This year’s Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival marked the 10th anniversary of the massive music festival held at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. While the lineup was not as suffused with big names and hot-ticket bands as it was in previous years, it featured headlining sets by two absolute legends of rock ‘n’ roll: Metallica and The Who. Friday night also featured a wildly popular set by British virtual band Gorillaz.
Major acts were divided between three stages: Land’s End (the main stage at the Golden Gate Park Stadium), Twin Peaks (on the far opposite end of the grounds) and Sutro. Smaller bands played the Panhandle stage lodged between Land’s End and Twin Peaks, and comedians plied their craft in The Barbary tent in the northeast corner of the grounds. Outside Lands is known in the festival world for its commitment to extending beyond just music, and was filled with eateries, Wine Lands, tons of craft beer options and activities to fill the time between sets.
Ultimately, this year’s line up, while not necessarily hugely flashy, was well curated — many of the smaller bands playing hold cult followings that made appearances at the festival, and several of the more unknown acts put on fantastic shows that garnered them new fans. As around 200,000 festival-goers rode the buses out of the festival grounds Sunday night, most seemed tired, but satisfied.
— Imad Pasha
Friday, August 11
Gorillaz carries its energy through San Francisco’s curfew
A cartoon band, Gorillaz may have started from behind Jamie Hewlett’s caricatures but permanent frontman Damon Albarn didn’t pretend to be anything other than flesh and blood at Outside Lands in its headlining set Friday night. Albarn stepped up to the crowd in dark jeans and a black shirt, bereft of inky outlines and purple-y oil paint sheen — it was just the sort of outfit you’d expect from someone who’s 49 years old and English and not a cartoon…Read More.
Alt-J doubles down on its lightshow to awe-inspiring effect in headlining set
Much to the ire of fans at this year’s Outside Lands festival, British indie powerhouses Gorillaz and alt-J were scheduled simultaneously for headlining sets at opposite ends of the festival grounds. While Gorillaz brought out a series of featured guests in its four-encore set, alt-J stuck to the basics: three guys on stage and their odd, eclectic brand of music…Read More.
Fleet Foxes deliver haunting, ethereal performance after years-long hiatus
Piping-hot tea awaited Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Pecknold before he made his way onto the Sutro stage on Saturday afternoon. He was joined for the band’s Outside Lands set by fellow band members guitarist Skyler Skjelset, keyboardist and mandolin player Casey Wescott, as well as several other touring musicians and vocalists…Read More.
Future Islands blends seductive body rolling with anguished screamo
Watching Future Islands frontman Samuel T. Herring onstage is a bit like watching performance art — particularly, watching a performance of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. At the band’s Friday afternoon set, Herring snapped lyrically between the synth-pop drive of the band’s music and brief moments of growling screams, pounding at his chest and the stage or shoving his fist into his mouth, as if to pull demons from his throat to exorcise them…Read More.
Little Dragon plays absurd pop punk to incessantly dancing crowd
The Swedish electropop band Little Dragon is weird — there’s no better way to say it, which is why a guy in the crowd turned around every few minutes and said that exactly that to his friend: “They’re so weird.”
Decked out in the mildly avant garde, with glittery butterfly pants and a dress made of translucent neon frills reminiscent of a highlighter-yellow jellyfish, the band traipsed up on stage during the slot originally slated for A Tribe Called Quest once unexpected travel circumstances prevented the latter group from playing (the band eventually canceled its performance entirely)…Read More.
Belle and Sebastian invite crowd of fans to dance onstage during delightful set
Belle and Sebastian — named after a heartwarming French children’s novel entitled Belle et Sébastien — opened its set with “I’m a Cuckoo” off the 2004 album Dear Catastrophe Waitress, setting the casually kooky tone for their set at Sutro stage Friday afternoon. Formed in 1996, the Scottish Europop band is known for its ability to blend optimistic melodies with lyrics that capture both the melancholy and romantic eccentricities of life. The opening song transitioned into “We Were Beautiful,” a pessimistic tune showcasing the gorgeous harmony of the band’s vocalists…Read More.
Sleigh Bells can’t ring through overblown bass
While generally blown-out bass notes are the fault of the sound engineer rather than the band performing, Brooklyn-based noise pop duo Sleigh Bells deserves some responsibility for its presence during the band’s Friday afternoon set at Outside Lands…Read More.
Electric Guest grooves its way into our hearts
Electric Guest’s Asa Taccone is not very tall, a fact that endeared him greatly to several girls in the front row of the band’s Friday set. “He’s so cute and tiny!” one giggled.
But for a small package, Taccone brought a vivacious energy to his performance, in particular with his groovy dancing, which was perfectly in sync with his band’s easygoing style…Read More.
Tove Lo redefines her lyricism during polished live set
Tove Lo’s music is undeniably sexy — her lyrics never shy away from the explicit — but during her live show at Outside Lands, her presence lent these lyrics a different meaning…Read More.
Saturday, August 12
Metallica revives its glory days in marathon headlining set
Metallica’s two-hour set Saturday night started while the sun was still up, and it ended with what can only be described as a metric shit-ton of fireworks…Read More.
