tasteful soloing and his own turn at lead vocals. The 40,000 plus crowd also sang him a nice rendition of "Happy Birthday".
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers closed out Saturday’s show. Petty was in fine form and looked and sounded like he had got ahold of some of Humbolt County’s finest export. The 60,000-plus crowd responded in kind, loudly and proudly singing all the lyrics to damn near every song. Starting with “You Wreck Me” all the way thru “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” this was Petty’s greatest hits live. Steve Winwood came out mid-set and offered up great versions of “Can’t Find My Way Home” and “Gimme Some Lovin’.” The only act I saw with an encore, the Heartbreakers came back with “Running Down A Dream”, a rousing version of “Gloria” (complete with a long story about a girl, rock n' roll, and marijuana) and “American Girl.” A magnificent day had by all except our poor hotel sheet which went from a glorious white square to a tie-dyed mess of wine, beer, and mud.
After last night's transportation fiasco we found a different route to the busses and quickly boarded the third coach and were back to the hotel within twenty minutes. We passed out in another ten.