Appeal staffers April Siese, Hunter Mulich, and Alex Bigman made it through the first day of the Outside Lands music festival, which continues today from 11am-10pm, and Sunday from 11am – 9:45pm.

They’ll be (cell reception willing) tweeting from sfappealOL, and well have a feed of tweets from the event on our homepage, so you can follow along at home.

But back to Friday! Here are each of their takes from the first day of the fest:

April Siese
Quick Observations:
1. There should’ve been more glowsticks being thrown during Phish’s set
2. Even if you don’t like coffee, go to Philz Coffee
3. Free food is somewhat elusive for press this year
4. The Ranger Dave holograph badges are awesome
5. The windmills have been moved and they squeak something terrible
6. Disorientation reigned supreme when it comes to finding stages and picking who to watch

Cell Signal:
…or really lack thereof. Though Outside Lands is only in its fourth year of production, neighbor and concertgoer complaints have added cell towers around the park, supposedly making signals even stronger. Sadly all the city’s bitching couldn’t bring a decent signal for a majority of the afternoon. I’ve almost lost count of how many expletive-laden exclamations I heard about AT&T and Verizon from my fellow fans. I even complained via the Appeal’s Outside Lands twitter! Tomorrow I’ll be bringing my computer and hoping for the best. Then again, playing hooky at Outside Lands does sound pretty ideal.

The Shins:
As a matter of full disclosure, The Shins are my absolute favorite band in the entire world. I used to be the only person willing to stick it out three nights in a row at the Warfield to see them whenever they came to the Bay Area for however long. It’s been a while since the band has been touring though, but they did not disappoint, closing the first night of Outside Lands on a high note.

It turns out James Mercer and Co. have been recording new material for an album and the music they played from it was great, seeing classic Shins mixed with a few tricks picked up from Mercer’s side project with Danger Mouse, Broken Bells. Speaking of which, the only thing missing from The Shins’ well-rounded set were Broken Bells songs. If that’s all they’ll omit, I’ll be more than happy to take it. Here’s hoping the new album comes out soon and they start touring again even sooner.

The Crowds vs. Parking:
From what I’ve heard, this year’s Outside Lands is expected to draw at least 60,000 people per day. Flour and Water is expected to serve 6,000 sandwiches and one can only imagine how many tater tots have already been consumed care of Q. But, if you take a look around the mile and a half or so before Golden Gate Park, you’d assume attendance was way worse than that. I’ve never been so lucky in getting a parking spot that not only didn’t take long to find, but didn’t obstruct someone’s driveway or cost me anything.

Finding parking was incredibly easy; walking around wasn’t. Blame my disorientation on the sheer amount of people and things to do/see, but I got lost alone, with family, and while doing an interview with Release the Sunbird. Luckily the city does know how to keep things moving and there were little to no slow-walking issues.

Hunter Mulich (who also took all photos featured at the top of this post)
This year’s Outside Lands is finally caught up to the rest of the major festival circuit. The acts are a lot bigger, the days a lot more full, and the crowd a lot more youthful. The place actually seemed a bit over-sold. If they want to keep going this route, more space is definitely needed for next year.

Day one was seeing about seeing new artists and hearing new music from established ones. Tamaryn is a New York transplant now living in San Francisco. The tunes are like dreary surf music, a perfect match to Ocean Beach.

I luckily stumbled upon K. Flay, another inhabitant of the city, during an afternoon mini-set in a radio stations tent. Huge home-brewed beats, wild performances, pale girl in high top Nikes. Foster the People plays with explosive music connection and will have new material out in September.

Big Boi’s un-show was the biggest let down of the day. DJ laptop problems kept the show lagging while nearly the entire audience was gracious enough to stick around. Big Boi popped out at one point to apologize, then sent Dave Chappelle out (Dave’s first “beach ball concert”) Ultimately, the man never came on.

A perfect ending to the night came with The Shins. Coming out with original heart-clinchers like “Phantom Limb” and “Australia,” they eased into new material before going back into the ones that made them big.

And then I rode my bike home. There’s something so right about going to a music festival in your city’s backyard.

Alex Bigman
I gathered that a day at Outside Lands is divisible into two distinct halves. The first is jolly all around – crowds are manageable, the sun is … making an attempt … the plethora of delicious food calls to you (so many taco options … shame so many of them are clustered in the unfortunately manure-smelling region dubbed “The Mission”).

The second is more of a challenge. Around late afternoon, Golden Gate Park becomes an icy tundra. Lines are endless, crowds humongous, Verizon’s 3G service … adios. My advice: get your wandering done in the first half; for the second, choose a stage to camp out at, and stick with it.

Of course, this plan of action failed a sizeable number of attendees (including myself) when Big Boi cancelled after close to an hour of waiting. As a result of this fiasco I only managed to catch three bands: Tamaryn, Toro Y Moi and Best Coast, in addition to wafts of MGMT and Phish (MGMT sounded pretty good; Phish sounded pretty much like … I expected).

Tamaryn’s gothic antics – the hiding behind her black hair, the brooding demeanor (or was that just an expression of ‘really-not-excited-to-be-here’?) – came off as an affectation, and marred her talent. Whatever her aesthetic, she phoned it in.

Best Coast amped up the scuzz and the volume, betraying punk and noise rock influences that Bethany Corsentino’s pop sensibilities and clear, sunny vocals (which, I was sorry to find, are extremely irritating live) all but cover up in the studio.

Toro Y Moi were, in contrast, a delightful surprise. As with most of the chillwave music since Psychic Chasms, I found their recent release, Underneath the Pine, flat and (for this truly is the best descriptor) washed out.

Live, though, their sounds – a veritable jungle of tweaked out, super-funky synth and bass riffing (at one point there were two bass guitars in use at once) – were crisp, their playing enthusiastic. Chazwick Bundick’s vocals came across beautifully, at times evocative of MJ himself. The band unveiled a couple of hugely danceable new tracks, as well, forever altering my perception of this outfit and leaving me very excited for what they have in store.

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the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

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