PHOTO CREDIT: Photo By Rachel Bleckman

By Paul Freeman

Flower power may have long since wilted, but the tradition of rock concerts in San Franciscoís Golden Gate Park continues stronger than ever.

The spectacular and eclectic 2012 lineup for Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, August 10-12, includes Metallica, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Foo Fighters, Jack White, Beck, Skrillex, Sigur Ros, Norah Jones, Regina Spektor, Andrew Bird, Grandaddy, Franz Ferdinand, Dr. Dog, Trampled By Turtles, Sean Hayes, Tom Morello, Birdy and many, many more. [See www.sfoutsidelands.com for the full list].

Metallicaís Lars Ulrich says, ďAs a Bay area resident and as a music fan, going to see the Outside Landís Festival every year is a huge thing for, for not only me, but for my family. So, getting a chance to play it and to sort of, you know, headline it or whatever, is obviously a huge thing for us.

ďIf Iím not going to play, Iím going to go, so either way Iím going to involved in it somehow and Iím going to take my kids and it probably will be the concert highlight of their year. I have four kids, but, particularly a 14-year-old and an 11-year-old who are very excited about going to these festivals, so it works on all fronts.

ďAnd obviously, I think that being back in San Francisco and celebrating our 30th anniversary, which we did with the full week of shows at the Fillmore in December, in some way, it feels kind of like, almost like the encore of that, you know, getting a chance to play Outside Lands six months later, is a huge way to just sort of continue our long-standing love affair with all things San Francisco. And Golden Gate Park is an awesome, awesome setting. Finding inspiration to play home town shows is never difficult and weíre always fired up.Ē

This will mark Metallicaís first Golden Gate Park show. ďItís awesome that you can continue to conjure up different experiences,Ē Ulrich says. ďSo obviously, weíve played AT&T, the site where the Giants play. Weíve obviously played Oakland.

ďWeíve played every indoor building and every club and theatre and so on. So, obviously, any chance of playing in Golden Gate Park, which has been the site of many legendary gigs over the decades, itís obviously, a super cool thing. Itís a privilege. We rearranged the whole summer schedule just for this.Ē

The drummer will be there as a fan, as well as a performer. ďIím 48 going on 16, but when Iím around Jack White or Dave Grohl or Neil Young or whatever, Iím like a f-cking kid in the candy store myself.Ē

In addition to rocking out, attendees will also laugh themselves silly, thanks to the hysterical roster performing at the comedy/variety tent dubbed The Barbary. Among the funny folks will be David Cross, Neil Patrick Harris, Chris Hardwick, Reggie Watts, Todd Barry and Jon Glaser.

Asked how he fits into the festival, Cross says, ďIím definitely funnier than Norah Jones but Iím not quite as funny as Skrillex. So Iím somewhere in between the two. Iím looking forward to it. Even if it sucks itís still a story, you know.

ďAs I understand it, this is a kind of more of an intimate setting, as much as you can have at one of these big, huge massive outdoor festivals. Iím glad that itís 450 seats. I think thatís better for everybody, as opposed to being, I remember when I did Bonnaroo, it was a huge tent and like people in the back were far away. Thatís okay if youíre listening to music, but when thereís a performance with gesticulation and all thatís involved and youíre trying to entertain the people in the front as well as the back, itís just not quite the same. So Iím happy with what it sounds like itís going to be, as far as the setup.Ē

Hardwick, podcast superstar and king of the Nerdists, says, ďIíve done Bumbershoot a bunch of times and Coachella one year. Comedy works well at these kinds of festivals, with this kind of vibe and these kinds of artists.

ďTypically, comedy is not a great thing to do during the day, but it works with these festivals because, people can sort of come in and the show is very dynamic, because youíll see five comics in an hour, hour -and-half. So thereís enough turnover that it just keeps everything constantly fresh. It just keeps kind of stirring the entertainment pot. There's just something about the festival vibe that puts people in the right frame of mind.Ē

Outside Lands seems poised to give the crowds a vibe so cool it will stay in their minds for the rest of their expanded existences. Flower power lives!