Manu Chao: Outside Lands Day 1

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Finally, San Francisco has its own massive music festival it deserved. Forget about driving 8 hours through the desert. Here in the Bay, we like things to be public transportation accessible.

Still, when I got there one hour before show time, there was already a huge line of cars fighting for the very limited parking spots within Golden Gate Park, so the first thing I thought was, “I’m so much smarter than all these bridge-and-tunnel people for coming on my bike” (and how convenient is that they provide free bicycle valet service, so San Francisco!).

I didn’t realize the actual magnitude of Outside Lands until I noticed how impossibly immense its three concert fields were, with two stages each, and all that space in between. Take note for the second date: bring my hiking shoes. The distance between one stage and the other sometimes is so big that you wish they allowed bikes inside the festival. But this is not Burning Man. This actually reminds me a lot of Coachella, of course minus the sun and the OC blondes in bikini tops.

On that note, the weather was horrible. I guess that’s the problem of throwing a show next to the ocean in NorCal, the fog comes in and covers the whole place. For moments I thought it was going to start raining. But hey, this is San Francisco and that’s the price we pay. Other signs that we are in San Francisco: they have actual restaurants instead of the usual festival junk food; they have a wine tasting tent; there’s a few booths selling hippie paraphernalia and a big tent with computers where you can go and change your Facebook status to: “in Outside Lands waiting for Radiohead!”

It seems like it’s turning into a Bay Area tradition to have Manu Chao visit us once every summer. I knew this time the public response would be different, especially among us, broke-ass Latinos. It wasn’t too long ago when we saw him playing for almost three hours straight for half the ticket price, and this time, the show is scheduled to last only one hour, that’s like just the warm up of a Manu Chao show!

Nevertheless, there were plenty of hardcore fans, most of them flag-waving Latinos, within the first couple of rows next to the pit. The rest were mostly curious gringo hipsters and college dudes screaming “wooo!” every time he said marihuana.

So, Radio Bemba goes on stage and bassist Gambit with his usual charisma turns the crowd on. I was gladly surprised to find out that they added a trumpet player this time; that was what they were missing, especially when they play Mano Negra tracks.

With the whole band playing, Manu storms on stage, jumping and running around like an overexcited kid and grabs the mic and shouts out: “Qué pasó? Qué pasó San Pancho!” The crowd goes crazy and the show is on.

He starts with old songs, some early Mano Negra hits mixed in with Clandestino and Proxima Estación tracks in the usual Radio Bemba super energetic ska-punk format. Surprisingly it is their tenth song the first and only one from La Radiolina, his most recent studio album: “Rainin’ in Paradize”.

Approaching the end of his non-stop performance the Franco-Spanish singer pulls out a Mexican flag and dedicates his last song to “toda la raza mexicana que conoce esta canción”. It’s actually a cover of Vicente Fernández’s standard “Volver, Volver” but he changes the lyrics of “volver a tus brazos otra vez” for “volver a San Pancho otra vez”.

Beck and Radiohead are the actual headliners of the day; the ones to blame for the festival feeling so much like a hipster’s carnival. I missed most of el guero’s performance because it overlapped with Manu’s and his stage was like 2 miles away.

I guess I wasn’t the only impatient one. I noticed somebody was thinking the same I was and pushed down the wire fences that separate the concert fields to improvise a shortcut. If that already happened on the first festival day, I wonder what this is gonna turn into by Sunday.

So anyway, I was able to listen to “Where it’s at” and then I had to rush my way back to see Radiohead, in the way stopping by Lyrics Born stage to sing along the “Bad Dreams” hook.

Now I have to be honest, I never cared much about Radiohead. OK, I gotta be completely honest, I never cared at all about Radiohead. Yeah, they are the best band in the world according to unanimous consent yadda-yadda-yadda… but to me they are just the second most overrated band in the history of rock (the first one being The Beatles, of course). In two syllables: Bo-Ring!

Being so unfamiliar with their music as I am (and I call myself a music critic?) I was really amazed by their show which would’ve been absolute perfection if it wasn’t for the two times the whole sound system was turned completely off in the middle of the songs.

“All right, I don’t know what the fuck is going on!” said Thom Yorke and that was it. Outside Lands first day was over. Now I only had to wait in line for half an hour to get my bicycle back and ride back in the cold foggy night. I wish I came by car.