Outside Lands 2021, Day 3: The Headliners (Kehlani, Rüfüs Du Sol, Tame Impala) 

Photo of Tame Impala at Outside Lands 2021
Pooja Bale/Senior Staff

The final night of Outside Lands saw Kehlani, Rüfüs Du Sol and Tame Impala live up to the hype with some of the most arresting, ethereal and psychedelic headline performances worthy of top-billing.

Most for the gays: Kehlani 

Highlights: “Hate the Club,” “Distraction,” “Can I” 

Girls and gays rejoice, our Sapphic Supreme Being was back in the Bay Area. In her first performance at Outside Lands since 2017, she gave everything and more. With flawless vocal execution and a vulnerable confession detailing her fear of sharks, Kehlani delivered one of the most arrestingly intimate performances of the night. 

Opening with her piece de resistance, “Gangsta,” Kehlani saw the crowd erupt in a sea of iPhones. Arms clambered over one another as they honed their lenses in on her eruptive entrance. There’s certainly something to be said about Kehlani’s evolution as an artist since the last time she performed at the festival; her impressive discography and long list of seasoned collaborators is one thing, but her growth as a person is an entirely different beast.

Kehlani at Outside Lands 2021

Kelly Nguyen/Senior Staff

The grand light show and vigorous smoke machine were all the results of the notoriety of a new Kehlani. But the Oakland-born singer proved she hasn’t strayed far from her brazen roots. “Where my gay b— at?” she asked right before launching into a performance of sweet gay anthem, “Honey.” Regardless of the fame, she came to prove she was still the same person at the core of it all — just more confident.

For many, the set proved to be too short (Kehlani ended up cutting it 10 minutes early.) At times, the energy felt disjointed as she sped through a collection of her most popular work, from lustful “Can I” to tender “Nights Like These.” However, her natural ebullience and dazzling stage presence quickly washed away any complaints. A simple wink to the crowd and an ad-libbed riff during “F&MU” had the crowd weak in the knees.  

The all-female supporting band ensured that the set leaned into her strengths, propping up her feather-light voice rather than overwhelming it. By far, the most popular song of the night was “Distraction” off of 2017’s SweetSexySavage. The Bay didn’t hesitate to welcome her home as dedicated fans belted the track, line by line.

Towards the end of the night, Kehlani pointed out that her performance might differ from a typical festival set: “I know y’all came to a festival to dance and be crazy and mosh pit. But, you know, I make love songs.” In the brief, brilliant world she built for the night, Kehlani pressed pause on reality. The only thing on the night’s agenda? To fall in love with the music. 

— Kelly Nguyen

Most ethereal: Rüfüs Du Sol

Highlights: “On My Knees,” “Brighter,” “Treat You Better”

Drenched in layers of fog, and not the kind that usually envelops San Francisco, three-piece Australian electronic music group Rüfüs Du Sol took to the stage just as the sun went down on the final day of Outside Lands. The crowd, many of whom were eager to see two Aussie stars (the other being Tame Impala) back to back, hummed with excited conversations of what songs to expect.

Photo of Rüfüs Du Sol at Outside Lands 2021

Pooja Bale/Senior Staff

Amid “oohs” and “ahhs” emanating from the audience as the lasers and strobe lights suddenly flashed on, the trio took their place upon three separate platforms with lighted paneling, exuding an aura of sophisticated mystery. Shrouded in darkness, which continued for most of the set, they dove into a futuristic-sounding intro that dissolved into “Eyes.” This song, already impressive enough on the studio version with its perfectly placed, intricate beats,  simply blew everyone away when performed live. The thumping bass gave immense body to the breakdowns and the haunting nature of the song, clearly moving everyone to dance along.

Rüfüs Du Sol followed this same trend throughout the show, turning some mild and other more hard-hitting tracks into beastly compositions on the stage. Any gentle aspects of the band’s music were quickly wiped out by insane multi-beat drops, but each song still managed to maintain its atmospheric quality.

For “On My Knees,” frontman Tyrone Lindqvist actually got down on his knees for a portion of the song. Bathed in deep red light, he climbed down from his platform and paced the stage as he sang, the deep, pulsing beat adding another layer of ethereality.

At one point, during “Brighter,” Lindqvist climbed down the stage and onto the barrier to get a good look at the crowd, expressing his delight at seeing so many faces. He rushed back on stage just in time for the chorus beat to drop, singing as if he never left the stage, “Can you feel that sunshine?”

The band even performed “Innerbloom,” a nine-minute electronic opera of sorts, that slowly increased in intensity. Rüfüs Du Sol’s music can be described as relaxed electronica, adopting gentler synths and breakdowns but still somehow managing to be insanely energetic. The deafening bass created the perfect atmosphere for fans to lose themselves in, coupled with the blinding strobe lights and cones of lasers. The band balances intensity with melody, an impressive feat it pulls off seamlessly in the studio, and which translated to one of the night’s most wonderful live performances.

— Pooja Bale

Best visuals: Tame Impala

Highlights: “Elephant,” “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” “Eventually” 

Tame Impala, the top-billed act of the festival, did not disappoint. From the apparent production budget alone, all signs pointed to a live show every bit as psychedelic and transportive as the Australian rocker’s music.

The last set of Outside Lands started with an infomercial and a prank. As the lights went down, a video began to play on the stage screens, explaining the effects of a fictional pharmaceutical drug called “Rushium,” a substance that supposedly alters the perception of the passing of time and induces “the slow rush.” 

The video footage gradually slowed as it went on, eventually dissolving into a pixelated pool of colors. Suddenly, a Windows 97 error chimed and a voice announced that the members of Tame Impala would be unable to perform due to being killed off in a “Squid Game event.” Instead, they would supposedly be replaced by none other than The Wiggles.

Tame Impala at Outside Lands 2021

Pooja Bale/Senior Staff

The crowd went wild as Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker took the stage with his band, all donning Wiggles T-shirts as they began their sprawl. The band kicked the set off with its tour debut of “Enders Toi,” a slow-building psych-rock jam that sent the whole festival up in jubilation.

A massive, circular stage light above the band rotated and shifted positions throughout the set, emanating bright colors and fog to accompany the warbly visuals and the music. As Parker transitioned into the verses of “Elephant,” thin beams of light shot out from the stage and through the fog, extending all the way across the Polo Field to the treeline. The pounding drum beat ushered in a sea of waving arms and frantic dancing.

The rest of the set touched on Slow Rush tracks such as “Borderline” and “Breathe Deeper” while offering fans a chance to hear other Tame Impala tracks that haven’t been played live in some time. One of these rarities was “Yes, I’m Changing,” a highlight from Currents, which ended up being the set’s emotional apex. Lines such as “They say people never change but that’s bullshit, they do,” cut through the audience, offering leaden reminders of the personal sentiments at the core of so many of Parker’s songs. 

The entirety of the Land’s End crowd collectively sang along to “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and remained particularly still for the bass-heavy, devastating breakup track “Eventually.” These moments were as emotionally satisfying as they were sobering, the proper dosage to round out the final, most tripped-out set of the festival.

— 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].