San Francisco’s yearly gathering of music, food, and art, better known as Outside Lands has just finished its 11th year at the beautiful Golden Gate Park and dare I say, it was my favorite year as of yet. This was not my first rodeo, but my second, with the last time I even visited the city being in 2016.
As someone living in Southern California, I found it not only necessary but made it a mission to escape the brutal heat wave that had been affecting the entire region. Driving up late on Thursday night, I was immediately greeted by the foggy weather that SF is known for, and I knew from that point that I was ready for a great weekend ahead.
We began our first day by taking a stroll around the festival and giving our salutations to Ranger Dave. This year featured some new additions to the experience including the Bubble Tea Party, which was an Alice in Wonderland inspired area where they had psychedelic style installations, people in costume, and booths serving up delicious boba drinks.
The first stage we went to was Twin Peaks, where Perfume Genius was slated to play. His brand of emotional, slow, and heavy pop-rock tunes really left an impression on the audience. Not to mention his dramatic dance moves and earth-shaking voice really made him stick out as a unique artist. He really took control of the crowd for the entire duration of his performance, and it was a stunning set to start our day.
Shortly after, we headed to the Lands End stage to check out N.E.R.D, the infamous band containing Pharrell Williams and The Neptunes, who are responsible for some of the most forward-thinking hip-hop albums of the early 2000’s. Blending in rock with rap vocals and beats, it made for quite an interesting sound. The crowd was jumping and energy levels were through the roof. Playing crowd favorites as well as classics and mostly songs from their latest album, this set was the whole package.
Although we wanted to stay the entire time, we made our way over to the Heineken House to see the last bit of Todd Edwards, the disco producer famous for writing and producing songs with Daft Punk, as well as many other collaborations. As we walked in he was singing over Face 2 Face from Daft Punk’s Discovery album, which was an amazing throwback and a rare opportunity to hear the original voice in person. It might be the closest we’ll even get to seeing Daft Punk…but who knows.
The rest of the day flew by as we caught performances from Chicano Batman, Father John Misty, and Mac DeMarco (who had a live stream of Earthbound gameplay during his set). We closed out our night with the man and legend himself, Beck at Twin Peaks. Playing tunes from his latest album Colors, as well as his classic hits like Loser, E-Pro, and Where It’s At. There was no better place to end our first night.
Day two of the festival brought out a packed venue as only this day’s tickets were sold out. With the lineup as stacked as it was, it definitely made sense. Broken Social Scene was the first band we watched, who delivered a stunning performance. Their band on stage consisted of 4 guitar players along with a bassist, drummer, and percussionist. This gave them a warm and lush wall of sound that made it easy to fall in and lose yourself to the music. Performing tunes from their wide discography, Broken Social Scene showcased their diverse yet simplified sound, promoting self-love and letting go of all that weighs you down. A very positive experience overall.
We then decided to make our way to Big Gigantic since we haven’t seen them in a while, only to find a massive crowd (which was great, but not convenient). So we decided to venture through the festival before Bon Iver played, giving us ample time to check out the many installations placed around the park. With all the tasty food, numerous art displays, and nice wooded areas to sit and relax, it was impossible to not enjoy yourself and just take it all in.
Needless to say, Bon Iver wowed the audience with his serene and ethereal music during his sunset performance. He even brought a trombone choir up on stage with him to supplement his sound with very warm and brassy tones. As a low brass player myself, I am a firm believer that you can never go wrong with more trombones in your band.
With haste, we moved over to Sutro to catch the rest of Jamie xx‘s set. He has always displayed his prowess and control over a crowd with his unique blend of old funky jams, nu disco, and a healthy dose of rumbly techno. His remix of The xx’s single On Hold from their latest album had the crowd in a trance, and he closed out with everyone’s favorite hit Gosh. If you have yet to witness Jamie perform he is a must see, solely because his music is much more entertaining than when he plays with The xx (not sorry). As our second day came to a close we caught some of Florence + The Machine and made our way to Future only to see him end the set a little early as we approached the stage. Nevertheless, it was still a perfect day.
There’s always a little bittersweet feeling when you make your way into the last day of a festival. Maybe it’s the dread of having to go back to reality on Monday, or the feeling that everything is coming to a close, event with a stacked lineup for the last day. Anyway, we were ready to take on a full day of music and we started with Durand Jones & The Indications.
This band is from Indiana, and is reviving the deep soul genre. The frontman is an incredible singer, and his voice reminded me of a mix between Marvin Gaye and James Brown. They recently dropped their debut self-titled album and it is a fantastic listen.
Afterward, we went to see Bahamas, the stage name of Canadian musician Afie Jurvanen. His blend of folk and funk, along with lyrics about life and an overall happy vibe was the right combination to have the crowd dancing and swaying. I would compare his sound to John Mayer.
Our final day wouldn’t be complete without some groovy four on the floor beats, so we went into the Heineken House to catch one of my personal favorite DJ’s, the lovely Öona Dahl. She’s released on All Day I Dream, and Anjunadeep to name a couple of labels. So you can safely assume that her brand of house and techno is on the chill side of things. But if you ever get the chance to catch her spin, she is definitely worth your time and effort.
We moved on to watch one of our most anticipated acts of the weekend The Internet, but due to technical difficulties more than half of their set was wasted trying to fix their sound system. With our patience running thin we decided to move to Portugal. The Man who were totally rocking the crowd with their powerful funky tunes and absolutely wicked visuals. It was a pleasantly surprising set.
As the day was coming to a close we were headed to our most anticipated set of the weekend, James Blake. To be honest, I was not too into his recent album but my colleague and fellow writer Louis was the most excited to see him so I had to give him a chance.
Talk about a change of heart, because I thought that was probably my favorite set of the whole festival. His moody vocals, heavy hip-hop beats, and the sound of his Prophet synthesizer were not only refreshing to hear but the overall sound was something that I did not even realize I needed in my life.
Overall, our return to Outside Lands was another success. The entire event was phenomenal and is definitely the most chill festival on the West Coast. Combining a beautiful venue, fantastic summer weather, and a very relaxed vibe and environment that San Francisco is known for is the formula that makes this event so successful. This festival is well worth the price tag, and your experience will be nothing short of perfect.
Photos Courtesy of Outside Lands by FilmMagic.com