Outside Lands: Daniel J. Willis’ Saturday best and worst

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Outside Lands

Attendees at Outside Lands on August 12, 2017. Photos: Alessio Neri.

Day two of Outside Lands is in the books so it’s time for the second edition of my best and worst! See if you can pick up on the subtle theme.

Best: Metallica — Not even just the show. Just the fact that Metallica exists and sometimes plays music for us is the best. But in addition, their show was incredible.

Full disclosure: I’m more than a little obsessed with the band. I’ve seen them live more times than is probably healthy. And while I’ve seen better shows from them—their last set at Outside Lands in 2012 comes to mind—this was right up there.

There were explosions. There were lasers. There was fire. There was Metallica. What more could anyone possibly want?

Worst: Metallica’s set eventually ended — I had a bottle of water with me, I could’ve held out for days if they’d have kept playing. Cutting the show off at two hours just because of nonsense like “contractual obligations” and “their families waiting for them” is frankly unfair.

Outside Lands

Attendees at Outside Lands on August 12, 2017.

Best: John Moreland — Where in the world did he come from!?

I admit I wasn’t excited from the description of his act or my background research before the show, but when I saw him perform I was blown away. As a lifelong Gordon Lightfoot devotee, for me,  Moreland scratched a serious musical itch. (Yes, I’m the same guy who’s been to an unhealthy number of Metallica shows. My tastes are diverse).

He’s had some songs on Sons of Anarchy and he’s been working for a while now as a musician, but it’s your solemn duty to help him break into the mainstream. Find something he’s selling and buy it.

Worst: I can’t afford to follow Metallica on tour — There are only so many Metallica reviews RIFF will run and eventually I would run out of money for tickets and gas, which makes following them around on tour like they were the Grateful Dead an unfeasible prospect. Which just seems totally unfair to me. Yet another thing the Boomers had that we don’t. Typical.

Outside Lands

Attendees at Outside Lands on August 12, 2017.

Best: Joseph — Their set was a lesson in why you stick with an act at festivals.

The first couple songs were butchered by a criminally bad audio mix until they asked for some fixes. (“Can you turn down the hi-hat?” “Just the hi-hat!?”) After that was straightened out they blew the doors off the Sutro stage, which is especially impressive since it’s outside so it doesn’t even have doors.

Worst: If I hid in the luggage compartment of Metallica’s tour bus someone would probably notice — I imagine that if I snuck backstage and crawled in the luggage compartment in one of their tour busses I’d almost certainly get caught. Space is at a premium on tour so I would be displacing something and they’d figure it out eventually.

Outside Lands

Attendees at Outside Lands on August 12, 2017.

Best: Cage the Elephant — I’m actually surprised they’re on the best side of things. I saw them open for Metallica the night before the Super Bowl two Februarys ago (Look, I admitted I have a problem, OK?) and they were frankly awful. They sounded bad, the energy was bad, and more than a few people wearing Cage the Elephant t-shirts were absently checking social media by the end.

That said, their Outside Lands act was the exact opposite. The energy was great, the music was great, the fans were absolutely loving it. I came in with very low expectations and was blown away. Plus I think lead singer Matt Schultz is the reincarnation of Mick Jagger, and Jagger isn’t even dead. I’m sorry for doubting you, Cage the Elephant. You’ve redeemed yourself in my book.

Worst: I don’t have the stamina, resume, or applicable skills to be part of Metallica’s road crew — For a show that elaborate and potentially dangerous, the band has to have top-notch roadies, and the entire extent of my experience is some A/V work setting up and striking events in college. That probably disqualifies me from employment with their team. Even though I want to get paid to see a Metallica show several times per week. I thought this was America!

Outside Lands

Attendees at Outside Lands on August 12, 2017.

Best: Metallica fans — Jokes aside, I genuinely love the Metallica fans at Outside Lands. In a sea of the sort of people you’d stereotypically expect to be at a music festival were bobbing tiny islands of black denim and well-worn t-shirts with stylized skulls on them, and that level of dedication will never cease to impress me.

I obviously love the band, and a big part of that is the feeling of belonging in the crowd at their shows. For all the violent mosh pits, pumping fists, and copious displays of the horns, it’s for the most part a group of people who look out for each other, and I truly appreciate it.

Worst: I saw Metallica already and I still have to keep working — My editor is being really unfair, you guys.

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData. Follow photo editor Alessio Neri at Instagram.com/windowofcolor and Windowofcolor.com.

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