Story and Photos: Spencer Fleming
The 2nd annual Outlandia festival brought the heat to Bellevue! Over Friday and Saturday (8/11 and 8/12) thousands flocked to beautiful Falconwood Park located just a few minutes drive from Omaha to catch some of the biggest indie bands on the scene today.
The weather was a scorcher, but what can you expect from a summer festival? With plenty of drinks and food vendors available the Outlandia staff did a great job keeping everyone cool and comfortable. What about the music? Let's get into it!
I arrived shortly after 4:00 on Friday to catch the last couple songs from local act Minne Lussa. With the band completely done up in cowboy outfits I thought I would hear something country, but they were anything but. They sounded more like post punk New Order, Pet Shop Boys, The Cure, etc. It was a nice surprise and a great start to the day's festivities.
Next up was Envy Corps from Des Moines, IA. I heard Envy Corps described as one of Des Moines best kept secrets. They sounded really tight and got the crowd grooving. I would liken them to Beck mixed with a bit of Counting Crows.
After Envy Corps was the band I was most looking forward to on Friday, Omaha's own The Good Life! As a massive Cursive fan I naturally got into The Good Life when I learned that Tim Kasher is the driving force behind the band. I really started diving in around 2004 when they released Album of the Year. I listened to that release over and over. I was so stoked when Tim announced onstage that they'll be playing Album of the Year in full at the Reverb on October 6. Get those tickets as soon as they're available. It will sell out. Tim and company did an awesome job rocking the Outlandia crowd despite the crazy heat saying, "I know it's hot out here for everyone but it feels like the sun is shining directly on me!" For a good hour The Good Life helped everyone escape their problems and slide into the weekend.
Next up was Gregory Alan Isakov. I didn't know much about Gregory going in except that his entire tour was sold out! He's clearly becoming a big draw and the Outlandia crowd proved it. By the time Gregory took the stage the park was starting to get packed. Up front the crowd swayed and sang along to the indie-folk sounds of Gregory and his band. While the tunes are growing more and popular they weren't really in my lane. I can definitely appreciate why so many people like Gregory but I'm more rock and roll than folk.
Finally, after the sun had gone down it was time for the headliner Lord Huron! Another act that I didn't know much about going in except he has songs that "play over sad YouTube video clips", according to a fellow photographer. I was pleasantly surprised with how fun and upbeat Lord Huron was. With a sound akin to Elvis meets Dwight Yoakam Lord Huron brought the boogie. While he self proclaimed that his songs were really sad, the melodies had people grooving. It's one of those switcheroos where everything sounds light and happy but underneath he's talking about depression and heartbreak. Well either way, the crowd ate it up and danced the night away. Looking out into the crowd there were thousands gathered to party on night one of this fantastic festival.
Outlandia day two was even hotter than day one, both temperature-wise and in terms of star power. The lineup was stacked, The Faint and Jimmy Eat World in one day? Whew!
Unfortunately on day two, I arrived shortly after Criteria had just finished their set. I was bummed that I missed them as I had enjoyed seeing them several times over the years opening for Cursive.
I was in time to catch a set from the pop rock group Horse Girl. Their upbeat jams had the festival early-birds rocking out.
Next up was Cat Power. I was familiar with Cat Power in name only, so I really wasn't sure what to expect, but when she arrived on stage with a cigarette in hand I was a little taken aback. Her songs were slow and sad with just a keyboard player for accompaniment. As I was shooting the first song I was shooed out of the photo pit and told no photos. I opted to take shelter in the AC for the rest of the set.
As the clock struck 5:00 the sun was beating down and it felt like a sauna as I walked towards the stage. It could have been 105 degrees, nothing was going to keep me from photographing the next band, one of my all-time favorites, The Faint!! I've lost count with how many times I've seen The Faint, but it's ALWAYS a good time. While I do think it would have been much better to have The Faint play later on when it was cooler and dark, the set was amazing. They played all the good stuff, "I Disappear", "Southern Belles", "Glass Danse", and even "Worked Up So Sexual". The only thing better would've been "Hospital", but that's a pretty deep cut for a festival set. Todd and the boys had the whole park rocking with their beeps, boops, and vocoder vocals. Being at a Faint show is the best. If you've never experienced it, put it on your list ASAP!
After The Faint melted our faces it was time for the indie rockers Manchester Orchestra. I only knew a couple songs by these guys ahead of time, but everyone told me they would be the sleeper act of the day. As the heavy guitars kicked in things got loud! I was blown away by the power from this band. After the chill night of cowboy sad songs Friday Manchester Orchestra blew my mind. I'm really glad I got to catch this set. I started shouting to my friend Robert Willis in the front row "I may have slept on Manchester Orchestra!" These guys were a lot of fun and I will definitely check them out again the next time they come through.
As the sun went down it was time for the big guns, Jimmy Eat World, followed by Modest Mouse! I was really pumped to photograph Jimmy Eat World. I shot their show at The Bourbon Theater in Lincoln a few years back but my gear wasn't the greatest so most of my shots were pretty grainy. I was ready for photo redemption! As I approached the photo pit I was told we couldn't shoot up front only from the crowd. No worries, I brought the 70-200. I made my way towards the front of the crowd and ended up about 7 rows back. I zeroed in on lead singer Jim Atkins with laser focus as the band kicked things off with "Congratulations", the closing track from their newest album Surviving. It's crazy to think that came out four years ago!
After "Congratulations" they moved right into "Bleed American", the title track to their seminal 2001 album. By now there were a few folks singing along but nothing compared to the next song, the smash hit "Sweetness". With the call back chorus of "whoa oh oh" a swell of voices washed over the whole park. Jimmy brought the heat playing all the hits and fan favorites. My favorite part was "A Praise Chorus" where Jimmy told the crowd "Come on, now's your chance to get wild!" Of course they had to end the set with their worldwide smash "The Middle". All around folks got out of their chairs to dance and take selfies. Honestly, Jimmy should have been the headline act. I would've loved to see another five or six songs. With their deep catalog they could've played another four, even five hits. I can't wait to catch them again!
The stars soon came out and the crowd packed it in up front one more time for the headliner Modest Mouse. Isaac Brock and company took the stage to raucous applause. He stepped to the mic and thanked everyone for sticking around after such a long hot day. Modest Mouse has never been on my top playlist but I was curious to see what the band would bring. I enjoyed the few songs I caught including one of my favorites "Dashboard". Had it been an indoor show I definitely would've stayed longer, but with all the heat exhaustion I made an early exit along with several other attendees. There were plenty who stuck around, but I think the main draw was Jimmy Eat World. Overall the festival was a great success and I know there were plenty of memories made. I truly appreciate the 1% Productions team and everything they did to put on such a great event. I can't wait to see what they have in store for next year!
Thanks again to the Outlandia media team for photo access.
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