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Rooted stories, tales, lies...

Outside Lands Rooted Picks

The carney stage – I’m not sure what this stage was actually called, but it was awesome.


A day or so before I headed out to London Nick called me up and told me that he and Oriana, and maybe a few other people, would be going up to Outside Lands music festival in San Francisco.  This was distressing as I had already resigned to not going weeks before, but as I was getting back into town on Thursday afternoon and they were driving up first thing Friday morning, it now became feasible.  All I had to do was buy a ticket (I found one, thanks to an awesome Craigslist bowling alley rendezvous) and jump in the car.

The drive…


Rooted road snacks

I knew it would be a bit ambitious, but I’m an ambitious person.  I also knew that the trip would not go smoothly at times, that we didn’t really have places sorted out to crash, that I would be super jet-lagged and probably sleep in the car on more than one occasion, and that 3-day music festivals generally tend to be a cluster, so I’d have to roll with it all.  All of these things turned out to be the case, but when all was said and done on Sunday evening when I finally made it home (after having to book and pay for an alternate flight back, then wait for a few additional hours of delays), there was no doubt in my mind that the trip was completely worth it.

There is no price you can put things like packing the car full of buddies and driving up the I-5, or getting the opportunity to hear Sean Hayes perform Alabama Chicken live (which HE DIDN’T DO!), or reconnecting with friends you haven’t seen in half a decade, or running into random people you had never expected to see in a million years, or drinking Jameson from a bottle that someone buried inside the festival grounds the week prior only to unearth unbeknownst to festival security guards.  On the surface a music festival, with drunken revelry, copious drug use, and general excess may not be so ROOTED, but the essence of spontaneity with the risk of slight discomfort – all for the sake of music and expression – is completely ROOTED.  I am a firm believer that you should put yourself in slightly uncomfortable, uncertain situations from time to time, and this weekend checked that box more than once.

As for the acts, there were a few that stood out to me.  Rather than rewrite their bios, I’ll just make a few notes about what it is I liked about them (note that I’m completely biased towards folksy-country artists with soul).

Sean Hayes

Sean Hayes is a singer-song writer born in New York that grew up in North Carolina.  His music is soulful and his lyrics are thoughtful, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously.  Speaking of not taking himself too seriously, one of his more popular songs is called Alabama Chicken and has some heavy soul to it, as well as farm yard references.  The song Fucked me Right Up is almost comical in its juxtaposition of a sweetly melodic love tune (well, break up tune), and the harsh words of the title.  Sean rocked a (classy) pimp suit, played on a smaller stage and had a medium sized crowd – which meant I could stretch my legs and doze on the hillside in the partial afternoon sun (the festival did get warm for about 5 minutes).

Sean Hayes killin it


Alabama Shakes

Not coincidentally, Alabama Shakes considers themselves “roots rock.”  How could I not include a brief bit about them?  You’ve probably heard the Alabama Shakes song “Hold On.”  It rocks.  The band Alabama Shakes is relatively young, only having been around since about 2009, but they have enjoyed a fairly quick ascent – and for good reason, too.  The vocals from lead singer Brittany Howard are absolutely powerful.  I have a weird thing where I really only get behind bands that exhibit some sort of true passion, and this she does without a doubt.  Her emotion comes through her music so strong that you can’t help but get down.

There were so many other great bands that performed the festival – Foo Fighters put on the best show without a doubt (Dave Grohl is probably the best musician of a generation), Norah Jones was beautiful to listen to, and Metallica melted faces (despite whether or not San Francisco residents really wanted their faces melted).  All in all the festival was a great time, and even though I was deathly tired at times and almost choked a United Airlines customer service agent through the phone on Sunday morning when I found out my flight reservation had been cancelled, I’d do it again in a kick drum heart beat.



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