Slow Food Rocks
Great Meadow at Fort Mason
August 30-31, 2008
Review by Tamara Palmer; Photos by Missy Buchanan and Tamara Palmer
Better than: Two days without brisk breezes, good tunes and creative culinary delights including Grateful Dead-themed chocolates.
The musical companion to Slow Food Nation provided nourishment for the body as well as the soul, with Saturday's headliners Gnarls Barkley a certain highlight. The deliciously leftfield band, spearheaded by singer/rapper Cee-Lo and production whiz Danger Mouse, have routinely been playing much larger venues. It even sold out the 17,000-seat Hollywood Bowl last month, so catching Gnarls Barkley at the relatively intimate environs of the Great Meadow at Fort Mason was a real treat.
Gnarls Barkley performed tunes familiar to fans, like the elegiac "Who's Gonna Save My Soul?" and their lively version of Violent Femmes' "Gone Daddy Gone." But they also threw in a surprise cover song.
"We make great music, but sometimes we like to play songs from others. This is called 'Reckoner,'" said Cee-Lo, as the notes of the recent Radiohead song started to play.
That would have been a great way to go out, but Gnarls Barkley stuck around for one more: "Smiley Faces," from the first album St. Elsewhere. That the band did not end on its most well-known song "Crazy" (which was played midway through with the singing assistance of the audience) was a sweet subversion of expected concert conventions, something that was indicative of the smooth-running day.
Unlike most music festivals, good food was expected here. On this, Slow Food Rocks did not disappoint, with a range of organic salads, sandwiches and other light fare at reasonable prices. It was also a nice surprise to see free water dispensed from a multi-tap set up outside a giant tanker emblazoned with "Got Water?"
The show also stood out from the norm by the general friendliness of security; one gentleman transformed from insanely menacing to super cuddly after a misunderstanding regarding shooting pictures and video was quickly and calmly cleared up.
Indie rockers the New Pornographers were playing when we got there, booming what must be the most family-friendly sound ever for such a provocative moniker.
Los Angeles Latin funk kings Ozomatli then offered a dynamic performance featuring tunes from last year's Don't Mess With the Dragon album. The band included a special guest star in Slimkid3, rapper from the newly reunited SoCal hip-hop outfit the Pharcyde, and even played one of that group's signature songs, "Passin Me By." A few more covers, including Blondie's "The Tide is High" mixed with Musical Youth's "Pass The Dutchie," followed. Not ready to end the show, Ozo continued its performance in the middle of the crowd and then formed a single file line and played all the way until they reached the backstage area.
I didn't plan to attend Sunday's event, but a whim (and the promise of more delicious food) brought me back to the Great Meadow for one more day. We arrived just in time to watch Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh & Friends play to a field full of Deadheads and those who love them. Smiles, ganja smoke and air guitars were in full effect as the headliner came alive on stage as well as on an artist's easel.
Personal bias: Gnarls Barkley front man Cee-Lo is the subject of a favorite chapter in my book. It's wonderful to see him begin to get his due.
Random detail: Slow Food has its own kinder, gentler version of the notion to rock out with your cock out that adorned some really cute merchandise:
By the way: The Grateful Dead truffles went on sale during Phil Lesh & Friends' set. Minutes later, 100 were sold, and they weren't even laced!