This year’s Outside Lands lineup ran heavy with electronic acts. From Elohim to Whethan, there was no shortage of opportunities to rage to some bass-heavy bangers wrapped up in sugary sweet female vocals. If there was one DJ set to catch this weekend, though, it was Jamie xx’s.
Festivalgoers who arrived to the Saturday night set expecting another EDM-driven party and those who had arrived expecting the melancholy that pulses through his songs with The xx alike were quick to be disappointed. The DJ/producer began the night by spinning from his vinyl collection. Mixing The Animals’ warm acoustic psychedelic rock with James Brown’s unrelenting liquid-hot funk, he was quick to alert the crowd gathered around him that this was sure to be a much more eclectic affair.
While the vinyls were a quirky surprise to set the mood for the night, it wasn’t until Jamie xx moved to the digital portion of his set that he truly came into his own. He began drawing his own solo material into the fold, slowing the night down with the airy moodiness of “SeeSaw” before mixing in Matrixxman’s hypnotic acid techno. As rapid stabs of sound shot into the night and basslines tunneled deep into the crowd, the night was just getting started.
Jamie xx himself was set awash in rainbow lights from every direction as the two disco balls that framed the stage began to glitter manically while big beats collapsed into delicate piano and synth melodies before coalescing once again into danceable rhythms. The crowd, meanwhile, shone in the rainbow fluorescence of glow sticks.
The biggest surprise of the entire set was that Jamie xx somehow managed to bring a sense of humor into his set without sacrificing his driving, danceable beats. “People are still having sex, it’s been going on for quite a while,” the matter-of-fact voice from LaTour’s “People Are Still Having Sex” boomed out from the speaker over a kitschy house beat. The crowd erupted in laughs and cheers, but Jamie xx remained unfazed, waiting for the song’s punchline — the opening of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor,” better known as Dracula’s theme — to kick in before he continued mixing. It was comedic timing at its finest.
Jamie xx’s greatest strength as a DJ is his impressive ability to communicate with the crowd without saying anything at all. To see him live is not only to dig into his treasure trove of influences, but also to stand in conversation with him — a rare feeling to find within a festival DJ set.