Tenacious D, M.I.A., Dead Weather Bring Swagger To Outside Lands

Band of Horses, Modest Mouse, Matt & Kim help close out San Fransico fest.

With the [artist id="968"]Beastie Boys[/artist] out of the picture due to Adam Yauch’s cancer , the title of main attraction was up for grabs on the final day of the Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival in San Francisco.

[artist id="509577"]Tenacious D[/artist], Jack Black and Kyle Gass’ jokey acoustic metal duo, replaced the Beasties as the main-stage headliner on Sunday night, but it wasn’t entirely clear if the majority of people who showed up in Golden Gate Park were there to see the D (even despite the chants of “We want D!” prior to their set). The band appeared to have a sense of humor about its fill-in status, selling a shirt at the festival that spoofed the Beastie Boys’ Check Your Head album cover and warned, “Check Your Headliner.”

Audience members particularly fond of phallus and Satan jokes — or maybe just the ones who saw Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny — would probably go ahead and give the “main attraction” honor to the headliners, who were playing two days after Black’s 40th birthday. In addition to performing songs like “Tribute,” “Wonderboy” and “F— Her Gently,” the duo (which had an ace backing band behind them) acted out several skits, including one that played on Black’s recent milestone and featured a stunt double doing flips and cartwheels. (Gass then temporarily quit the band when Black wouldn’t admit to the crowd that he wasn’t actually responsible for the athletic feats.) Black’s best stunt of the night was all his own, however, when he closed the night by stripping down to his underwear and throwing his shirt and pants into the audience.

A few vocal audience members during Band of Horses’ set at the nearby Sutro stage definitely gave their votes to frontman Ben Bridwell and company, offering up chants of “Main stage! Main stage!” during the hourlong set. The group’s countrified indie rock was downright explosive, and Bridwell seemed to be just as impressed with the performance as his fans were. Sporting lots of hair and beards, the South Carolina outfit tore through an excellent selection of songs from 2006′s Everything All the Time — including Outside Lands’ unofficial theme song, “Weed Party” — and 2007′s Cease to Begin, as well as a cover of Gram Parsons’ “A Song for You.”

Plenty of fans of would have also awarded the highlight crown to the Dead Weather, Jack White’s stunningly cool quartet that also includes singer Alison Mosshart from the Kills. Buoyed by White’s muscular guitar-playing and a crack set of tunes from their recently released debut, Horehound, the band tore through their set with reckless abandon while still looking cool. It helped that even though they played in the middle of the afternoon, the cloud cover and slight chill from the Bay breeze turned the festival’s second-largest stage into a dangerous after-hours juke joint. The climax had little to do with the songs, as the group took a brief moment to jam while Mosshart sultrily smoked a cigarette sitting on the side of the stage. Nobody indulged in a vice with more rock and roll swagger better all weekend than the Dead Weather’s singer.

Speaking of swagger, [artist id="1803648"]M.I.A.[/artist] had a convincing campaign judging from the bodies convulsing during her bass-heavy workout on the main stage. Modest Mouse had a much harder sell earlier in the day, when they delivered a set that leaned closer to band favorites rather than fan favorites and included almost no banter from enigmatic leader Isaac Brock. It’s a formula that Modest Mouse has used in the past in festival settings, but it’s difficult to tell if the band is being contrarian or if adamantly playing by its own rules is a survival technique. Either way, it meant that megahit “Float On” was nowhere to be found, though songs like “The View,” “Dramamine” and “Paper Thin Walls” sounded good on the big speakers.

It’s safe to assume nobody shelled out a hundred bucks just to see Matt & Kim play the Panhandle stage at 3 in the afternoon, but the Brooklyn duo certainly performed as if most of the people watching them did. With beach balls and audience members bouncing, Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino spent most of their 40 minutes smiling and blasting through their keys-and-drums songs, slowing down only to explain why drummers shouldn’t wear big earrings and asking the sun to come out so their solar-powered stage wouldn’t run out of juice. Schifino even crowd-surfed before she and Johnson closed their set with a low-fi cover of Europe’s “The Final Countdown” and their own “Daylight,” which recently received some good airtime thanks to Bacardi.

In addition to the music, the second-annual Outside Lands — which is produced in part by Superfly Productions, the same folks behind Bonnaroo — offered plenty of other diversions, including a salon, pitching and batting cages, the Today Is So Yesterday Lounge featuring an oxygen bar, and a “Beatles Rock Band” lounge. And it being the Bay area and all, there was a wine tent and food options included heirloom watermelon, soju cocktails and portobello skewers offered by local businesses. All that combined with 72 hours worth of experimental rock, crowd-pleasing pop and euphoric R&B made for three days worth of San Francisco-style bliss.