Whether it was just good luck, good scheduling or just something in the air, day two’s acts were a far better selection of performances. This day felt more like a question of what were the best acts to see rather than what was worth seeing at all. Numerous bands were quite literally floating right on the tip of audience member’s tongues. Alabama Shakes for example, could be heard mentioned all throughout the day, and when it was time for them to perform, the crowd was monstrous. Playing at the Sutro Stage, the audience was almost an impassible mess. The crowd stretched on throughout the mini valley where the Sutro Stage was set up, while the band’s lead singer Brittany Howard belted out each song.
For straight headliner spectacle, Metallica showed handily why they still are all but kings of the heavy metal genre. The gigantic space by the main stage had audience members stretching as far as the eye could see. Metallica quite simply, has the skill and dedication to properly wear the crown. They look, act and feel like the champions of their genre, and appear to revel in that stature. Opening with the early career thrash “Hit the Lights,” the band sounded characteristically immaculate. Either the band has made the necessary financial investments to perfect their live sound, or they’ve simply hired people that know how to do it right. The band dropped in many of their best cuts too: “Welcome Home (Sanitarium),” “One,” “Blackened” and “Creeping Death.” They even highlighted some of the incredible songs that came to life originally because of the brilliant bass work from their late bassist Cliff Burton. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and especially “Orion” were performed with stunning precision. Technically bay area locals (the band transplanted here in their early years from Los Angeles) the band made great use of the headlining slot as a show of love and support for the San Francisco area. They closed out their set with the full-throttle “Battery” and the epic call-and-response of “Seek and Destroy.”
Beyond that, some of the other fantastic acts on the day were Father John Misty, Explosions in the Sky and the reunited Grandaddy. Formerly known as folk troubadour J. Tillman, Father John Misty brought energy and vitality to his performance beyond even what his songs suggest are possible. Tillman delivered each song with spirited energy. Joyously howling each number and quipping the audience in between songs, Father John Misty was one of the great surprises of day two of Outside Lands. If he can keep up this kind of showmanship, he’s bound for even greater success. Explosions in the Sky on the other hand enraptured solely through technical acumen. The band’s instrumental math rock undulated and shifted through numerous phases. Some times quietly enveloping, other times mounting tsunamis of pummeling force, the band more than deserves their stature as one of the greatest purely instrumental rock bands of our time. Finally Grandaddy’s performance begged only the question, “Why did these guys break up in the first place?” Like The Beta Band, Grandaddy has a mastery of composing and performing 90’s college-era indie rock. The normal configuration of bass, guitar and keyboards jumps out as subtle saturations of appropriately placed tone color.
Also notable were performances by Zola Jesus, Portugal. The Man, Dr. Dog and Norah Jones. Portugal. The Man’s set exploded into rambunctious southern rock territory but didn’t get the crowd response it deserved. Zola Jesus used her witchy vocals and driven stage presence to draw in an early afternoon crowd. Norah Jones did a fun, middle-of-the-road set that featured “Black” (from Danger Mouse/Daniele Luppi’s ROME album), recent single “Miriam” and a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “It Must’ve Been the Roses” featuring Bob Weir. Dr. Dog used alternating singers to shift from bluesy, poppy and jammy styles to all those that weren’t at Metallica at the end of the night.