Before Lana Del Rey blessed Twin Peaks and the Foo Fighters battled Lands End, openers Father John Misty, Conan Gray, L’Impératrice, NIKI, Orion Sun, Alvvays and Wednesday delivered radiant performances that cut through the Saturday gloom.
Most unforgettable: Lana Del Rey
Highlights: “Norman Fucking Rockwell,” “Ultraviolence,” “Video Games”
Heaven is a place on Earth with Lana Del Rey.
As darkness descended on Saturday night, that heavenly place just happened to be the Twin Peaks stage. Long before Del Rey graced the audience, anticipation hung heavy in the air between swaths of diehard fans — many sporting heart-shaped sunglasses and ribbons in their hair — devotedly waiting upward of nine hours for the beloved singer-songwriter.
After the deafening chants of “La-na!” and a painfully long instrumental build-up, Del Rey appeared like a beacon in the night. Veiled by wispy sheets and shrouded in mist, she almost didn’t seem real — like a goddess or an apparition. As she stepped into the spotlight dressed in a ruffled white dress and accessorized with a ruby red headband (and hair done up “real big, beauty queen style”), Del Rey glowed with an ethereal aura — but she was really there.
“It’s amazing that we made it. Thank you so much for coming. It’s a dream to be here again,” Del Rey said after performing the opener, a shortened version of “A&W.”
Throughout the show, Del Rey made thousands of dreams come true as she performed a 16-song set spanning many of her albums, though there were some unfortunate cuts — “Diet Mountain Dew” and “Born to Die” were skipped over to meet the festival’s strict curfew.
From contemplative to seductive to hopeless to hopeful, Del Rey navigated emotional landscapes with seasoned ease yet never failed to maintain intensity. Agile dancers, accompanying piano players, props (slightly crowded on the stage) and Americana-inspired on-screen visuals rounded out the lush production.
After a poignant performance of “Arcadia” and an electrifying rendition of “Ultraviolence,” Del Rey continued her long held tradition of swaying to “Video Games” on a floral swing hanging from the stage rafters. “It’s you, it’s you, it’s all for you/ Everything I do,” crooned Del Rey, positively radiating with elegance and contentment as she was joined by the resounding crowd. The line held particularly true for so many fans, who had gone near-impossible lengths to see their favorite artist.
Closing out day two of the festival, Del Rey perched herself on the stage’s steps to sing “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd.” As the song reached its end, Del Rey’s cries of “Don’t you forget me!” were repeated back to her by the audience. It was a reminder and a promise from the entire festival — Lana Del Rey will never be forgotten.
— Anne Vertin
Most forgettable: Foo Fighters
Highlights: “Everlong,” “Best of You,” “Haven’t Met You Yet”
As the sun began to set and the festival’s younger crowds swarmed to watch Lana Del Rey and Fisher, the Foo Fighters’ stage began to slowly fill up with the festival’s older, grungier attendees, toting beer in plastic cups.
The renowned rock band opened its set twenty minutes early with “All My Life,” its anticipatory beginning quickly giving way to hard, fast rock. The band alternated between softer rock moments and loud head-bangers, proving their range throughout their long set.
It has only been a little over a year since Taylor Hawkins, the old Foo Fighters drummer, tragically died, and his replacement Josh Freese solidified his role as the band’s backbone all night. Keeping with its tour-long tradition of calling an audience member onstage to sing alongside Freese’s drumming, Grohl scanned the audience for a Michael Bublé fan — before bringing the singer himself onstage to sing his hit “Haven’t Met You Yet” in an ironic and newsworthy moment.
The band’s second-rate attendance despite their headliner status points to the issue with hiring headliners based on longevity instead of actual popularity. With Outside Lands attendees pointing younger each year, one wonders at the Foo Fighters’ place in an otherwise largely modern festival.
