San Francisco

The inside scoop on Outside Lands


Before Radiohead, music fans had the unusual dilemma of having to choose among Manu Chao, Beck and the Black Keys. Brutal. I caught about 20 minutes of Manu Chao’s joyous, politically charged Iberian reggae-polka-rock at Lands End, then braved the crowd streaming into Lindley Meadow for Beck at the Sutro Stage. Once I got close to where Beck was playing, it was clear I wouldn’t go anywhere else anytime soon, so I missed the Black Keys at Twin Peaks in Speedway Meadow entirely. Bummer.

Fans Pack Park In Dark


« A hyper-charged Manu Chao, boasting an « Africa Unite » shirt, whipped the crowd into a frenzy »

Published: Saturday, August 23, 2008 at 4:30 a.m.

Last Modified: Saturday, August 23, 2008 at 3:42 a.m.

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival organizers couldn’t have picked a more vibrant, glow-in-the-dark spectacle than Radiohead to make history, staging the first concert ever to venture after dark in Golden Gate Park on Friday.

Hypnotic lights strung like stalactites from the girders rained down as the stage occasionally morphed into a massive, helter-skelter equalizer.

And then the sound totally died as the Brit band kept playing.

« Who stood on the plug, eh? » asked singer Thom Yorke.

Two songs later, it happened again. People in the crowd yelled, « I want a refund » — a valid claim at $85 a ticket.

« I don’t know what the (heck’s) going on. I’m sorry, » Yorke said after the song.

Chalk it up to organizing a six-stage, 60-acre festival in what was once called San Francisco’s « great sand waste. »

But at least it was environmentally friendly. Living up to the green mantra of the festival, the hypnotic LED light display was powered by solar-charged batteries.

With no parking lots nearby, thousands of fans — San Francisco police estimated at least 40,000 — poured in on foot, bike and mass transit, some arriving as early as 2:30 p.m. Friday.

By 8 p.m., as cold winds and a thick fog rolled in, the Polo Fields were transformed into a glowing sea of people (and their cell phones) surrounded by a dimly lit forest.

Earlier in the day, Beck dug into the vaults for « Loser » and « Devils Haircut » in a scatter-brained set oddly low in volume and short on energy.

A hyper-charged Manu Chao, boasting an « Africa Unite » shirt, whipped the crowd into a frenzy with Latin drums and a lyrical amalgam of French, Spanish, Portuguese and English that paused only to call out President Bush midway through the blistering set.

The inaugural festival continues throughout the weekend. On deck today: Ben Harper, Primus, Cake, Tom Petty and more. On Sunday, Widespread Panic, Wilco and Jack Johnson close it out.