n Saturday, Green Day returned to the Bay Area for a special headliner homecoming performance, and Kali Uchis and Rina Sawayama served divine, slayful sets at Twin Peaks.
Most Berkeley: Green Day
Highlights: “Jesus of Suburbia,” “American Idiot,” “Knowledge”
Red and white strobe lights bounced off the trees as Green Day transformed Golden Gate Park into a blazing extravaganza. As the band headlined one of San Francisco’s largest music festivals, it made one thing for sure: The East Bay knows how to rock.
Green Day has come a long way since its early days in the Berkeley punk scene, but it still performs with youthful vigor and infectious zeal. Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong conquered the stage with his black eyeliner and painted leather jacket, invigorating the audience with his sprightly enthusiasm.
During “American Idiot,” Armstrong proved his musical mastery by holding his guitar behind his head — playfully riffing as the crowd cheered below. Meanwhile, bassist Mike Dirnt took a wide-legged power stance, his tattooed arms sustaining fervid basslines. From the back, drummer Tré Cool upped the energy with his rapidly rhythmic rudiments.
“Who knows how to play guitar? I need a guitarist. I need a guitar-ish,” Armstrong said during Green Day’s cover of “Knowledge,” a song by fellow Berkeley-born band Operation Ivy. Dressed as Armstrong in black and red, a 10-year-old named Montgomery was ushered onstage. Shredding alongside the band, he proved himself a natural; he may be young, but punk rock pulses through his veins. At the end of the song, Armstrong let “Monty” keep the guitar, causing the crowd to roar as the young prodigy jumped across the stage.
Throughout its set, Green Day brought to life some of its greatest hits while also paying homage to its East Bay roots. By the end of “Good Riddance,” festival goers truly had the time of their lives.
— Lauren Harvey
Most annoyed divine presence: Kali Uchis
Highlights: “Loner,” “Fue Mejor,” “no eres tú (soy yo)”
Below a glowing moon thumbtacked to a dusky blue sky, plumes of smoke wafted upward as people gathered at Twin Peaks for Kali Uchis to take the stage. The night glittered with unforeseen prospects, and when a black velvet curtain suddenly dropped to the sultry horns of “Dead to Me,” the crowd shrieked with glee.
Although Uchis emerged from backstage a few minutes late, her captivating vocals and swiveling hips quickly made the audience forget about their elongated anticipation. She effortlessly melded R&B with reggaeton and neo-soul, sifting through upbeat hits and gentler bedroom jams. Dreamy visuals of shimmering ocean waves, pink columns and lingering full moons swam across the stage’s massive screens, both lulling and exciting crowd members.
Joined by a team of dancers clad in sheer white like goddesses, Uchis struck the stage as beyond ethereal — the only thing higher than her ponytail was her crowd. The show’s polished group choreography heightened Uchis’ grace and swagger, spotlighted by her alluring dance break during a remixed version of “Fue Mejor.”
The show did hit quite a few bumps, however — besides the delayed start time, technical issues restricted her set’s magic. “I can’t hear anything,” Uchis disclosed between songs, shooting a look at someone offstage and later stepping offstage to switch out her unit. While her warranted frustration didn’t affect the quality of her physical performance, seeing her exasperation marginally dampened the show’s mood.
Although reverberant feedback interrupted the enchantment of “Telepatía” and cut her show 10 minutes short, it was still impossible to not bask in Uchis’ outstanding, heavenly charm. Technical issues aside, her concert was a celestial and glossy gift from heavens — it wouldn’t have been a surprise to look upward and see the stars spelling out her name.
— Taila Lee
Most slayful: Rina Sawayama
Highlights: “Snakeskin,” “Akasaka Sad,” “Free Woman”
Rina Sawayama came, saw and slayed.
The Japanese-British pop star strutted out onto the Twin Peaks stage in her loose two-tone dress, golden light glinting off her shades. Although Sawayama was announced late as a headliner upon Anitta withdrawing from the festival, she received a wholehearted welcome.
Kicking off with “Dynasty,” Sawayama launched into 45 minutes of pure incensed electricity, later pausing for only a moment to sing “Happy Birthday” to her beaming drummer Simone Odaranile. The artist switched between volatile rage and delicate intimacy in a carefree way, from the irked laugh-sing of “STFU!” to the feigned gasp at an “XS” winning slot machine.
As much as Sawayama encouraged her audience to dance to hits such as “This Hell” and “Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys),” she also emphasized messages of self-love. “If you can’t love yourself, how are you going to love somebody else?” she sang in “Love Me 4 Me,” her irrepressible confidence rippling across stage.
Sawayama proved both breathless and breathtaking. While her stellar vocals shone through bubbling synths and blaring guitar riffs, perhaps most impressive was her sharp choreography. Alongside her adroit dancers Summer Jay Jones and Shola B Riley, the three formed a flawless unit to physically punctuate some tracks’ most distinct, dramatic moments.
Sawayama also honored the Bay Area crowd with not one but two mesmerizing debut performances: her single “Hold the Girl” and unreleased track “Hurricanes.” Though the crowd didn’t want to see Sawayama go, the star gave audiences butterflies with her mashup finale of “Lucid” and Lady Gaga collab “Free Woman.”
Easily putting on one of the best performances of the festival, Sawayama gifted a spectacle deserving of the Lands End stage.
