Foals: As I arrived to the Land's End stage and the third & final day of Outside Lands 2013, Oxford's Foals were already burning through their addicting single "My Number" from 2013's Holy Fire. By the metrics of radio plays, Spotify counts or festival sing-a-long participation, "My Number" is their most spun hit. So it seemed odd that Foals jumped into the track so early in their set. Yet this quickly became a testament to their depth. Yannis Philippakis and the dudes handled the main stage crowd with ease and I began to realize how underrated Foals are. This may be a personal revelation, but Foals mined through each of their three albums to demonstrate how solid their young catalogue is and how well they can perform that material. Yannis ventured out into the crowd, played guitar while crowd surfing and Foals quickly earned the love of San Franciscans. Also, Foals threw down as much talent as anyone on the mainstage, but seemed to have a unique sense of urgency not always present with acts used to headlining large festivals.
King Tuff: This Spring, my appreciation blossomed for what Sean Bohrnman and Burger Records have been/are doing. Burger Records continues an ever-increasing stream of release, carved out a niche for themselves in a tough music economy, pulled off another Boogaloo Festival and expanded with an edition of the festival here in Oakland. Part of what makes Burger so successful is their ability to pull together artists who are simply down to rock. King Tuff's Panhandle Stage set made it clear, quite quickly, why he's been associated with Burger Records. His no frills, genuine, up-front garage punk set also created the only mosh pit I saw during the weekend. And boy, how refreshing it was to actually get within 10 feet of a stage and be able to see the band's emotions without a projection screen.
A-Trak: If you read our review of Friday at Outside Lands, you might've seen my skepticism with the world of mega-festival electronic acts. That being said, A-Trak is not an imitation "button-pusher" and never has been. The dude was winning technics competitions before I could operate a CD player. More interestingly, it's very curious to see how A-Trak has evolved and progressed as electronic music took off in America. From traditional turntablist to hip-hop DJ to festival headliner, A-Trak's got a number of tricks up his sleeve. Additionally, with Zedd's stage banter limited to a few "fuck"-laced crowd callouts, A-Trak's ease and charm with the crowd went a long ways too. You can count on A-Trak to deliver in the live setting.
Vampire Weekend: After Modern Vampires of the City arrived via the internet this spring and I fell in love with it, I was dismayed to see several negative reviews panning Vampire Weekend for live performances. While the reviews cited Vampire Weekend for phoning it in, you've also got to give the band some leeway while re-emerging into the live circuit after an extended time away in the studio. Fortunately, the sentiments in these reviews did not hold true for Vampire Weekend's Outside Lands set. I understand if VW isn't your cup of tea, but their headlining main stage set certainly satisfied anyone who's a fan. I'm impressed with Vampire Weekend's ability to churn out poignant, delicate songs like "Hannah Hunt" while also burning the barn down at festivals with their repertoire of crowd pleasing hits. Seriously, they crammed so many tracks in a relatively short set and had the crowd jumping for about 50% of the performance.
Red Hot Chili Peppers: I mentioned that it seemed bizarre that I'd never seen the Yeah Yeah Yeahs up until Outside Lands 2013. The exact same (or a more hyperbolic version) could be said about the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Now, the Peppers are a pretty easy target for haters and you can probably find a few legitimate complaints about them. But you've got to wonder, will any new bands from the current era survive long enough to headline festivals in four different decades like RHCP (80's, 90's, 2000's, 10's)? Amidst all the negster music news about labels, venues and bands running aground, RHCP's ability to keep on keepin' on and stay relevant seems all the more impressive. Furthermore, their close-out-the-festival headlining set proved they've still got much of the trademark live performance gusto that earned them their stripes. While we all would love to see John Frusciante up there, Josh Klinghoffer certainly held his own. The crowd got Anthony's karate dance moves, Flea's handstands and relentless movements, Chad Smith's emphatic drum solos, plenty of jams, well-loved choruses (like "Under the Bridge") to sing along to and a set that held up to RHCP standards. Personally, I came away with exactly what I was looking for from a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert.