Outside Lands 2021, Day 2: The Headliners (Aminé, Vampire Weekend, Lizzo)

Lizzo at Outside Lands 2021
Pooja Bale/Senior Staff

On Saturday, Aminé delivered a charming, gushy set, Vampire Weekend became the crowd favorite and Lizzo brought some of the festival’s best surprises.

Most gushy: Aminé

Highlights: “Redmercedes,” “Caroline,” “Charmander” 

An Aminé performance is a lesson in refined confidence and how many non-Black people will disappoint him. The singer’s stripped-down performance required the crowd’s full attention. Aminé confessed he received the call to perform only that morning and arrived late to the performance, which made a Young Thug-less crowd even more hesitant to be a willing participant in the fun. A dead crowd where people could barely keep up with the clapping he requested? So be it. He was there to sing his heart out, and he made sure everyone was included in the fun. 

Opening with his latest release “Charmander,” Aminé leaped across the stage, yelling the lyrics through the microphone, punching the air and even aggressively hopping for the rest of his performances. He brought one-hundred-and-ten percent of his energy, and quickly, the crowd began to match it. 

Amine at Outside Lands 2021

Pooja Bale/Senior Staff

The spirit of the performance was bolstered by accompanying DJ Madison LST, who initially tried appeasing a tepid crowd by waiting for the singer to appear. He also supported every one of Aminé’s moves, even rapping alongside him during explosive “Blackjack.”

Aminé featured hit “Spice Girl” — which the audience proceeded to help him belt out word for word — and even included a momentary break where DJ Madison LST included the actual Spice Girls song “Wannabe,” making for a resounding success as the crowd became even more deafening.

Of course, he had to close the show with one of his most successful and well-known tracks, “Caroline.” And of course, during the line in the song where he says the n-word, he tells the audience: “If you ain’t Black, don’t say it.” The moment that once went viral because of his NPR Tiny Desk performance garnered shared, full-bellied laughter that was infectious even for the artist.

Throughout the show, Aminé kept encouraging the audience to proclaim that they are beautiful and they are loved; it was his distraction in between sets to lift spirits. At first, this little routine seemed a bit trite and empty, especially considering people paid good money to get the chance of hearing an artist perform and be close enough to feel their spittle. Eventually, somehow, it started working. By the end of the show, people were furiously nodding their heads and screaming, “I am beautiful!”

Playing along with gimmick seemed to manifest into an actual embodiment of what Aminé was encouraging. That was part of Aminé’s charm — his ability to turn an unideal situation into one of the best shows of the festival. 

— Kelly Nguyen

Crowd favorite: Vampire Weekend

Highlights: “Sunflower,” “Diane Young,” “Campus” 

Even under the soft, dark blue evening sky, indie-rock heavyweights Vampire Weekend managed to deliver the sunniest set of the festival. 

The band took its turn before the rapidly growing Land’s End crowd Saturday evening, and it was clear from the opening notes of the set’s introductory song — Queen’s “We Will Rock You” — that the band was here to show fans a good time. Outside Lands was the group’s one and only show of the year; its lively set proved to be one not to miss.

Ezra Koenig and company walked on stage to roaring applause; they used every minute of their hourlong set to joyously breeze through the Vampire Weekend catalog, pulling crowd favorites from across their four albums. The band dusted off classic Vampire Weekend liveshow highlights only to find that they remained pristine as ever. “Diane Young,” the band’s most high-energy track, was a star among stars; Koenig’s soaring run through the final verse set the crowd into a frenzy. The audience went wild at live renditions of “A-Punk,” “Cousins” and “Campus,” cheering and singing along.

Vampire Weekend at Outside Lands 2021

Pooja Bale/Senior Staff

The band paid homage to many of the seasoned jam bands which historically populated the Bay Area, rearranging some of its songs for maximum jam potential. “Sunflower” benefited most from this upgrade, receiving an extended outro bolstered by sharper guitar lines that pushed the song into full on rock’n’roll before transitioning into “White Sky.”

It’s no secret that Vampire Weekend are widely considered indie darlings, mainly due to the charming and often disarming amount of sincerity entwined within their worldly, multicultural-inspired music. During the set’s more sentimental moments, the connection the crowd shared with the band was evident. The Bay Area audience gave special attention to the band’s performance of “Step,” cheering especially loud when Koenig namechecked local cities such as San Francisco, Oakland, Alameda and Berkeley. 

For its first gig in 18 months, the band was skilled as ever, able to switch between playing tight and loose on a whim, thrilling adoring fans and excited newcomers alike. Koenig and company capped off their set with “Walcott,” one of their zaniest songs about a fictional character fleeing the Cape Cod countryside to avoid a horde of evil vampires, a fitting exit for the Saturday night revelry.

— Vincent Tran

Most surprises: Lizzo

Highlights: “Water Me,” “Juice,” “Tempo”

Queen of sass, class and shaking ass, Lizzo’s headlining performance was unmatched both in vivacity and enthusiasm. Wearing a neon green leotard and flanked by hot pink backup dancers with her name in big white molded blocks across the stage, Lizzo commanded the attention of thousands of fans with not only her stunning voice but her enthralling stage presence.

Starting her set with her newly released single “Rumors,” Lizzo immediately made an effort to use every inch of the stage, walking back and forth as she danced while the fans set up across the front of the stage blew her long ponytail behind her majestically. Lizzo engaged in choreography almost as complex as that of her dancers, matching their energy for the whole show — a feat impressive in and of itself if she weren’t also belting out the lyrics to “Cuz I Love You.”  

Lizzo at Outside Lands 2021

Pooja Bale/Senior Staff

Playing favorites such as “Good as Hell,” “Boys” and “Truth Hurts,” Lizzo benefitted from not having a huge amount of music to choose from to perform. Fans were well acquainted with every song she played, singing along, dancing and feeling themselves as much as Lizzo encouraged them to. During “Water Me,” she had the audience sing, “I am my inspiration” before launching into the song and, toward the end of the show, urged fans to trust no one but themselves, instilling into them the self-love she practices herself.

Lizzo made sure there was never a dull moment by constantly engaging with the audience, from putting on a pair of red sunglasses someone threw onstage to making a TikTok with the entire crowd. The highlight of the performance was when, unexpectedly, the backup dancers suddenly appeared dressed as the guards from Squid Game, marching around the stage as the Squid Game Doll Song began eerily playing. But naturally, instead of fear, the audience erupted in cheers and laughter, peaking when Lizzo, who had disappeared a brief moment earlier, came back dressed as the doll from the show and launched into the Thriller dance.

 The set ended with “Juice,” as Lizzo brought out her famed flute and treated the crowd to a few brief solos before walking off stage to roars of appreciation from the audience. But even though Lizzo had left the stage, her bassist and guitarist played a soulful solo, stopping fans who were about to leave in their tracks. It made for a unique, genre-bending end to an already spectacular show.

— Pooja Bale

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].