— Taila Lee
Most punk: The Linda Lindas
Highlights: “Racist Sexist Boy,” “Nino,” “Tonite”
Small in stature but immense in sound, The Linda Lindas brought punky riot grrrl flair to Lands End. Ranging from 12 to 17 years old, the four girls played with a mature comfortability that belied their young age.
Donning coordinated quilted ensembles, the young “rebel girls” injected new life into their ’90s-born genre. Performing everything from original songs to Bikini Kill covers, they proved themselves at the vanguard of new feminist punk. During breakout single “Racist Sexist Boy,” bassist Eloise Wong transformed her voice into a thundering growl, her delicate painted-on cat whiskers contrasting her deep-seated anger.
The Linda Lindas surprised their crowd with a guest appearance from Gina Shok, drummer of The Go-Go’s, during their cover of “Tonite.” Unleashed from her position in the back, drummer and youngest member Mila de la Garza skipped and hopped around the stage with her bandmates, the group’s chemistry as unmistakable as its talent. By the end of their performance, The Linda Lindas proved that, with their kindling, riot grrrl burns brighter than ever.
— Lauren Harvey
Most Guitar Hero: Sam Fender
Highlights: “The Borders,” “Howdon Aldi Death Queue,” “Seventeen Going Under”
Sam Fender makes music for the revolution, both personal and political. His sound evokes the rapid derailment of his inner and outer worlds, balancing apathy with poetic musings on what it means to be alive.
Fender jolted the crowd at Lands End with his full, resounding vocals and movement through multiple guitar models — Fenders included. During “The Borders,” he explored his complicated upbringing in Scotland with a resonant belt, pausing to allow the saxophone to shred during an musical interlude. Metallic “Howdon Aldi Death Queue” saw the musician lean into his punk side as he evoked the hellish chaos of grocery shopping during the pandemic. Still, Fender wandered into explicitly vulnerable territory on “Spit of You,” projecting filtered family photos as he sang about struggling to open up to his father.
Balancing the breezy bliss of Tom Misch and the uninhibited riffs of Jack White, Fender proved himself a master on the guitar, living up to his serendipitous namesake.
— Lauren Harvey
Most danceworthy: Empress Of
Highlights: “Dance For You,” “When I’m With Him,” “Turn The Table”
With carefree hair whipping and stunning choreography, Empress Of gave Outside Lands her everything at an energy-packed, synth-pop set on Saturday.
Beginning with “Love For Me,” Empress Of displayed how she wants everyone to love her music and be delighted by her set. Her wonderful rapport with the onstage DJ and consistently blithe, loose dancing generated a magical mood that reverberated through the crowd.
Transitioning beautifully between songs along their baselines mesmerized the crowd, as a cover of MARINA’s “Man’s World” bled seamlessly into exhilarating fan favorite “When I’m With Him.”
Between thanking the audience and her mom for their love and support, Empress Of modernized feminine mystique with “Woman Is a Word” and “Dance For You.” As the final few DJ-ed transitions rocketed the audience’s verve from ‘Turn The Table” to Jim-E Stack’s “Note to Self,” Empress Of spun and sang and shined on stage like the queen she is.
— Katherine Shok
Most chill: Mac DeMarco
Highlights: “For the First Time,” “Chamber of Reflection,” “Still Together”
Against a groovy, psychedelic background, Mac DeMarco took the Lands End stage calmly — a man with a bucket hat and a guitar against the world.
Beginning with older songs such as “The Stars Keep On Calling My Name” and “For the First Time,” DeMarco is at his best when he leans into his funky guitar solos and flashes award-worthy grins at the crowd. His uptempo songs juxtaposed his laid-back demeanor on stage, especially when more than 20,000 fans are shouting the lyrics to hits such as “My Kind of Woman.”
DeMarco seemed more tuned into his guitar than his waves of adorers. He would bop and bounce to tracks such as “Freaking Out the Neighborhood” before falling into a meditative sort of modern interpretive dance during “Chamber of Reflection.”
Toward the end of the set, DeMarco came into his own by talking up the crowd before “Watching Him Fade Away.” While tossing the microphone around and bellowing high notes, DeMarco finished with “Still Together” and a delicious keyboard solo, then happily wished the crowd a fantastic rest of its weekend.
— Katherine Shok
Most intimate: Thuy
Highlights: “Trust,” “figured u out,” “universe”
Bay Area R&B artist Thuy was overjoyed by the Panhandle crowd that had gathered for her first festival performance. Starting with “All Night Long,” Thuy’s amazing, soulful vocals made her the focal point of the stage, with energetic support from her band and the onstage DJ.
After marveling at the size of her crowd, Thuy performed several new songs for the first time, including recent release “Trust” and a soon-to-be-released single “Playing Tricks.” She validated the “ladies and f—boys” of the crowd with the religious experience of hearing “figured u out” and Thuy’s spellbinding vocals live.
Although Thuy noted that she was really quite nervous, she confidently glided through her set, creating an ambiance of acceptance and love. “Are you in your feels yet?” Thuy asked the crowd, transitioning from “chances” from her self-proclaimed toxic era to the loved-up tracks “inhibitions” and “universe.”
With her affectionate honesty and grippingly smooth voice, Thuy ensured the small audience left soaked in love for the rest of the weekend.
— Katherine Shok