It's been a full decade since Outside Lands introduced itself to the world, but it didn't need that much time to become one of the most popular festivals in the country. Being there this weekend, it was clear why OSL has gained such a stellar reputation among the many summer festivals: The food was fine dining-level quality, there was more wine than a repressed suburban mom's "alone time" stash, and of course, there was the music. Between last-minute shakeups in the lineup (more on that later) and the fact there simply isn't enough time in the day, it was impossible to catch every single act from this weekend no matter how many times I sprinted across Golden Gate Park (It's hard to run with a wine glass, believe me). That said, I still saw a lot of great music moments on Saturday, so here are a few key highlights from the day.
BEST MORNING SLOT: MUNA
Artists have a lot working against them when they open a festival, especially the second day of a festival: It's the morning, people are slowly staggering in, and many are hungover, still riding the party from the night before, or are in the process of ordering more drinks. All of this on top of the fact most people tend to not be familiar with the early-day acts, and it can be hard to hold an audience's attention. Luckily, that wasn't a problem for LA trio MUNA
, who woke up and won over the crowd with their dreamy guitar pop and onstage chemistry. With songs like the cathartic "Crying On The Bathroom Floor" and the instantly catchy "Winterbreak," MUNA had the groggy audience smiling as much as they were smiling onstage, no doubt earning some new fans in the process.
MOST FLAWLESS HARMONIES: Joseph
From rockers to rappers to folk singers, everyone loves a good vocal harmony. It's a simple yet effective way to give a song some gut-punching strength, and it can leave an audience floored if done with the right group of singers. That's exactly what the Portland, OR sisters Joseph
did at the Sutro stage, with every song rich with vocal goodness and stadium-ready anthems. It was impossible not to be oo-ing
by the end of the set, but of course, no one was nearly as good as the singers on the stage.
BIGGEST "WHAT'S HAPPENING?" MOMENT: The Lemon Twigs' Entire Set
Anyone remotely familiar with The Lemon Twigs
' music, best described as "coked-out classic rock with a hint of ADD," can probably guess that their live shows can get pretty out there. Those who aren't familiar with the Lemon Twigs, well, to quote Samuel L. Jackson: "Hold onto your butts." From beginning to end, the D'Addario brothers put on a show that was as exhilarating as it was completely bonkers, featuring songs like the stadium-sized "These Words" and the dizzying "I Wanna Prove To You." The band had the audience at full attention with every spastic guitar solo and full-air karate kick, and easily made for one of the most fun sets all weekend.
MOST HEARTS MELTED: Vance Joy
Ahh, Vance Joy
, what a charmer. The Aussie singer-songwriter has always had a strong following in San Francisco (he played OSL in 2014, though he received a stage upgrade this time around), but the moment he walked onstage and flashed a dashing smile, the reaction was, shall we say, potent
. Teenagers both male and female were screaming their heads off out of pure ecstasy, though they saved enough air to sing along to favorites like "Mess Is Mine" and "Riptide." Vance of course loved every moment of it, cracking a smile in between singing his heart out– which, naturally, made the crowd scream more.
BEST LAST MINUTE FILL-IN: Cage The Elephant
Fans were understandably disappointed when headliners Queens of the Stone Age
dropped out a few weeks leading up to the festival, but luckily, Kentucky rock outfit Cage The Elephant
stepped up to the plate to play the coveted Lands End Stage. Those who read our Boston Calling coverage might remember that Cage was a standout act from that weekend, if not the best act all weekend, so it was no surprise that the band hit it out of the park this time around as well. Even with a much bigger audience than BC, Cage seemed to be right at home, as finally playing to the crowd size their raw power and stage presence had always demanded. It's never easy to be the substitute, but not only did Cage succeed in that regard, they proved once and for all something fans have long always known: They're ready to be full blown, top-line headliners. Summer festivals, start making your 2018 bookings, 'cause Cage is ready to roll.
BIGGEST GODDAMN TEASE: A Tribe Called Quest
Man oh man, talk about a soul-crushing disappointment. After rap legends A Tribe Called Quest
cancelled their Friday set at the last minute due to "travel issues," there was still hope for fans when organizers moved the group's set to Saturday. For the entire day, it seemed that all was well and that things were going to finally go as planned, but alas, it was all for naught. 30 flippin' minutes
before Tribe's highly anticipated set, with fans already filling the Twin Peaks stage to max capacity, it was announced the group cancelled their set for a second time. WHY YOU GOTTA DO THIS, TRIBE?!?
I wanted to end the day with smooth, jazzy beats and even smoother rhymes, and Metallica sure as hell wasn't gonna break out an upright bass. It has since come out
that the group's grief over their fallen member Phife Dawg led to their no-show, which is completely understandable (Phife was a longtime Bay Area native). It just would've been nice if all the eager fans weren't left in the dark not once, but twice in one weekend.
LOUDEST INSTRUMENT ALL WEEKEND: Lars Ulrich's Kick Drum
Seriously, I was standing a good 50 yards from the stage and it felt like a furious, demon woodpecker was attacking my forehead. Granted, this is Metallica
we're talking about, so pretty much everything onstage was pretty damn loud (except of course the bass on any songs from ...And Justice For All
. Zing!). Even as someone whose never been a fan of the Metal icons and hometown heroes, it's hard not to like big, explosive, music and head banging your cares into oblivion. There was definitely no going quietly into the good night with James Hetfield and co., which is exactly the kind of closer you want at any festival.