Rock and Roll

Lucky Johanna and I had tickets for the sold-out Outside Lands festival in the San Francisco Golden Gate Park last Saturday. :) PARC intern Ashok joined and drove us. We couldn’t almost believe it when we found a parking lot right next to the park. Ford bless America.

When we came there at around noon, it didn’t seem like there would be 60,000 people all over the place pretty soon; only a few people in front of the stage and almost no one elsewhere. We had delicious mac & cheese and burritos—typical Californian food—and Heineken—typical Dutch Piss. By the way, the smell in the air all around the festival area also reminded me of Amsterdam. ;)

The music started with a horrible performance of some hip hoppers that didn’t know how to sing or even speak, but continued with cool, funky jazz by The Greyboy Allstars. Then OK Go (see one of their unique videos below), Arcade Fire, and The Black Keys (a pretty cool Ohioan band I hadn’t known before) rocked the stage.

Right on (very American) time at 8:15 the best live band in the world started playing: Muse!

Heavy rock fading into symphonic compositions with classical piano sounds supported by stunning visuals, artificial fog, and lasers—this show had everything. Not only did they play great songs (of which they have plenty, much more than would fit into a single set), their show felt like a well-planned whole, which I appreciate a lot.

Unsurprisingly, they played many songs from their new album “The Resistance”, but they did include sufficiently enough older works as well, even not-so-mainstream-popular ones. And how cool is it to play a few chords of the “House of the Rising Sun” between “Time Is Running Out” and “Starlight”?

Here is Muse propagating the “United States of Eurasia” with very nice visuals in the background:

And here they perform their probably most popular song “Starlight”:

You can also see the complete setlist.

Apart from the music, I was amazed by the fact that there wasn’t even the slightest traffic jam after the festival and all the people went home (mostly by car).

Baseball

Thanks to Rick I got two premier tickets for what was going to be my first baseball game: SF Giants vs. Minnesota Twins. Took the totally crowded Caltrain up to San Fran. Funnily enough, this ride to the stadium is one of the only places where drinking alcohol in public is allowed in the United States. Guess it would be political suicide to refuse the fans getting drunk on their way to the game. And it actually makes sense to drink on the train, as beer in the stadium costs 10 bucks! But even small hot dogs (ironically called Giants dogs) that IKEA would sell for 50 cents cost 5 dollars there. However, being a brave Styrian guy in an unknown place I brought an apple, of course. :)

One of the guys next to my seat welcomed me with the words, “Welcome to the massacre!” I was only a few minutes late because of the crowds in front of the stadium, but the Giants were already behind 8 runs after the first inning. Not good, but I could care more (such as the people all around me).

Before that day I had no glue about baseball at all, but thanks to explanations from Markus and Wikipedia I think I understood most of what was happening. So here the basics: A game consists of 9 innings (rounds), in each of them both teams “attack” and “defend” once, each (called batting/hitting and fielding/pitching in baseball language). The batting team initially has only one player on the field (the batter, the guy with the baseball bat). The pitcher begins by throwing the ball towards batter and catcher. If he doesn’t hit a specific virtual area (basically throwing it too far away from the batter’s bat), the ball is called a “ball.” Makes sense, doesn’t it?

The batter tries to hit the ball with his bat. If he fails to do so, the ball is called a “strike”. Three strikes and he the batter striked out. But if he hits the ball, he throws away his bat and starts running towards the first of three bases (the other corners of the square they’re playing on). The defending team now tries to catch the ball and pass it to a defender at the base the batter is approaching. If a defender in possession of the ball touches the batter, the latter is “tagged” out. Otherwise he stays at the base he has reached and a new batter comes into play. There are lots and lots of other rules, but basically the batters try to advance from base to base until they reach the home plate again, which is called a homerun and gives 1 point (“run”). Actually this doesn’t happen too often. Long story short, 8 runs in one inning is a lot. A massacre.

Some people consider baseball one of the most boring sports on earth—as one guy on the train put it, “the only sport (maybe apart from golf) where you can eat a sandwich while playing it.” (And he was even a fan of it!) Maybe that’s one of the reasons it became America’s “national pastime.” ;) Anyway, I really enjoyed the game. Especially as there’s so much going on in the stadium apart from the actual game: pizza being thrown into the crowd, the smell of nachos and beer (did I mention it’s 10 dollars?), old dancing popcorn traders, best facial hair awards (see my personal hero), kiss cam… and the stadium itself is nice too, particularly the walk on the promenade towards the bay. Unfortunately, I ran out of battery, so the selection of photos was rather limited.

In the end—not very surprisingly—the Giants lost 9-2. Still an interesting experience.