Outside Lands 2019, Day 1: The Headliners (Twenty One Pilots, The Lumineers, Flying Lotus)

FilmMagic/Outside Lands/Courtesy
FilmMagic/Outside Lands/Courtesy

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On Friday, Twenty One Pilots, The Lumineers and Flying Lotus boasted, respectively, the most risk-taking, nautical and surreal sets of the weekend.

Twenty One Pilots: Biggest Risk-Takers

Highlights of the set: “Jumpsuit,” “Holding on to You,” “Car Radio”

Between including a burning car, a crowd-surfing drum kit and a dance break with security guards in its set, Twenty One Pilots has really mastered the craft of musical showmanship. As the headliner for day one of this year’s Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, the hyperdynamic duo made up of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun brought charisma and chaos to the Lands End Stage on Friday night.

With a mic stand, piano and drums, the stage setup was modest — except for the flaming vintage car just behind Dun’s drum kit. As the show started with “Jumpsuit,” Joseph jumped atop the vehicle to give the wasteland-themed performance a dystopian edge. The gritty yell of Joseph’s voice during the breakdown of the song started the show’s energy off just right with a healthy dose of emo.

Earlier in the festival, during his set, Blink-182 member Mark Hoppus said, “I believe the hype (around Twenty One Pilots).” Hoppus was playing off of the duo’s song “The Hype,” which it performed as the sky darkened. Thanks to the drive of the drums and the intensity of Joseph’s vocals, the crowd’s energy seemed to rise with the lowering of the sun. As the fog rolled in for the night, Joseph took note of the gloominess onstage and said it was “either (fog) or you’re smoking a lot of weed.”

Joseph dedicated the next song, “We Don’t Believe What’s on TV,” to “everyone except Tom DeLonge.” He was referring to the former co-lead singer of Blink-182, who left the band in 2015 to look for aliens; the statement was an endearing display of the friendship between the two bands, showing support of their mutual contempt toward DeLonge’s departure.

About midway through the set, the stage went dark, and a voice like that of a movie trailer announcer came overhead and said, “Why do I kneel to these concepts?” The lights flashed back on to reveal the band members, whose outfits suggested that they’d traveled back in time to their 2016 looks. Joseph and Dun sported funky sunglasses and skeleton sweatshirts, and the two were joined by figures in hazmat suits and gas masks who sprayed fog at the crowd.

As the songs rolled by, the band changed outfits to fit the music’s era more than a few times; their get-ups came to signify a timeline of the band’s career. The iconic red beanie came out for the Blurryface section, and ski masks made an appearance for the transition to Vessel. Going all the way back to 2013, Joseph ran into the crowd for a performance of “Holding on to You.” He asked crowd members to hold him up as he stood tall in the sea of people; meanwhile, Dun had his own fun onstage with a killer backflip off of the piano.

One of the most unique happenings of the performance was the dance party section, in which the band got everyone from the crowd (including the security guards) involved. Joseph gave the audience

FilmMagic/Courtesy

choreography instructions before he and Dun, joined by the stage guards, led a giant sidestepping celebration onstage.

Even though Joseph and Dun are both the frontmen of their two-man operation, Dun spent most of his time behind the drum set. When he stepped out from behind, things started getting crazy. At one point, he boarded a platform with a small drum set and was hoisted into the crowd. Then, while being held up by a series of lucky (depending on how you look at it) fans, he indulged everyone with a dizzying drum cover of “Seven Nation Army.”

During one song, Joseph turned toward the backdrop screen to fix his hair — a moment only the most deserving of artists can take while onstage nonchalantly. And based on the enthusiasm of everybody gathered at the Lands End Stage, he deserved it. In the end, Twenty One Pilots proved that you, like Hoppus, should believe the hype after all.

– Skylar De Paul

The Lumineers: Most nautical

Highlights of the Set: “Slow It Down,” “Ho Hey,” “Stubborn Love”

At Outside Lands, you don’t feel like you’re sharing the park with a couple hundred thousand festivalgoers during the day — the space fills up as the day progresses and the acts become better known, but for the most part, you can make your way from stage to stage without too much hassle.

When the Lumineers’ leading man, Wesley Schultz, stepped onstage Saturday night to the crazed exuberance of fans who had been waiting for hours for his appearance, it felt like every one of the thousands of Outside Lands attendees was visible. The crowd extended as far as the eye could see from the Twin Peaks Stage, rippling over the hills of Hellman Hollow, bleeding into Marx Meadow, engulfing the booths of Eco Lands.

During its hourlong set, the Denver-based band delivered on the characteristic folk charm that has catapulted it to success in the past decade — Schultz’s gentle drawl, soothing melodies and lyricism that appeals to a sense of longing. The group has built itself up on the sense of intimacy that its stripped-down sound creates; many of its shows have been played at smaller venues that are especially fitting for the cozy ambiance of its music. During the show, Schultz pointed as much out: “This is one of the biggest crowds we’ve ever played,” he said. “It wasn’t that long ago that we were touring in a minivan and we played Amnesia and Bottom of the Hill,” he noted.

Luckily, the group came prepared for this particular dilemma. Artists used to keeping their showmanship tempered at some guitar-strumming can flounder in front of huge crowds (think Ed Sheeran at his AT&T Park stop last year). But the Lumineers minimized the space between themselves and fans by leaving the stage altogether about midway through the set, making their way through elated fans to a smaller elevated platform — their own theater-in-the-round.