— Vivian Stacy
Most seductive: Father John Misty
Highlights: “The Ideal Husband,” “Chateau Lobby #4,” “Goodbye Mr. Blue”
“Hello, Based Area” was the first thing Josh Tillman said when he took the Lands End stage on Saturday afternoon. Tillman, who has been performing as Father John Misty since 2012, frequently toes a line somewhere between sincere and ironic, between emotionally moderated and histrionic. It’s an especially compelling dynamic to witness live.
Listening to Father John Misty feels like having a conversation with the most annoying guy in the room at a college party (an especially fitting metaphor because in either scenario you’re not speaking.) At any moment he might whip out the old floating rock line. But set to swelling strings and blown-out psychedelic guitars, his nihilism is not just more palatable, it’s somehow comforting.
Tillman played a set heavy on material from his early discography; in other words, he played the hits. Punctuating each refrain of “The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment” and “I Love You, Honeybear” with cheeky mannerisms, he whipped the crowd into a frenzy simply by virtue of his cool cavalierness — an indifference equal parts exasperating and sexy.
Now if only Lana had brought him out for “Let The Light In”…
— Emma Murphree
Most unexpected: Conan Gray
Highlights: “Wish You Were Sober,” “Maniac,” “Memories”
“Surprise,” Conan Gray announced via an Instagram story post early last week, revealing he had been added to the day two lineup of Outside Lands. “See y’all at the Twin Peaks stage this Saturday.” The 26-year-old took the stage for the 7 p.m. slot right before Lana Del Rey, replacing psychedelic country star Orville Peck.
Sporting long curls and black shades, Gray strutted onto the stage with characteristic confidence before breaking into “Never Ending Song,” the ’80s-inspired lead single from his forthcoming third studio album. Adorned with a black and fluorescent yellow vest, matching flared pants studded with bejeweled stars, Gray took vintage swagger to the next level.
From swirling constellations during “Astronomy” to jagged scissors during “Jigsaw,” vibrant visuals drifted across the Twin Peaks screen, further pulling listeners under Gray’s electrifying spell. Gray also brought his own surprise for the crowd — a 45-second teaser performance of “Winner,” supposedly the second single off his third record.
As fans let out shrieks of excitement, the indie pop star closed his set with a trio of fan favorites: “Heather,” “Maniac” and “Memories.” “I wish that you would stay in my memories,” Gray entreated in the last song, the final note that will undoubtedly linger on the minds of breathless fans long after the weekend.
— Anne Vertin
Most French: L’Impératrice
Highlights: “Off to the Side,” “Peur des filles,” “Voodoo?”
L’Impératrice has been the talk of the town since its Coachella breakout in 2022. The band has played a steady string of shows worldwide since then, and audiences are still eating L’Impératrice up.
The crowd at Outside Lands’ Sutro stage proved just that. By the time L’Imperatrice took the stage, Lindley Meadow was packed with an audience ready to dance.
L’Impératrice, well aware of its fans’ expectations for a good performance, took the stage with little fanfare and got off to a brisk start. With a humble aversion to the crowd’s cheers, the band opened with “Off to the Side” and let the music do the talking: “I just need you to realize/ What stands before your eyes,” vocalist Flore Benguigui implored.
Naturally, L’Impératrice’s show had an excellent sense of cadence and pace. The set was front-loaded with some of the band’s lesser known songs yet nonetheless danceable tracks before waltzing into a final crescendo. If you were there, you might have thought these sly Parisians were spinning voodoo.
— Dominic Marziali
Most nostalgic: NIKI
Highlights: “La La Lost You,” “Lowkey,” “Oceans & Engines”
No one gets nostalgia like Nicole Zefanya, better known as NIKI.
Much of the Indonesian singer-songwriter’s discography sees her confronting lingering regrets, melancholy memories and old flames. As she stepped onstage in a patchwork, puff-sleeved top and billowing skirt, Zefanya transformed Twin Peaks into a bittersweet homage to the past.
Polaroid film visuals spilled across the scene, imbuing the performance with a distinctly vintage ambience as Zefanya sang about longing for ex-partners and contending with exhausting long-distance relationships.
