Outside Lands a mad frenzy, but bands deliver

Not everything went perfectly on the first night of the three-day Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in Golden Gate Park.

First off, there was the issue of getting there. As Friday's rush hour began, concertgoers were left with the option of either squeezing into what little room was available in uncomfortably crowded buses or endlessly circling the perimeter of the park in search of a lone parking spot. Golden Gate Park, after all, isn’t the most convenient place to trek to – especially when you and thousands of other folks have the same destination in mind.

Next, there was the problem with cell phone reception. If you planned on coordinating a meet-up with friends by phone, you were pretty much out of luck. The outskirts of the park, for some reason, transformed into a complete dead zone, leaving many unable to connect with by phone.

Promoters with Another Planet Entertainment said the concert area's capacity was 60,000, and it certainly appeared that that's how many were there. Perhaps one of the most awe-inspiring elements of the event was simply standing at the edges and watching the shifts in the sea of humanity.

Of course, there was a lot of standing around, too … as in waiting in line for an I.D. check in an attempt to get something to drink and trying to get some pizza or a sandwich.

But there also was the music, happening more or less simultaneously on six stages. The setup sort of worked, although it was impossible to actually see, or, more accurately hear, all 13 extremely diverse acts in Friday's line-up, and getting from one stage to another proved time-consuming.

Yet the weather gods served San Francisco well, providing an only slightly foggy, almost balmy, one-sweatshirt night for the huge crowds, which allowed concertgoers to enjoy the music instead of endure the cold.

Bits of Vancouver, B.C.-based Black Mountain's hard, psychedelic-tinged rock and vintage soul from old-timer Charles Walker, fronting the Dynamites echoed throughout the park.

Beck, of course, drew a huge crowd at the Sutro stage, which was decorated with a huge mural of a warrior and tiger. It wasn't easy to see him, but in his hour-long set, he sounded excellent as usual, playing old favorites from “Devil's Haircut” and “Loser” to the new “Modern Guilt.”

Radiohead started right on time, and despite glaring technical problems – the sound went out completely on “Airbag” and “All I Need”  (singer Thom Yorke apologized profusely) – the show felt more-or-less complete. It wasn't easy to see, and the video-screen images didn't add all that much to the experience. Yet the accompanying light show was expertly executed, perfectly complementing the strains of songs such as “15 Step,” “Reckoner,” “Idioteque,” “Talk Show Host,” “The Gloaming” and “Paranoid Android.”

The band closed with “Everything in Its Right Place,” and, despite some of the night's challenges, that seemed to be the feeling of thousands of satisfied fans.

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