Outside Lands 2021, Day 2: The Openers (Andrew McMahon, Angel Olsen, Dr. Dog, 24kGoldn)

Andrew McMahon at Outside Lands 2021
Outside Lands/Courtesy

The second day of Outside Lands experienced the most wholesome, emotional, graceful and brazen live shows of the weekend.

Most wholesome: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness

Highlights: “Cecilia and the Satellite,” “Fire Escape,” “The Mixed Tape”

Andrew McMahon doesn’t shy away from pulling out all the stops in the name of a lively visual as well as auditory show, and he made that clear to the fans who had gathered to watch his afternoon set at the Sutro stage. Banging away at his piano decked out with stickers supporting organizations, mottos and simply things McMahon likes, the artist brought showtune energy, standing on (and at one point jumping off) of his piano. He even had a violinist present for various songs, complementing his piano playing beautifully.

Andrew McMahon at Outside Lands 2021

Outside Lands/Courtesy

What stood out about McMahon’s set was his ability to move the crowd not only with his songs, but his actions and his commentary. He made for a fully immersive and refreshingly personal experience. From opening up about his own battle with cancer to expressing gratitude for his late agent that passed away recently, McMahon left little on the table when it came to how each song was important to him. He performed each track with exuberance, never dropping the smile from his face.

Having spotted a young boy in the crowd on his father’s shoulders, holding a sign that said this was his first concert, McMahon jumped down into the center aisle and sang directly to him. He then continued prancing down the aisle as if he were on Broadway itself, before returning to the stage.

For his rendition of “Cecilia and the Satellite,” dedicated to his daughter when she was born, he surprised the crowd by bringing her out onto the stage with him, duetting parts of the song with the child, much to both of their delight. McMahon’s performance was nothing short of heartfelt, genuine and full of emotion. It was clear he loved what he was doing, and the crowd matched his energy to the fullest extent.

— Pooja Bale

Most microdosed sad girl energy: Angel Olsen 

Highlights: “Sister,” “Chance,” “Lark” 

Resident sad girl Angel Olsen was ready to make people cry as the sun set over the Sutro stage. Even while bass thrummed people’s ears alive in nearby stages, Olsen expertly brought a moment of stillness in between the chaos.

Adorned head to toe in black, the singer came to the stage with her acoustic guitar and soul-stirring vibrato as weapons of choice to spear the crowd right in the heart. In her music, she flits through the dynamic emotions everyone feels amid heartbreak; in between moments of mourning, there are emotions such as anger or joy looking at what’s to come. During “Lark,” the crowd completely matched this distinctive vibe, slowly swaying side-to-side as she hauntingly sang out, “If  only we could start again.” Then, it’s a collective shouting. “Dream on!” the audience wailed with her when the sadness of betrayal — of reality — became too much to hold back.

She revealed to the crowd she doesn’t typically dabble in drugs but exclaimed “I’m microdosing right now! And it’s hitting me hard!” to a raucous cheer of a likely similarly medicated crowd. It was an absurd moment: Olsen and her audience laughing at themselves after she vulnerably exposed her heart’s broken edges and worked through piecing it back together. But that’s what made her show so entertaining and what made everyone feel unguarded enough to just feel.

By the end of the night, the sync between Olsen and festival-goers appeared unbreakable. During “Chance,” it seemed as though every single person in the audience was humming along, the murmurs seamlessly integrated into her performance as spontaneous instrumentals. It was a rush of gentle, unmistakably tender care — medicine to salvage the soul. Then, unfortunately, it was back to the real world when lights came on and Olsen reminded, “Don’t do drugs!” 

— Kelly Nguyen

Most graceful: Dr. Dog

Highlights: “Go Out Fighting,” “Heart It Races,” “Where’d All the Time Go?”

Dr. Dog, the Philadelphia band that helped define early 2000s indie music along with Pavement, Weezer and others, brought an incredibly nostalgic, refined and touching set to Outside Lands. The crowd draped over the hills surrounding the Sutro stage for the late afternoon performance, with a healthy mix of fans lazily lounging around as well as on their toes with anticipation. 

With the band wrapping up its final tour, its Outside Lands set was likely one of the last times many fans would see them live, but the somber nature of the fact didn’t make for a show that dragged on weighed by sadness but instead became one of appreciation and bright energy.

Dr Dog at Outside Lands 2021

Pooja Bale/Senior Staff

Starting with “Ain’t It Strange,” Dr. Dog never once lapsed in intensity or quality for the entire performance. Guitarist Scott McMicken maintained a suave demeanor throughout while bassist Toby Leaman contorted his face in emotion as he sang along with fans. McMicken and Leaman’s dual lead vocals often evoked a sweet sense of nostalgia.

Dr. Dog played fan favorites such as “Heart It Races,” “Where’d All the Time Go” and “Shadow People” but also songs from across its expansive discography, such as “Nellie,” which made for a show with moving, beautiful renditions of beloved studio tracks. Dr. Dog wasn’t scared to slow down the tempo as well, engaging fans throughout who sang along with dedication.

After walking off the stage, the members returned for an encore performance amid chants for one more song, ending the set with “Lonesome.” Overall, Dr. Dog treated fans to an extremely put-together, high-quality, energetic show. Whether they were new listeners who wandered over hoping to discover their new favorite band or old veterans who’ve been with Dr. Dog for the past 20 years, all fans in the crowd could clearly tell the band has been doing this for a while, a poignant end to an illustrious touring career.

— Pooja Bale

Most brazen: 24kGoldn

Highlights: “Empty,” “Dropped Outta College,” “Prada”

24kGoldn came back to hometown San Francisco to not only serve up a brazen performance but also give the festival’s audience a lesson in sneaking into Outside Lands without a ticket. The energy in the audience, in all of its full elation, was the best welcome home to the rapper. Throughout the night, he paused between songs, in awe of the size of the crowd and the unhindered adoration they doled out.

“Beautiful motherf—ers!” he howled back in appreciation, and those in the audience proceeded to completely lose their minds, wailing back even louder. 24kGoldn bounded across the stage while aggressively headbanging along as he opened with bass-boosted “Coco.” Ambient journeys in braggadocio is 24kGoldn’s brand, and this music was the best sonic companion to the electrified audience. He wasn’t afraid to spin the crowd on its head. The rapper would shift from jerking his body to match the vulnerability of track “Empty” before declaring, “f— that!” In the next moment, he ripped his shirt off and brought out man t*t galore (dedicated to the ladies) as he rapped “Dropped Outta College.”

Despite all the glitz of becoming a TikTok trending sound, the rapper adamantly refused to be anything but himself throughout the night. The rapper humbly credited his success to others, bringing out manager and rapper Paypa Boy to perform “24k’ Ed Out” — a song the duo created before 24kGoldn’s fame reached new heights. He then gave the stage to friend and fellow Bay Area-born rapper Stunnaman02. In line with his idiosyncratic personality, the rapper also revealed in extensive detail how he used to sneak into the festival by masquerading as the event’s construction staff.

As he closed out with “Mood,” his most viral track, vociferations akin to velociraptors squealing drowned out his performance. An impressive homecoming, 24kGoldn’s performance came down to something simple: joy.

— Kelly Nguyen

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].