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Published: 2012/08/14
by Wesley Hodges

Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Stevie Wonder, Foo Fighters, Sigur Ros and More Highlight Outside Lands 2012

Photo and words by Wesley Hodges

From Futurebirds on Friday to Stevie Wonder’s “My Girl” closer on Sunday, Outside Lands 2012 was a resounding success. The peak-level excellence of music, setting, food, drink and weather in Golden Gate Park all played integral parts towards making this thing a delight for all five senses.

Throughout the weekend, festival goers were greeted by cool and comfortable weather and periodic blankets of Bay Area fog rolling through the exceedingly idealistic woodland layout—a setup that expertly utilized the park’s natural beauty to create some rather picturesque daytime vistas and a wondrous nocturnal mystique.

Comedian Reggie Watts read his audience like a book, delivering a bout of hilarity that got this thing moving in the right direction with a fun, light-hearted mélange of comedy, music, and righteously soulful vocals.

Foo Fighters played to the largest crowd of the weekend before Neil Young & Crazy Horse on Friday, kicking the crowd energy into full-blown hysteria in a way that only Grohl & Co. are capable of.

Crazy Horse’s set was unfortunately lost on many in the crowd early on, focusing on protracted, feedback-heavy guitar experiments like “Love and Only Love” for the first hour, before digging into more engaging classics like “Cinnamon Girl” and “Powderfinger.”

Saturday’s schedule ran an impressive gamut from the dreamy and intoxicating early set by Tame Impala, Father John Misty’s Lizard King dance moves, a massively crowded Alabama Shakes set and the sure-thing, always flooring guitar assaults of Explosions in the Sky.

Following that impressive run, the 1-2 punch of Metallica and Sigur Ros was one of those rare, once-in-a-lifetime jaunts that could only happen at a major festival. Metallica played with an added dose of ferocity during early classics like “Master of Puppets” and “Ride The Lightning,” giving more than even most hardcore fans could have asked for

Sigur Ros’ set began with the stark bells of “I Gaer” on a shadow-filled stage before a massive explosion of guitar and light sliced through the fog and elucidated an indescribably beautiful scene in Hellman Hollow.

Sunday involved a fair amount of racing around the park to catch must-see sets like Santigold and Bomba Estereo. The steady movement paid off quickly for many who stumbled into Jack White’s “secret set” in the woods with his all-female band and a special appearance by Tom Morello, a live music moment no one in attendance will ever forget.

The sole dilemma on the final night: choosing between Stevie Wonder’s evening of classic singalongs or Skrillex’s of-the-moment dubstep beats. For many, it was a surprisingly tough decision, yet reports from both ends of the park were positively exclamatory. Staying at Wonder ended up being a first-rate way to blow out the candles on an blockbuster Outside Lands.

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