San Francisco’s 13th annual O’Reilly’s Oysterfest took place at Sharon Meadow in Golden Gate Park on Saturday June 30th. The event featured top line musical acts, a variety of drink and dessert offerings, sausages and of course all the oysters you can imagine. The event had been hosted at Fort Mason in recent years, it was no surprise to see a good amount of festival patrons travel from neighborhoods surrounding the event’s old home to the park.
I was looking forward to the music but knew that that there would be other things fighting for my attention once inside. By the time I was in, Splitfinger and Little Hurricane had already performed. So, it was five-piece band day for me as Manchester Orchestra, Minus the Bear and Young the Giant all feature five members and very similar lineups.
When Manchester Orchestra took the stage, band member Chris Freeman caught my attention. Though usually on keyboards and backing vocals, he would sometimes turn 90 degrees and play a second drumset. Not every band can do two simultaneous drumsets well but these guys from Atlanta, Georgia can. The band’s sound can go from folky anthems à la Mumford and Sons as in their latest album title track “Simple Math” to more punk influenced songs like “April Fool” . In turn, lead vocalist Andy Hull’s voice transforms from nasal (not in the bad way) to growly.
A slightly larger audience had assembled to see Minus The Bear. The alternative rock band from Seattle, Washington brings a collage of sounds to their set through synthesizers and guitar effects. Guitarist Dave Knudson keeps his hands full as he provides many textures that are key to the repertoire. At one point, jamming on the ground with both hands working the pedal boards.
The front of house sound was well set (not at an earsplitting level and well balanced). With speakers set by the stage only and nowhere else around the festival grounds, however, it was clear that music was not the focus of the event but rather a way of complementing Oysterfest fans with the band’s fans. It was easy to be at the grounds and completely ignore that there was a concert going on, though the stage area did give distracted souls a general direction to stare at.
Regardless, a larger and more difficult to cut through audience had gathered to watch South California wonder boys Young the Giant. Much of the attention was focused on lead singer Sameer Gadhia who created most of the synergy onstage and transferred it both to the his band mates and the audience. The Irvine, CA band does a good job at replicating the energy displayed in their self-titled 2010 full-length release. You have probably heard their song “Cough Syrup” more times than you think as it charted top 3 on Billboard’s alternative songs chart.
I was soon distracted by food and other fun things happening at the festival. I made my way through the crowd and took a look at the line for oysters, but decided to let my friends deal with the queue.
Some people were willing to wait longer than 45 minutes to purchase the much hyped oysters
Those not deterred by the lines got their rewards
And those who didn’t want to wait as long were still able to get excellent hot dogs from German Bratwurst.
Overall, the festival was a great experience with the beautiful Golden Gate Park as a backdrop. It is fair to say that the grounds were small for the amount of people who attended, but it wasn’t crowded like the Hardly Strictly Festival can be. The bands featured were top level acts who tour nationally and internationally and their sets were spot on.
Get in touch with the author @Hernando1.