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The Strokes

For those not into what's left of the Grateful Dead - aka Further - the second option for Saturday night's closer was New York's highly anticipated retro-rock revivalists the Strokes after nearly a four-year absence. With a wall of lights dancing behind the quintet between three banners lit up on either side of the stage, a tunnel-like image was achieved - but the effects cloaked the band in shadows for the majority of their set.

The group opened with "New York City Cops," "The Modern Age" and "Hard To Explain" off their debut 2001 album Is This It, setting a nostalgic tone for the group's loyal fans. Despite pauses and some rambling by frontman Julian Casablancas, the band held together and delivered an excellent set, spanning across three records, barely stopping for breaks between songs. As the crowd chanted "One more song," Casablancas whispered, "Be careful what you wish for" and proceeded to kick off an encore that consisted of not one, but four songs. "Someday" was backed with projections of Pac-Man and Space Invaders behind the band while "Take It Or Leave It" closed the long-awaited performance.

-Tracy Tieu

Nas and Damien Marley

A cloud of smoke billowed over Outside Lands at sunset, the absolute perfect time for Nas and Damian Marley's fusion of rap and reggae. While Nas is most notorious for his high energy raps, his collaboration with Damian was exceptionally mellow. Since each performer has already had solo success, I would have expected them to fight for the spotlight. On the contrary, the two had great chemistry. As they do at every show, they opened with "As We Enter," the festive introduction to their new album Distant Relatives. By uniting two popular genres, Nas and Damian attracted one of the more diverse crowds at the festival. High school students and mothers of three were jamming out all the same. Even those who didn't know the lyrics by heart sang along with the rest of the crowd and fed off the irresistible energy. This degree of unity is what reggae and hip-hop each traditionally preach, and Nas and Damian just took it to an even higher level.

-Erin Donaldson

Bassnectar

Despite being stuck with a mid-afternoon slot and without his famous light show, Bassnectar killed it. His long, greasy hair swept over his turntables as he vigorously spun what is arguably the best dubstep out there right now. The crowd grooved harder than they had all day, tossing around inflatable beach balls. Bassnectar sampled tracks from such a wide variety of genres that it was impossible not to be having a good time. Then the power went out.

It was the absolute worst time for this to happen. Half the crowd was infuriated; the rest were confused and contemplating heading to another stage. Crowd aside, of all the acts playing the festival, a power outage was most inconvenient for a DJ performing one continuous track. Fortunately, Bassnectar was allowed to make up the 15 or so minutes cut out of his set because it wasn't his fault (and probably because the festival was afraid of a riot).

The energy never quite reached the degree it had once achieved, but it was still superior to that of any other Saturday act.

-Erin Donaldson

Chromeo

Chromeo's blend of funk and electronic struck a perfect balance, such that people could dance like mad and still sing along at the top of their lungs. The bands has developed quite a cult following because they've been around for so long. Their show was packed with fans that knew all the words to every song and were just generally amped to be there. Chromeo returned the love, performing with excellent stage presence but also remaining humble and easygoing.

They are currently on tour for their new album, but the set included old favorites and only two new singles. It is clear that the band understands what audiences want to hear and were not just out to promote the new album (though this does make the album's prospects all the more mysterious).

The biggest hits ("Fancy Footwork," "Needy Girl," et al) were played early on, usually a surefire way to lose your audience. If that was a test of loyalty, however, the crowd certainly passed. Everyone stuck around until the very end when Chromeo closed with the odd choice of "100%," a lesser known track off of She's in Control.

-Erin Donaldson

Kings of Leon

After being introduced with clouds of red smoke, Kings of Leon opened their set with "Closer" as a third screen projected camera angles in fast forward motion. Perhaps this was meant to bolster excitement, but I wasn't phased.

Kings of Leon ride on two things: their reputation and special effects. The group was lifeless on stage, melodramatically plucking away at their instruments while Caleb Followill screeched.

Guitarist Matt Followill played with a cigarette in his mouth for a large portion of the set, clearly trying to seem more "badass." While whining lyrics like "Because I'm just too emotional" in a new song that mimicked riffs from past albums, it's no wonder that the crowd referenced it to other songs. The group then played the over-covered "Where Is My Mind" by Pixies and as expected, the crowd went wild. Caleb then monotonously whispered, "Sing along if you know it," as the group burned through their three-and-a-half minute ballad raving about fiery sex as if we all hadn't heard enough about that steamy night already. The set ended as mediocre as it started, but I guess the smoke and lights were kind of cool.

-Tracy Tieu

Beats Antique

Beats Antique is an Oakland-based experimental jam band that, well, didn't exactly start off as a band. It began as the brain child of Zoe Jakes - known for her blend of traditional belly dance with tango, break dance and Indian dance - who serves as the producer and arranger for the electronic afro-beat ensemble.

With obvious trip-hop and down-tempo jazz influences, the group performed a surprising set that mesmerized the crowd. The band boasted futuristic, percussive beats and chimes that echoed out from the stage.

The set list embodied 45 minutes of a complex layering of sounds fused with avant-garde belly dancing arrangements including group routines and solos by Jakes herself. The band expelled a kind of murky haze over the already cloudy skies of Golden Gate Park that infused their performance with a sense of mystic wonder. It is a rare event when, as an onlooker, you have no idea what's going on the stage. And while that may have been true with Beats Antique, you really didn't have to. Beats Antique were nothing short of pure innovation, even at the festival's smallest stage on Saturday evening.

-Tracy Tieu

Janelle Monae

When Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes is promoting someone, you know that they've got to be on the risque end of the music spectrum. But a little risque doesn't even begin to describe the sounds of Janelle Monae. Pushing the boundaries of race and genre, her futuristic storytelling encompasses elements of soul, electronic and orchestral music. But her aural experiment is taken to a new sensory level with her live show.

Monae came on 15 minutes late, leaving her a mere 30 minutes. The way she handled her shortened time slot made her all the more impressive. She opened with the bracing intro to The ArchAndroid, getting the crowd pumped for what was in store, then transitioned into the album's first track, "Dance or Die." This initiated an abbreviated performance of The ArchAndroid and its biggest tracks, as well as a chilling cover of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile."

She came out in her signature black and white, puffy-sleeved suit and fro-hawk. She was also accompanied by dancers sporting Plague Doctor masks, though her dance moves were by far the best. The show itself was a powerful demonstration of Monae's character.

-Erin Donaldson

Tags: KINGS OF LEON, OUTSIDE LANDS, THE STROKES, JANELLE MONAE, CHROMEO, BASSNECTAR






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