Outside Lands lineup shines through the clouds 

Gray skies couldn’t dull the spirit of the Outside Lands Music and Art Festival in Golden Gate Park, which managed to set itself apart from the seemingly oversaturated arena of summer music festivals.

Not only did the festival deliver headlining performances from two popular, yet broken-up bands — Furthur, the Grateful Dead reincarnation featuring original members Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, and The Strokes, who haven’t played together in four years — it also established itself as a purveyor of local and gourmet food and wine, with a spread of booths from San Francisco eateries and a Wine Lands tasting area featuring California wineries, many from nearby Napa Valley.

In the first performance in Golden Gate Park from the Bay Area-based Grateful Dead since 1991, the band’s reanimation included reworkings of classics such as “Loser,” “Let it Grow” and the tropical-tinged “Fire on the Mountain” — four- and five-minute songs that Furthur extended into 10- or even 20-minute jam sessions with a plethora of guitar and keyboard solos, in true Dead fashion.

Furthur broke from tradition with a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Time” and with the addition of a female harmony — both elements that enhanced the band’s performance.

The Strokes also delivered a crowd-pleasing set, full of fan favorites such as “Hard to Explain,” “Someday” and “Last Nite” — the single that propelled the band into the limelight and helped garage rock bust its way onto the radio. Singer Julian Casablancas’ throaty drawl held a nice contrast to the band’s upbeat instrumentation, and many fans were left hoping The Strokes’ reunion is more than just a stint for this summer touring season.

But Outside Lands isn’t all about the headliners, or even the well-known.

Drummer Julian Dorio of The Whigs, which was one of the first bands to open the festival Saturday at noon, said he was “impressed how early people came out, were ready to party and wanted to rock ’n’ roll.”

The Whigs and other smaller bands see festivals as a way to promote themselves among entrants who attend to explore new music. This especially resonates with Outside Lands, since its 10 p.m. curfew (an earlier ending than most festivals) means fans tend to show up earlier as well.

The festival got off to a great early start Saturday with Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars. Their reggae-tinged African music was an interesting addition to the festival’s mix of musical genres, with the band incorporating traditional instruments including a shekere (shaker) and various drums. The All Stars took turns dancing to the crowd at center stage — breaking out hip shakes and twists that would put Elvis to shame — and their smiles were as infectious as their beats.

Although the All Stars said they are traveling all over the world, during their Outside Lands set they told the crowd, “This is home.”

That sense of global community through music continued with Gogol Bordello — a gypsy-punk band created by singer Eugene Hutz with an ever-changing lineup of instrumentalists from around the world known for its energetic live shows. The band did not disappoint.

Gogol Bordello riled up the crowd — and themselves — with both new songs and old favorites, including “Not a Crime,” “Wanderlust King” and “Start Wearing Purple” — during which audience members waved purple clothing and Hutz doused the crowd with a bottle of red wine.

Other standout Saturday performances included My Morning Jacket, Wolfmother and Cat Power (aka Chan Marshall), who delivered a truly beautiful show despite being reluctant to take center stage. Spending the majority of her set facing her backing band instead of the crowd, it seemed as if the soulful, bluesy voice of indie rock would have rather been playing an intimate venue instead of a festival known for attracting well more than 100,000 people each year.


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Brooke Robertson

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