Lots of music _ and chilly conditions _ characterized the second day of the 2014 Outside Lands Music and Art Festival.
And then it got cold. After the lack of chill and fog on the first day of Outside Lands, conditions on Saturday took a turn for the worse, making a mockery of the event billed as “summer music festival.
Yet despite the need to double up layers, the mood Saturday was still festive (despite reports of massive ticket counterfeiting operations).
Other than the looming faceoff between headliners Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Macklemore, the festival’s second day didn’t seem to offer quite as many intriguing options as the opening day.
Southern California rock trio Haim— three sisters—have been darlings of the festival scene for a year and a half, promoting their flawless debut album, “Days Are Gone.” Their energy is infections and they show their love for playing togetherv on “The Wire,” an anthemic, stomping self-empowerment tune.
Yet despite bass player Esme Haim’s best efforts to pump up the crowd— she did her standard maniacal facial gestures and assured everyone San Francisco was their second home — the arrangements didn’t seem to have the energy of the band’s earlier performances. The group was the highlight of last year’s Treasure Island Music Festival — but it seems evident now that a few new tracks would be welcome additions to an already formidable catalog.
One of the revelations of the day, and perhaps the whole festival, was Big Freedia, aka Freddie Ross. An import of New Orleans, and a purveyor of bounce music, Big Freedia (in an outfit combining hip-hop and drag) was accompanied by what had to be the most accomplished collection of twerkers west of the Mississippi. There was twerking on a 12-foot ladder, reverse twerking (if that’s a thing) choreographed twerking, male twerking— essentially every category of butt-jiggling was covered. All the while, Big Freedia barked out orders to the crowd to get up and dance, backed by a schizophrenic collection of sampled songs and thumping beats. Roughly half the crowd at the Panhandle Stage knew what to expect, and the other half looked on initially in befuddled amusement. But by the end of Big Freedia’s electrifying set, everyone was shaking something.
Headliner Tom Petty, one of the few remaining rock icons who still earns respect (perhaps because he never has made a caricature of himself or pandered to conventions of ‘70s rock ‘n’ roll) has recorded many amazing songs over his lengthy career.”
That vast collection was on full display on Saturday, with Petty seamlessly moving through his cornerstone tunes, some he wrote himself, others with his loyal backing band, the Heartbreakers. The set had touching moments— the audience singing to “Learning to Fly,” for example _ and Petty got kudos from the hometown crowd by playing the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil” on the 19th anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s death.
Although Heartbreaker guitarist Mike Campbell is one of the most underrated figures in classic rock — his contributions to Petty’s songs are indelible— his noodling got a little grating at times on Saturday. Toward the end of the night, Petty’s songs seemed like little more than showcases for Campbell to do his best Slash impression. Camera close-ups of Campbell’s histrionics seemed a bit antiquated _ a relic of the hair rock era of the 80s.
Still, no one can argue about Petty and the Heartbreakers’ precision and craftsmanship. When Petty launched into “American Girl,” one of the greatest songs of the American rock canon for the encore, it was a fitting end to a sterling performance, bringing pretty of warmth of a crowd eagerly aching for some.