Over the course of three days at Outside Lands, I learned a few things. One was a lesson in stamina. You need a lot of stamina to make it through three days of crowds, raucous music, and uncontrollable dancing. Without rigorous training ahead of time, Sunday found me beat. Another lesson: no matter how tired you are, Santigold will pep you right up.
With two backup dancers and three musicians, all in coordinated -- if odd -- outfits, Santigold put on an impressive show. Her set also demonstrated a great rapport between the artist and her audience. For the jam "Creator" off her 2008 album Santogold, she invited a gaggle of brightly-dressed ladies from the front row of the audience on stage. The entire production was ridiculously fun. At one point band members dressed in a horse costume (think elementary school play) entered the scene. Even Santigold confessed to being exhausted prior to the show. "We feel invigorated," she yelled to the happily bouncing crowd, "you're an amazing inspiration!" She even managed to coax the sun out for a spell, marking the only blue sky I saw all weekend.
Photo: Wendy GoodfriendOn the heels of this rejuvenating set, all Bloc Party had to do was ride the crest of energy through their catchy rock, drawing on their grab bag of favorites to keep the mood afloat. Unfortunately, the fog closed back in, the crowd huddled back under their blankets, and Bloc Party took the stage without a gold pom-pom in sight. At some point on the last night of a large-scale outdoor music festival, the audience expects a certain amount of splendor and pizzazz. With lead singer Kele Okereke on stage in blue athletic shorts and a Public Enemy t-shirt, expectations weren't quite met. Though the crowd responded to hits like "Banquet," this came too late for the stream of people making their way to the Lands End stage for the one and only Stevie Wonder.
Photo: Wendy GoodfriendThere was a choice ahead of me: electronic dance tunes from Skrillex or crowd-pleasing hits from 22-time Grammy Award-winner Stevie Wonder. What would you have done? Mr. Wonder took the stage, along with a full band, back-up singers, and a dynamic light show, to deliver hit after hit, frequently pausing to elicit large-scale audience participation. For those of us with media wristbands, this was the end of a very long working weekend. The free beer in the press tent was all gone, but that didn't stop everyone from dancing to the sincerely funky groove of "Superstition." Looking out over the crowd, I realized everyone was dancing, including the on-call firefighters and every member of the security staff.
When I woke up on Monday morning "I Just Called to Say I Love You" was playing on repeat in my head. With that as a backing soundtrack, I can offer up a few closing lessons from the 2012 Outside Lands weekend: You can still get sunburned when it's foggy. If you attend a three-day outdoor music festival with your buddies, you may end up passed out in spandex with purple facial hair. If you attend a three-day outdoor music festival alone, you may end up a little lonely. Dancing while forcing your way through a crowd doesn't make you any less obnoxious. And leather headbands are all the rage right now.