Radiohead, Tom Petty and Jack Johnson headlined the historic Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival this weekend, ending San Francisco’s decades-long search for a world-class rock gathering to call its own. Sixty-four bands on six stages drew more than an estimated 120,000 international attendees to three wooded meadows inside the enormous Golden Gate Park.
Radiohead’s 22-song set Friday night overwhelmed security, sound systems and synapses as an estimated 5,000 gate-crashers joined the capacity crowd. The UK rock quintet’s advanced sound gear caused two PA outages during heavy moments in “Airbag” and “All I Need,” yet Yorke and company played through the gaps like pros and drove the crowd wild with favorites “Just,” “Paranoid Android,” “Bodysnatchers” and “Fake Plastic Trees.” Yorke cracked up laughing during “You & Whose Army?” making the imperfect set all the more endearing. Beck and Cold War Kids also shined on day one, expertly tackling long-anticipated live versions of material from new albums Modern Guilt and Loyalty to Loyalty.
Day two headliner Tom Petty drew an older, smaller crowd but included UK guitar legend Steve Winwood sitting in on organ for gleeful renditions of “Gimme Some Lovin” and “Can’t Find My Way Home.” Sunday opener Jeff Tweedy of Wilco also found a receptive audience of 10,000 for such classics as “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.” “You are the greatest audience on Earth,” Tweedy said to the sea of hands, echoing prior sentiments from Les Claypool and his rare gathering of Primus. “Even if you don’t like Wilco, you can keep time like a beast.”
Sunday favorites Rodrigo Y Gabriela shredded new acoustic material and forced tough decisions by playing concurrently with cacophonous Canadians Broken Social Scene. As the Sunday evening sea breeze rolled in, placid Jack Johnson closed his hour-long sunset session to 30,000 fans, dedicating “Bubble Toes” to the little green spider perched on his microphone. Fans leaving the enormous event seemed almost universally thrilled and a little overwhelmed by the experience. Festival organizers Superfly of Bonnaroo and Another Planet Entertainment said Outside Lands was three years in the making and will hopefully become an annual event.