Music That Makes a Difference 2018

Music That Makes a Difference 2018

CNN Music & Art

Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson

CNN Music & Art

Eddie Van Halen donates guitars to public schools

Eddie Van Halen

CNN Music & Art




Year two of the Outside Lands Festival, and the review must always begin on the hollowed grounds that play host to the event. Golden Gate Park – so many epic performances from decades ago including The Dead, Joplin and Jimi. The weather is always an interesting juggling act. Sunny and warm when the sun’s out. The exact opposite when it’s not. And 2009 went from no shirt to multiple-layers each day. But the most consistent weather – the one that didn’t disappoint at all – is actually no longer living. That’s right, The Dead Weather played in the middle of the day and delivered a knock-out punch… A Dylan cover. A Them cover. And then they “Cut Like a Buffalo.” Jack White, Alison Mosshart and company can do anything musically. That’s why it sounds so good when they “Treat Me Like Your Mother.”

It’s only fitting that where there’s a Jack White there should also be a Jack Black. And Outside Lands didn’t disappoint. One of Tenacious D’s first ever performances was in San Francisco nearly a decade ago. “I turned 40 years old this week,” Black told the crowd, “and I feel like I’m in the body of a ten year old.” He then proceeded to do handsprings from one end of the stage to the other. It was a night of skits, music and swear words for sure. “The devil fucking sucks. Fuck the devil. Jesus is awesome. The devil can suck my dick,” Black said during one spitting tirade. Later he added this beauty, “I wish I could fuck all of you. I can’t. That’s unreasonable. But I can try.”

Lucinda Williams added so much class to the 2009 lineup. Incubus and Modest Mouse brought huge followings. And  Brett Dennen brought a mop of red hair, plus a hot new song titled “San Francisco.” The Bay Area native repeatedly told the crowd how happy he was to be playing on the best home soil on earth. The Black Eyed Peas had tens of thousands of feet jumping to their numerous #1 hits on Saturday night, followed by a classic Dave Matthews performance. Fergie and the gang even joined DMB on stage for their late night encore.

Eddie Vedder admitted that his voice has taken some abuse over the years. He blamed a cold and a European tour for it’s extra scratchiness as Pearl Jam closed opening night. He scowled “The Fixer” through a smile – happy to be busting out new material from their upcoming album Backspacer. And while he revved things up in true Vedder fashion, he also sounded amazing in first gear with flawless versions of “Elderly Woman” and “Black.” It took tour encores before McCready, Gossard and Ament could lay down their guitars after a double dip of Neil Young, including a blazing cover of “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

In addition to the endless t-shirts, food and music goods vendors, this year’s festival had plenty of port-o-pottys. Something it did not do so well in 2008. While the empying of a beer bladder is all good, the most spectacular thing at Outside Lands was the titillating Eric McFadden Trio & Vau de Vire Society. They played each day – a mixture of a scantily-clad dancing circus and just damn good musicianship.

But my highlight, by far, was the permanently happy Jason Mraz. “Don’t let your mind get in the way of a good time…” he said during his set on Saturday afternoon at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Then thousands of people just let themselves go… scatting back and forth to “I’m Yours,” dancing to his uplifting music and rejoicing in mind, body and spirit during the set. Mraz showed off an incredible vocal range from Barry White low to opera soprano. His ultra-professional horn section blended with the warm, Saturday afternoon weather to get things awfully sultry on Mraz’s rump-shaking closer “Butterfly.” I was blessed to spend some time with Mraz backstage at the Outside Lands Festival for an incredible photo shoot on the VIP balcony. Click here for my profile piece on Jason Mraz. All photography by Harper Smith.














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