In it’s fastest sell-out year to date, Outside Lands 2013 kicked off Friday with a number of rich performances set in the historical playground of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Swelling the misty and muggy August weather and the expansive arborous landscape, music could be heard from miles around the grove, out into the avenues and stretching out to the foggy ocean beach. With a wid mix of music ranging from rockers The Smith Westerns to last-minute replacement CHIC featuring Nile Rodgers to EDM artist Pretty Lights, sets from a medley of genres all built towards the epic finale in the three-hour bonanza of Paul McCartney.
One of the first bands to take the main stage (“The Lands End Stage”) Friday afternoon was Surfer Blood. In their first Outside Lands show, Surfer Blood opened with “Floating Vibes” and “Twin Peaks.” The set picked up later with “Miranda” and “Take It Easy,” more for the instrumental guitar segments than lead singer John Paul Pitt’s vocal lulls and walk into the crowd to kiss an unsuspecting fan in the front row.
Band of Horses were next to take the main stage, beginning a set in which all songs seemed to initiate with promising momentum only to be slowed down by dragged out refrains. Oscillating from the more mellow “For Annabelle,” “Freud,” and “Great Salt Lake,” they caught speed with the western flavor of “The General Specific” followed by the nostalgic fifties-like riff in “St. Augustine” which had the audience clapping along before “The Funeral” finished off the set strong.
On the smaller Sutro stage, the mystical and atmospheric styling of Rhye proved a funky evening show. Complemented by violin and cymbal, lead singer Mike Milosh’s high-pitched melody in the sensual ballad “The Fall” smoothly blended genres of jazz and electronica. Apart from a too-loud bass that harshed the melody, Rhye’s “Last Dance” and crowd-pleasing trombone solo kept the evening rolling.
The National surprised their main stage crowd with a performance of “Terrible Love” featuring the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir. While deadheads from years past indulged in the jam session mid-National set, the younger rave enthusiast demographic were going wild as electronic dance artist Zedd played a strong set of popular tracks ranging from a remix of Capital Cities’ “Safe and Sound” to Calvin Harris’ “I Need Your Love” that along with an intense light show had teenage girls sitting on shoulders and bass coursing through the bones of every member of the audience at the Twin Peaks stage.
Whether mellowed by the day’s jam and funk or invigorated by the bass-pounding EDM and head-banging rock, the crowd migrated in masses for the day’s headliner Paul McCartney. In a soulful explosion of Beatles, Wings, and solo classics, McCartney united the range of concertgoers in reverence of the icon’s performance. Classic after classic, from the opening “Eight Days a Week” to nostalgia-filled “Blackbird,” “Hey Jude,” and “Let it Be,” McCartney performed the three-hour set with tangible passion and only a few brief interruptions to comment on the “strange smell…something wonderful” of the city rich in Beatles’ history. As the epicenter of the sixties summers of love and the site of one of the final performances by The Beatles in ’66, the vivid musical history of San Francisco inspired two set list changes to include “Magical Mystery Tour” and a cover of “San Francisco Bay Blues” to the delight of all, particularly the veteran natives who undoubtedly were reminded of the days that made McCartney legendary. Fireworks exploded during the face melting “Live and Let Die” followed by two encores that had the crowd going wild with “Helter Skelter” before closing out the night with “The End.”