The way Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich sees it, he would be attending the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival even if his band was not headlining the second night of the Bay Area’s musical crown jewel. That was the case last year, when he took his kids, who wanted to see Muse, the Arctic Monkeys and the Black Keys.
“I have four kids, but, particularly a 14-year-old and an 11-year-old who are very excited about going to these festivals,” the 48-year-old rock icon said during a telephoned press conference. “It works on all fronts (this year). I’m going to take my kids and it probably will be the concert highlight of their year.”
It’s hard to believe that Metallica had yet to perform at Outside Lands, which marks its fifth year next week.
“It was just a matter of time,” Ulrich said. “As a Bay area resident and as a music fan, going to see the Outside Lands Festival every year is a huge thing for not only me, but for my family. Getting a chance to play it … is obviously a huge thing for us.”
While this year’s headliners are getting up there in years – Neil Young will crown Friday night with his band Crazy Horse (with Beck and the Foo Fighters opening), and Motown crooner/keyboard man Stevie Wonder on Sunday – there are plenty of younger acts to catch. From Sharon Van Etten and Yacht on Friday, Zola Jesus and Alabama Shakes on Saturday, and Birdy on Sunday, to seven up-and-coming local bands (see below). Highly anticipated performers include Skrillex and Justice, Sigur Ros, and the return of Franz Ferdinand.
Ulrich, who said he views this year’s Outside Lands as an encore to Metallica’s string of consecutive shows at the Fillmore last December, is also a fan. He’ll be weaving among the four main concert stages – likely led by his kids.
“I’m pretty sure that my kids are going to tell me what bands I’m going to end up seeing and when I’m going to see them and where,” he said. “I’m (48) going on 16. When I’m around Jack White or when I’m around Dave Grohl or when I’m around people like Neil Young or whatever, I’m like a fucking kid in the candy store myself.”
Of course, limiting a preview of the festival to music acts would be ridiculous. There’s a huge list of food, beer and wine vendors, public art, a DJ dome and The Barbary. While this has been a variety entertainment tent in years past, this year sees more emphasis on comedy. Performers include Neil Patrick Harris, Kristen Schaal, David Cross and Chris Hardwick.
“Sometime in the last 10 years maybe they sort of realized, ‘Oh, … this type of music lover and this type of comedy fan; there’s a bunch of crossover,’” said Hardwick, who’s known for his popular Nerdist podcast and numerous TV host jobs.
Hardwick said he’ll be pulling triple duty: Performing, recording pieces for his Podcast and other projects, and being a fan.
“I’m kind of excited because it’s sort of an amusement park for me,” he said. “For me to think of this as work it would be silly.”
Cross, best known for his role as Tobias Funke on the television show Arrested Development (now being made into a movie), arrived to the press conference in mid-performance form. When asked what it was like to be “one of the more comedic acts” at the festival, he retorted: “If by more comedic you mean comedic, I’m definitely funnier than Norah Jones, but I’m not quite as funny as Skrillex. So I’m somewhere in between the two.”
Metallica and Neil Young aren’t the only local artists performing at Outside Lands this year. Here’s a breakdown of seven other acts representing the Bay Area.
Thee Oh Sees – The San Francisco psych-rock troupe is releasing its 14th full-length album, Putrifiers II, in September.
Two Gallants – The blues-rock duo (guitarist Adam Stephens and drummer Tyson Vogel) also have a new album coming in September. The Bloom and the Blight will be the band’s fourth. Two Gallants are no strangers to festivals. Besides Outside Lands, they’re on the bill for Mumford and Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road tour that stops in Monterey in late August.
Geographer – After Spin magazine named this trio one of “three undiscovered bands you need to hear now” in 2008, the synth-poppers went on to tour with the likes of Stars, Surfer Blood, Cults and OMD.
Grandaddy – OK, so this band actually formed in Modesto, but if we can claim Stockton’s Pavement, why not this indie quintet? Grandaddy split up in 2006, but reformed this March to play a few more shows, such as Outside Lands.
Sean Hayes – San Francisco adopted Sean Hayes in the early ’90s. The New York native has been calling the Bay home ever since. The folky soul singer also has an album, Before We Turn to Dust, scheduled for release in September.
The M Machine – The San Francisco electronic/DJ trio is signed to Skrillex’s label, OWSLA. In April, the M Machine released an EP, Metropolis Pt. 1. The album is one half of a concept album based on Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis.
Wallpaper – Oakland R&B artist Eric Frederic heads up Wallpaper, which have made more than a bit of noise within the last year, what all with repeated plays on MTV. BEST FUCKING SONG EVERRR turned into quite the break for Frederic.
Follow writer Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter and RomiTheWriter.Tumblr.com.