BEST DISPLAY OF FAN LOVE: PEARL JAM
Let’s put it this way: Nobody’s walking around San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the site of the Outside Lands fest, wearing a Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny t-shirt. Pearl Jam, on the other hand, brought out legions of fans of all ages, some 40,000 of which amassed in front of the giant Land’s End stage to catch the festival’s first headliner tear into a 90-minute set that heavily favored older material. “Got Some” and “The Fixer” — the first single from Backspacer, PJ’s soon-to-be released ninth album — were the only new numbers of the night; The band’s high-octane overdrive instead flowed flawlessly into a stream of well-worn classics like “Animal,” “Given to Fly,” and “Go.” Like most of the heads at the festival, Eddie Vedder seemed intoxicated by his surroundings: “It looks like Amsterdam, it smells like Amsterdam,” he said to the smoke-hazed throng, before launching into a pair of spot-on Neil Young covers — “Throw Your Hatred Down” and “Keep On Rocking in the Free World” — to close the night.
BEST REUNION: Q-TIP AND PHIFE DAWG
Thirteen summers ago, A Tribe Called Quest played the first Tibetan Freedom Concert, a two-day festival organized by the Beastie Boys that went down in the same spot where Outside Lands happens today. Naturally, Q-Tip’s appearance on the Twin Peaks stage excavated memories, as the beloved MC, backed by a five-piece band and DJ, dedicated his set to DJ AM — who died Friday night — and delved deep into Tribe’s back catalog. For the finale, the crowd got what it really wanted: Phife Dawg, Tip’s partner in rhyme in ATCQ, bounded onstage for a triumphant rendition of “Award Tour.” Said Tip before leaving the stage, “I don’t know if you’ll ever see that again.”
BEST BROGUE: LOS CAMPESINOS!
Few things in pop music are more endearing than sexually tense boy-girl banter, but add in the thick-tongued drawl of Welsh up-and-comers Los Campesinos! and you’ve got one of the most surprising, enjoyable sets of the day, sort of a punked-up Bell and Sebastian, violin and all.
BEST USE OF A VINYL RECORD: ZAP MAMA’S HAT
An indeterminate number of bobby pins were involved in keeping a 12″ record tilted just-so atop the head of lead singer Marie Daulne. Belgian-born Daulne, backed by a pair of vocalists and a crack quartet, funked her way through a James Brown-inflected set of body-moving tunes without skipping a beat — or losing her hat, for that matter.
BEST HORN SECTION: BLACK JOE LEWIS AND THE HONEYBEARS
It was a toss-up between Tom Jones’ swanky brass quartet and the four-piece black tie affair of Austin’s raunchiest soul slingers, but the Honeybears’ big, banged-up baritone tipped the scales in their favor.
BEST WAY TO KICKSTART A FESTIVAL: AUTOLUX
The Los Angeles trio might be better suited to late nights and dark clubs, but their hypnotic, feedback-drenched rock — reminiscent of early-’90s Sonic Youth — provided the proper jolt to start a full day of music. Zing!
BEST WAY IN: JUMPING THE FENCES
We don’t condone rule-breaking or disrespect towards the organizers of Outside Lands, and the $90 ticket is worth every penny, but we did see two groups of gate crashers vault the chain-link and disappear into the crowd. A quiet applause rings in your honor.
WORST REPLACEMENT SINGER: WEST INDIAN GIRL
Earlier this month, the long-standing L.A. shoegaze popsters lost frontbabe Mariqueen Maandig to new hubby Trent Reznor. Yesterday, interim female singer Miranda Lee Richards stepped in, but the group seemed to be reeling from Maandig’s departure.
WORST JOB/BEST ATTITUDE: ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES PROJFESSIONAL
San Francisco Department of the Environment worker Steven Chiv, 31, was more than happy to be posted up by an island of trashcans near the Twin Peaks stage, swapping oyster shells and corn-plastic cups from the recyclables into the compostables which basically sums up the green, environmentally friendly vibe of the fest. Hey, at least the soundtrack is good.