Outside Lands 2021, Day 1: The Headliners (Glass Animals, Tyler, the Creator, The Strokes)

Glass Animals at Outside Lands 2021
Pooja Bale/Senior Staff

On Friday, Glass Animals, Tyler, the Creator and the Strokes boasted, respectively, the most whimsical, raunchy and nostalgic sets of the entire weekend.

Most whimsical: Glass Animals

Highlights: “The Other Side of Paradise,” “Heat Waves,” “Tokyo Drifting”

On Friday evening, British indie band Glass Animals lived up to its reputation for electrifying live performances. As the four members walked onto the Lands End stage just past sunset to an elaborate setup, which included Y2K-inspired neon lights, a diving board, the band’s signature pineapple and a vaporwave-inspired screen in the style of a Windows XP desktop, it was clear Glass Animals would be putting on a dazzling show. 

Kicking things off with “Life Itself,” frontman Dave Bayley immediately turned the energy up to 11, dancing across the stage, grinning at the audience and feeling the energy return right back to him. At one point, Bayley picked up the pineapple, declaring that he legally was not allowed to throw them into the crowd anymore and asked security to hand it to a fan at the front dressed in a pineapple costume.

Glass Animals at Outside Lands 2021

Pooja Bale/Senior Staff

“The Other Side of Paradise” and “Your Love (Déjà Vu)” were similarly electrifying, but nothing was able to top the band’s performance of  “Tokyo Drifting,” Glass Animals’ hardest song to date. The crowd buzzed with excitement as Denzel Curry’s rap approached, and as if to make everyone’s dreams come true, Curry blazed onto the stage, delivering his rapid-fire verse without missing a single beat. He stayed on until the end of the song, dancing around alongside Bayley as the fans roared with appreciation.

Glass Animals made good use of the props on stage. Bayley often bounced at the end of the diving board as he sang, though he failed to jump into the crowd, likely also for legal reasons. The bright neon lights cast the stage in a dreamlike glow, making good on the namesake of the band’s latest album, Dreamland

The bass-heavy nature of Glass Animals’ music made for a fully-immersive experience, as the speaker stacks boomed incessantly. While some of the finer notes of Glass Animals’ songs were muddled, it didn’t detract too much from the experience.

The band closed with “Heat Waves,” its most popular song and a perfect, wistful track to end its set. Encouraging the audience to sing along, Bayley held the mic out to the sea of fans, who duly belted out the lyrics as they appeared on the screen at the back of the stage. 

Though Glass Animals disappointingly only played “Gooey” off of ZABA, the band made do with what time it had and performed an overall exhilarating set packed full of nostalgic moments, high-octane theatrics and zero worries to boot.

— Pooja Bale

Most expletives: Tyler, the Creator 

Highlights: “Who Dat Boy,” “She,” “Yonkers” 

Tyler, the Creator doesn’t have time for an unenthusiastic crowd, cancel culture or white people. As bass reverberated across Golden Gate Park, Tyler, the Creator brought his raunchy discography and very aggressive opinions for all of Outside Lands to hear. 

“Y’all suck d—k!” He told one side of the crowd, too impatient to let them rest even for a second. During “Who Dat Boy,” his impressive stage spoke for itself as it seemed to explode in fiery chaos and the singer’s manic screaming. The stage budget? It was extremely apparent. There were the seemingly never-ending waterfalls of sparks raining down during “Earfquake.” Tyler, the Creator was dwarfed by a complex forest and mountain range built on his stage and he even brought a boat for no apparent reason other than rocking him from side to side at the beginning of the show.

Tyler The Creator at Outside Lands 2021

Outside Lands/Courtesy

Part of Tyler, the Creator’s charm is his extreme self-awareness. The same fans that stayed in the very front since Flo Milli’s opening set earlier in the day were treated to casual conversation in between explosive sets. “Usually it’s all white people!” He yelled, referring to the oily, Thrasher hoodie-donning white boys that were typical Tyler, the Creator’s fans. In the Outside Lands crowd, though, “I feel safe,” he explained.

He didn’t take himself too seriously throughout the night. Before launching into “Yonkers,” he confessed he would probably forget the lyrics. At times, he even became insecure because he couldn’t tell if the audience was “excited or pissed” and asked for reassurance.

True to his offbeat persona, Tyler, the Creator went on a long rant about Twitter and today’s age of cancel culture. He quickly asked for permission to perform some of his more controversial work. Whatever the audience’s true answer was? He clearly didn’t care. Tyler, the Creator soon launched into a fervent performance of brutal “She.” “You c—t!” Tyler, the Creator roared. The crowd completely exploded.

In his many attempts at fostering some sort of love-hate relationship with the crowd, he played off its energy until everyone was forced to match his. In many ways, Tyler, the Creator was the perfect headliner for an exhausted crowd coming back to a live festival. He wanted the same vivacity as any other live performance he might’ve given pre-pandemic and furiously demanded it until people did it right. A violent end to the night with just the right amount of insults? It was exactly what Outside Lands needed.

— Kelly Nguyen

Most nostalgic: The Strokes

Highlights: “Someday,” “You Only Live Once,” “New York City Cops”

The Strokes have always existed on the edge of hype. Hailed as the saviors of indie rock and the greatest band at the turn of the 21st century, the group has been followed at every turn by unattainable expectations.

By the time the Strokes took the Lands End stage Friday evening — 15 minutes late due to setup delays  — anticipation for their return was at an all-time high. Coming off the heels of Glass Animals’ light and wavy set and eager to meet them was the largest crowd of the day, nearly stretching across the entirety of the Polo Field. Walking on with a stadium of roaring applause, the legendary New York City band consisting of Julian Casablancas, Albert Hammond Jr., Nick Valensi, Nikolai Fraiture and Fabrizio Moretti were poised to cap off the first night in unforgettable fashion. To appease the audience, they would need to play the big ones. 

Yet the Strokes — determined to do their own thing — were in no rush, starting off slow with the lo-fi schmaltzy crooner “Call It Fate, Call It Karma” from 2013’s Comedown Machine. Casablancas, with his typical aura of carefree indifference, eased the audience into the band’s set as they promptly dove into “The End Has No End.” And just like that, the Strokes’ nostalgia trip began. 

The Strokes at Outside Lands 2021

Outside Lands/Courtesy

What followed played out like a “greatest hits” compilation winding through the troves of the band’s back catalog. Rather than tour their latest material, songs off last year’s The New Abnormal found themselves sandwiched between classic songs in the Strokes’ canon to ensure positive reception.

Early on, “Bad Decisions” transitioned into the unruly deep cut “Juicebox,” birthing mosh pits across the frenzied crowd. The band members played tight as ever, while Casablancas’ hands-off presence left him floating through songs, occasionally ad-libbing new lyrics.

The set’s biggest misstep came in the form of between-song banter, when Casablancas went on to take a jab against San Francisco’s COVID-19 policies. It was a slightly sour note which was only partially redeemed by the band’s segue into the fan-favorite “You Only Live Once.”

Sometimes the old ways are best. In the end, the songs off of the Strokes’ debut Is This It reigned supreme, with numbers such as “Someday” and “Hard to Explain” mobilizing what felt like the entire festival to fervently scream along, reliving those good ol’ glory days.

By the time the encore came around, with the low-key “The Adults Are Talking” and the rowdy “New York City Cops,” the future of the Strokes felt like an afterthought. The audience, along with the band in attendance, was perfectly content with revisiting the past. 

— Vincent Tran

Vincent Tran is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact him at [email protected].
Contact Pooja Bale at [email protected]. Tweet her at @callmepbj.
Contact Kelly Nguyen at [email protected].