Still, Zefanya also knew the exact right moments to uplift the crowd. “This is the one part of the show I need y’all to jump. Are you ready?” she shouted before launching into the final chorus of “High School in Jakarta.” “Glad she gave it to you real hard, but I loved you harder,” Zefanya hollered, invigorating the crowd with knee-high kicks that punctuated each syllable.
At other times, Zefanya showed her playful side. Though her vocals were occasionally overpowered by backing instrumentals, the indie R&B artist kept it flirty and featherlight for “Vintage” and “Lowkey” as she skipped across the stage. By the time she closed with crowd pleaser “Every Summertime,” there was no doubt the audience was hoping she would return for every Outside Lands.
— Anne Vertin
Most luminescent: Orion Sun
Highlights: “Dirty Dancer,” “Ne me quitte pas,” “Valentine”
For a brief moment Saturday, the fog lifted and the sun came out — in the form of indie soul singer Orion Sun.
Radiant, the singer — also known as Tiffany Majette — lived up to her cosmic stage name. A beacon of energy and warmth amid the chilly air, her charisma and bright smile were contagious. Majette was immediately likable; easily magnetic. A natural to the stage, she interacted with the crowd with lighthearted, dazzling charm.
Her smoky, seductive voice was the perfect medium for her poetic lyrics, uniquely personal but somehow widely relatable. “I used to be so luminescent” she sang in “Space Jam — An Odyssey” — ironic, considering her practically visible glow.
Between flickering, romantic odes and soulful ballads of pain, Majette’s performance traversed a vast and authentic emotional landscape. Sparkling with muted electricity for “Lightning” before melting down wistfully for a brand new demo, she didn’t let her music’s softness prevent her from dancing freely around the stage.
She finished with “Dirty Dancer,” a catchy, charming love song. Waving to the crowd, Majette danced offstage, leaving a residue of lightness behind her like the post-glow of the sunset right before dusk.
— Vivian Stacy
Most dreamy: Alvvays
Highlights: “Archie, Marry Me,” “Very Online Guy,” “Dreams Tonite”
There’s always that one set at a festival that’s perfectly suited to its slot. On Saturday at the Lands End stage, it was Alvvays.
As the Canadian band kicked off its set, programming and atmosphere shook hands, and the sun showed up (if only for a second). Even as the mist sifted back over the day two crowd, Alvvays’ signature brand of hazy dream pop kept its fans in a cozy lull.
The five-piece band made the most of its mid-afternoon spot. It started its set with “Pharmacist” and “After the Earthquake,” both tracks off of 2022’s critical and commercial hit Blue Rev, before kicking it to 2017 with “In Undertow.”
By the time Alvvays got around to its biggest hit — it played “Archie, Marry Me” halfway through its set — the crowd was happily swaying along and ready to keep the afternoon going.
— Dominic Marziali
Most screamable: Wednesday
Highlights: “Quarry,” “Chosen to Deserve,” “Fate Is…”
Midwest emo made its way to the San Francisco Bay Area on Saturday with Wednesday’s spiky, folk-rock set.
“Hot Rotten Grass Smell” kicked off their set, ironically appropriate for the muddy terrain of Golden Gate Park. Primarily grunge and shoegaze, with a subtle country twang, the North Carolina band filled the space with passion rubbed raw.
The band may only be 6 years old (and from the Southeast), but with personal, plot-filled lyrics and graphic small town stories, its style is eerily reminiscent of the true midwest emo of the ’90s. “Quarry” was especially striking, painting a detailed, rough portrait of a small town as the band’s unvarnished guitar riffs stacked over one another.
Lead singer Karly Hartzman was the face of the band, her deeply soulful, at times chilling voice an instrument just as much as her guitar. From a soft trill one moment to a bout of raw screaming the next, she expertly alternated between vocal ranges and their accompanying emotional states, her bandmates creating a solid soundscape behind her.
Purposefully grating, lyrically graphic but nonetheless shivery, Wednesday sunk its sharp teeth into the festival attendees, leaving them bruised and breathless.
— Vivian Stacy