Day Two at Outside Lands brimmed with potential for a completely different experience than Friday. Headliners Nine Inch Nails and Phoenix offered new kinds of intensity while daytime shows from Jurassic 5, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Grizzly Bear, and Milo Greene proved an undoubtedly exciting mix.
Early afternoon at the main stage featured Gary Clark Jr. whose set showcased the merging of blues, soul, country and hip-hop influences with immense talent. The smooth and confident charisma of Clark Jr. exuded from opener to closer displayed his wide range of vocal skill including both serenading falsetto to country rock. With a Hendrix-like guitar solo introduction to the opening, “When My Train Pulls In,” Clark Jr. broke a sweat in the first song with blazing guitar riffs and a smooth husky voice that promised a soulful performance that would keep the crowd jamming. The Austin-based artist picked up the pace with the country-flavored “Don’t Owe You a Thing,” that had the crowd clapping. Next came the soulful “Please Come Home,” a timeless blues piece where Clark Jr.’s slow controlled finger plucking and falsetto croon carried into the more funky “Third Stone from the Sun/If You Love Me Like You Say” Hendrix tribute. The metallic and scratching riffs further expanded the musician’s scope to include hip-hop beats that the crowd went wild over. Clark Jr. finished the set with the psychedelic sounds and smoky blues croon of “Bright Lights,” leaving no doubt that the audience would know his name by the end of the night, as the lyrics promise.
The calm meadow of the Sutro stage was the perfect setting for Milo Greene’s mid-afternoon set. The quintet filled the valley with harmonies, with four singers trading lead vocals. Besides charming the crowd with their own brand of folk-pop, the band added an amped-up edge to Sufjan Stevens’ classic “Chicago.”
Next on the main stage came Young the Giant. The band out of Southern California had an unmistakable SoCal sound, beach-y vibes and angst-y lyrics set to a fresh pop sound. They entertained nonstop from the openers “Teachers,” and “Guns Out,” to the popular “Cough Syrup,” where lead singer Sameer Gadhia played around hitting the cymbals of the drum set and prancing around stage. Their new song “Anagram,” while sounding pretty damn similar to their old stuff was nevertheless enjoyable. With “Strings,” an attempt at a crazy rock interlude ended up sounding more screechy than punk but they finished the set strong with hit “My Body” full of catchy hooks and tambourine grooving.
Alt hip-hop group Jurassic 5 was a highly anticipated show as they recently reunited after a six-year split. Their interactive set kept the crowd completely involved from chants to hand orchestration projected on the screens behind the group for the crowd to enjoy. A giant turntable suspended from the stage allowed DJ Nu-Mark to scratch and spin in full view for the huge audience. Playing classics “What’s Golden” and “Concrete Schoolyard,” and the performance of a synchronized dance number were some of the highlights of the set. The group dedicated the song “Freedom” to Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin, asking for fists in the air in solidarity, which the crowd obliged before bouncing to the beats of the song that closed their set.
Next to take the main stage were the Yeah Yeah Yeahs whose iconic front woman Karen O–from singing with the mic inside of her mouth to her fluorescent disco dance moves–did not disappoint in eccentricity and flare. Opening strong with “Sacrilege,” the set went downhill from there with a weak “Heads Will Roll” mid-set where you could not hear Karen O over the beat until she screamed and an unimpressive play of the popular hit “Maps.” Some vigor and energy returned with “Cheated Hearts” and “Zero” but a long break before closing with “Date With the Night” weakened the punch and the set still finished early. Not for lack of hits or punk rock energy, the set fell short of expectations but nevertheless set the mood for the night’s rough headliner, Nine Inch Nails.
As Nine Inch Nails rocked out on the other side of Golden Gate Park, Phoenix started a dance party at Twin Peaks. The French foursome played hit after hit, from early favorite “Consolation Prizes” to “1901” and “Armistice.” They provided the perfect upbeat close to Outside Lands day two.
Before headliner Nine Inch Nails took the stage, booming bass and a buzzing crowd densely covering the wide expanse anticipated the intense experience of Saturday night’s mind-blowing set. Inspired by the Talking Heads’ 1983 tour, the show began with front man Trent Reznor alone on stage while the rest of the band emerged from the smoke to join him in commencing the audio/visual frenzy. In a red haze, a spotlight projected a huge black silhouette of Reznor as the backdrop to his dark vocals in the opening, “Copy of A.” As the stage smoke and San Francisco’s thick fog intertwined in a dense haze, “Disappointed” built the intensity with a fast-paced funky beat continuing on in “Came Back Haunted.” The visual extravaganza really kicked off with the riveting drum solo in “1,000,000,” as an entirely dark stage spotlighted a white-hot strobe onto drummer Ilan Rubin going wild. The mobile LED screen backdrops taunted the plunge into chaos that came with fan favorite “March of the Pigs.” Balancing the set with the slower, yet equally dark and angry “Something I Can Never Have,” and “Reptile,” before the delirious and intense “Terrible Lie,” Reznor refused to fade as he threw his guitar in a final flourish. Concluding the epic set with “Head Like a Hole,” and the encore “Hurt,” Nine Inch Nails left fans breathless from the intense and fleeting show. Following this tour, Nine Inch will launch a new production. For those lucky fans who experienced the fueled frenzy, it will surely be one for the history books.
Additional reporting by Katie Carroll