Wikimedia/CC

There, brushing shoulders with one another in the tight space, band members regaled the crowd with the climax of the show: 2012 hit “Ho Hey.” The throngs sang together in unison, a joint chorus of voices that was otherworldly in its synchronicity. After “Ho Hey,” the show assumed a more tender tone, with the band diving into some of its softer works. For all the roaring energy of their pop hits, this is when the Lumineers truly shined. During “Slow It Down,” with only Schultz and drummer/percussionist Jeremiah Fraites remaining on the platform, it was easy to imagine the song as a personal appeal to oneself or to a loved one.

Much like Florence + the Machine and countless Outside Lands headliners before them, the Lumineers inspired a reverence during their set that bordered on religious ecstasy. As Schultz began “Ophelia” and made his way back to the Twin Peaks platform (flowing locks reminiscent of portrayals of a certain New Testament figure), audience members cried out and extended their arms to touch him.

There were, however, times during the night when the Lumineers lost their groove, when the energy dipped, when the songs didn’t land. After opening with surefire hit “Cleopatra,” the band opted to perform more recent material off of its upcoming III album, as well as the two anticipatory EPs (I and II) released so far. It’s always tricky for musicians to perform material that a live audience hasn’t yet created a relationship with. This case was no exception. The Lumineers released “Leader of the Landslide,” which Schultz described as inspired by a friend battling addiction, just over a week before this performance; when they played it Friday, largely unable to sing along, viewers mostly swayed and nodded in polite appreciation while waiting for the band to play its more established hits.

The Lumineers didn’t overlook their biggest hits — including “Angela” and “Stubborn Love” — and ended with a tribute cover of Tom Petty’s “Walls.” “Half of me is ocean, half of me is sky,” Schultz crooned, removing his hat in a moment of humility and gazing out at the sea that had formed for him, thousands strong.

– Ryan Tuozzolo

Flying Lotus: Most surreal

Highlights: “Zodiac Shit,” “Cosplay,” “Between Friends”

Flying Lotus is undeniably a boundary-pushing performer. A multimedia artist at his core, he frequently challenges listeners and viewers alike with fuzzily intricate compositions and complex, colorful visual works that abound in his music videos.

True to form, the Los Angeles-based DJ brought this well-hewn aesthetic and sound to Outside Lands’ Sutro Stage on Friday, combining elements from each of these areas of expertise for the hourlong set. Though the performance wasn’t necessarily an easy pill to swallow — with chunks of the audience pouring out and over to the more digestible closers over the course of the set — it was well worth the outwardly rough edges.

Billed as “Flying Lotus 3D,” this closing performance — the DJ’s first stop on a new tour — was a combination of music and visual art, with massive accompanying visual designs on the three screens behind the DJ table. The set began with a sense of appropriate discombobulation, as only a few of the most up-front audience members actually received 3D glasses to take in the on-screen spectacle. But even without a proper viewing apparatus, the slightly fuzzy rendering of the images were still completely engaging, colorful and dynamic to kaleidoscopic effect.

YouTube/Courtesy

The set started in shocking fashion, with a short vignette-y film playing on-screen. It depicted a family of humans dressed in zip-up dog suits fighting and screaming; the narrative arc was, to say the least, difficult to parse out. Toward the end of the apparent dispute, the diegetic accompaniment emerged from the screen, incorporating itself into the artist’s live performance as he appeared onstage behind the DJ booth.

Flying Lotus’ setup was a sight to behold — decked out in steampunk hardware, his turntables had the look of a space pod brought to earth, which was appropriate for the surreal, cosmically inclined performance. The venue also took on an unearthly feeling as the festival’s afternoon fog settled down, illuminated on all sides by colorful lights.

After a cinematic start, the background shape-shifted to a wall of magma, illuminating the artist in a fiery glow. The visual show lacked narrative cohesion, but instead provided a collage of the artist’s signature aesthetic and visual themes, including images of his alter ego Captain Murphy and work from collaborator lilfuchs (who directed FlyLo’s “Zodiac Shit” video).

As Flying Lotus dipped between solely instrumental tracks, rapping and remixes, the varied backgrounds were apt compliments to the multifaceted audio portion of the performance. Throughout the evening, he maintained a consistent air of drama, his beats pulsing with an intense, urgent energy. The hulking, sinister “Cosplay” brought an eeriness scantily felt at the generally upbeat festival as Flying Lotus whisper-rapped: “I tumble down a flight of stairs and mumble words with little care / The hairs along my neck come alive, eyes dilated / I smile like, this is where the voodoo starts.”

The set also gave FlyLo the chance to showcase work from his most recent album, Flamagra, released in May. The collaboration-heavy project merited a shoutout to fellow festival performer Tierra Whack, who “taught me how to rap,” according to the DJ. Though he teased a potential appearance from Whack, she did not join him for the performance of their joint track, “Yellow Belly.”

The highlights included “Between Friends,” with a recorded Earl Sweatshirt rapping his verses to spooky, atmospheric beats. In a more palatable turn, Flying Lotus offered up a remix of Soulja Boy’s seminal “Crank That (Soulja Boy),” layering guitars and giving an emo urgency to the early-2000s hit — taking it through a wormhole and landing the track on another planet.

Near the end of his set, Flying Lotus paid tribute to the late, iconic LA hip-hop producer Ras G with his new track “Black Heaven.” With images of Ras G on-screen, it was a touching moment that brought Flying Lotus’ performance out of the cosmic ether, anchoring it in an earthly sense of melancholic remembrance.

As the final notes of Flying Lotus’ set played out and the last surreal images flickered on-screen, a sense of wonderment was lifted from the crowd. Between the fog, the music and the intense imagery, Flying Lotus gave an immersive, intense performance well worth the watch. With or without the 3D glasses, it was truly a sight and sound to behold, and a completely unique vision of what a DJ set can be.

  • – Camryn Bell

Ryan Tuozzolo is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected].
Contact Camryn Bell at [email protected].
Contact Skylar De Paul at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.