Cage the Elephant rocks mainstage with characteristic feral intensity
The prospect of effectively opening for Metallica is undoubtedly intimidating — but Cage the Elephant was well up to the challenge.
The modus operandi of lead singer Matt Shultz has seemingly always been to take whatever relevant dials might exist and crank them to 11. As the band roared to the stage Saturday afternoon, he was immediately running laps on the raised platform that extended out around 100 feet into the audience…Read More.
Foxygen lights up with zealous energy, spunky personality
Foxygen is a pseudo-avant-garde and semi-psychedelic indie-rock band from Southern California. Formed in 2005 while frontmen Sam France and Jonathan Rado were in high school, the band has had several years — despite its youth — to explore every corner of the genres it has thrust itself in. At Outside Lands, it opened the set with a jazzy rendition of the title track off its 2013 album, “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic,” kicking off an energetic set sprinkled with a spunky brass section…Read More.
Vance Joy establishes himself beyond ‘Riptide’ in chipper Outside Lands set
Everybody knows “Riptide” — the A-minor to G to C ukulele chord progression, the relatable fears listed in the opening lyrics: “I was scared of dentists and the dark / I was scared of pretty girls and starting conversations” and the place in the song right after those lyrics, when the kick drum takes up that even thumping you can’t help but dance along to. It’s hard not to love it — evidenced by the song’s more than 500 million listens on Spotify…Read More.
S U R V I V E impresses with sonic depth, but with little showmanship
S U R V I V E is not a household name, but its members are more so: Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein are the men behind the excellent, nostalgic-yet-restrained soundtrack for Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” The two were lauded for perfectly capturing the mood and sensation of childhood in the ‘80s with their analog synth-laden soundtrack…Read More.
Real Estate performs dreamy set with ease
Vocalist and guitarist Martin Courtney, guitarist Julian Lynch, bassist and vocalist Alex Bleeker, keyboardist Matt Kallman, and drummer Jackson Pollis of Real Estate extended the sounds of their dreamy soft rock discography to the crowds of Outside Lands in a true display of its casual energy…Read More.
Temples’s set is chill, groovy technical perfection
Temples is a pop-psychedelic English band formed in 2012 by vocalist-guitarist James Bagshaw and keyboardist-bassist Thomas Walmsley. Bagshaw, recognizable not just for his tunes, but also for his iconic curly ‘do, had a new look going for him at Outside Lands — a curly quiff — and he smiled sweetly when fans complimented him…Read More.
Sunday, August 13
The Who lives up to legacy of fire-powered rebellion
In the misty fog engulfing Golden Gate Park on Sunday evening, singer-songwriter and guitarist Pete Townshend walked onto Land’s End stage already beaming. “You’re wet! You’re all fucking wet — and we’re not wet!” he laughed as vocalist-guitarist Roger Daltrey stepped up to the mic and added: “But it won’t be long before we are!” All the while, Zak Starkey — son of Ringo Starr — pattered along on the drums, egging on the pair’s slightly stoned quips…Read More.
Solange gets cut off after late start in headlining set
Fans were chanting “Solange, Solange!” as the delay to the singer’s set stretched past the 15-minute mark — those near the front cheered at the emergence of every sheepish sound technician who had to fiddle with a keyboard or mic.
Their anticipation was fully warranted; when Solange appeared on stage, bathed in deep red light, she launched into what was one of the defining sets of the festival…Read More.
Lorde plays her emotions to thousands at Outside Lands
Lorde’s popularity was established with her first album Pure Heroine — a romantic record of the details in her 16-year-old life, a paradigmatic example of adolescent feelings. Pure Heroine cradles gentle, simmering songs such as “400 Lux” about driving home with someone you love and watching the sunset together — “You drape your wrists over the steering wheel / Pulses can drive from here” — alongside tambourine-punctuated tunes such as “White Teeth Teens” about being comfortable around your friends — “I know you love it when the hairpins start to drop.” … Read More.
Young the Giant charms audience with electric, dynamic performance
Crowds gathered around Land’s End stage long before Young the Giant began its set on Sunday afternoon as excited fans awaited the band’s genuine, animated performance. Young the Giant was formed in 2004 by vocalist Sameer Gadhia and guitarist Jacob Tilley. The band opened with “Amerika” off its most recent album, Home of the Strange, which catalyzed a soft energy at first, but transitioned with high enthusiasm that defined the band’s Outside Lands set…Read More.
Bleachers bring pop exuberance to mainstage
Most festivals market themselves as being rock-oriented, and Outside Lands is no exception, landing Metallica and The Who as this year’s headliners. But in some ways, great pop music makes for fantastic festival fare — a fact made clear by Bleachers on the final day of the festival…Read More.
The She’s represent local talent with warm, original set
There’s a very distinct young female rock sound: it’s a little bit echoey — tingly with cymbals and pronounced vocal harmonies — coupled with a heavy drum line and a performative eagerness. Even between groups whose particular brand of pop rock is different, the identical ages and genders of the bands’ members lend them a sonic similarity…Read More.