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Outside Lands Day 1 Roundup: Surfer Blood Rides the Vibes

Surfer Blood at Outside Lands
In their first-ever performance at San Francisco’s Outside Lands music festival, Surfer Blood delivered in spades.
Surfer Blood at Outside Lands
The Florida band brought their laid-back surf-pop to the Lands’ End Stage to a crowd that was steadily growing throughout Friday in anticipation of the National and Paul McCartney’s headlining sets.

That’s not to say there weren’t any Surfer Blood fans in attendance, however.  There was quite a good contingent, in fact.  And the band nodded to them by referencing hits from their 2010 debut album Astro Coast in the first two songs.

“Floating Vibes” was the perfect table-setter, with its head-nodding groove getting the crowd into a vibey mindset before launching into the danceable “Twin Peaks.”

Surfer Blood also touched on their latest release Pythons with “Demon Dance” and “Say Yes to Me,” which drew cheers from the assembled masses.

A highlight of Surfer Blood’s performance was definitely “Take it Easy,” which is from Astro.

Frontman John Paul Pitts played the swinging lounge singer by donning a pair of aviator sunglasses and an American flag-emblazoned hat as he stalked back and forth across the stage.  Pitts even jumped down into the crowd to straddle the gate separating fans from the band.

Surfer Blood closed with a synthed-out version of “Drinking Problem,” which came from their 2011 EP Tarot Classes.  With Pitts’ voice repeating the mantra “At least I know who my, at least I know who my friends are” drew everyone into their spacey ether.

The National at Outside Lands

The National, however, were slightly more forceful in their performance, albeit it was a comparatively subdued set from frontman Matt Berninger’s Lollapalooza showing.

In Chicago, Berninger threw his microphone stand several times, hit his head with the mic and screamed like a madman.  At Golden Gate Park’s Lands’ End Stage, Berninger wasn’t as much a madman as he was a stoic genius leading one of the tightest bands out there.

To kick off the set, Berninger recalled that the last time the band played Outside Lands it was to open for Tom Jones.  He also noted the amount of underwear that was thrown on stage – for Jones and not the National.

“I’m not sending you any subliminal messages,” said Berninger. “Just telling a story.”

Instead, it was the National that had special treats for the audience, performing gems from their latest album Trouble Will Find Me, like “I Live in Salt” and “Don’t Swallow the Cap.”

The band also employed the San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet for stringed accoutrements to their powerful tracks and then brought out the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir for an epic set closer of “Terrible Love” from 2010’s High Violet.

Band of Horses at Outside Lands

Band of Horses also shone on the Lands’ End Stage, sandwiched between the National and Surfer Blood.

The festival circuit stalwarts were definitely on their game, rambling through singalong after singalong.  Frontman Ben Bridwell’s soaring voice was unmistakable on tracks like “Is There a Ghost” and “No One’s Gonna Love You.”

The crowd clapped along with the driving drums that push “Knock Knock” down the dusty Mirage Rock path, and by choosing a haunting finale like “The Funeral,” Band of Horses truly left their fans primed for the evening’s acts.

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