When it was announced that Outside Lands 2021 would take place over Halloween weekend, fans not only rejoiced over the return over the beloved festival but also for the opportunity to dress up in their Halloween finest. Headiners, Lizzo, The Strokes, Tyler The Creator and Tame Impala lived up to expectations, while there were plenty of exciting performances by the likes of Glass Animals, Vampire Weekend, RÜFÜS DU SOL and SOFI TUKKER. Meanwhile, newer acts like Remi Wolf, Dijon, Moses Sumney and Flo Milli put on solid performances.

Photo: Chloe Catajan

The first day of Outside Lands was filled with anticipation and with the early warm weather, eager fans streamed in early at a steady pace right from gates opening. Early performers Sofía Valdés exuded a sense of confidence and warmth during her set that included her breakthrough song “Handful of Water” as well as “Amsterdam” and a sultry cover of Gwen Stefani’s “Sweet Escape”. The HU is known for their unique and entertaining live performances and their reputation lived up to the billing. Playing less than common instruments like the Morin Khuur (horsehead fiddle), Tovshuur (Mongolian guitar) and the Tumur Khuur (jaw harp) The HU was exciting to watch as they performed “Shoog Shoog” and “Yuve Yuve Yu,” the latter that had the crowds pumped up and clapping along. The famous San Francisco fog rolled in earlier than anticipated and faster than anyone may have anticipated. When Remi Wolf took the stage, the sun was beaming down but by the time she performed “Disco Man,” and “Monte Carlo,” the fog steamrolled in within a span of 20 minutes and brought temperatures down fast. Khruangbin performed to a huge crowd at the Lands End stage who were treated to original songs like “Time (You and I)” and “August 10” but also covers by Luniz(“I Got Five On It”) and MF Doom(“Rapp Snitch Knishes”). SG Lewis put on a vibey set filled with fun dance tunes that provided a different option to Glass Animals who performed in front of a huge crowd that nearly extended to the windmills. The Strokes last performed Outside Lands in 2010 and nearly ten years later, the New York-based band brought their signature swagger and understated stage presence that focused solely on the music. Highlights from the set included standbys from their breakthrough album ‘Is This It’ like “Someday,” “Last Nite” and “Hard to Explain”.

Photo: Marc Fong

Day two kicked off with overcast skies but acts like Hinds and Rexx Life Raj brought lots of energy to the early afternoon sets to get the crowds moving and warm. Later during the day Marc E. Bassy performed to a packed house at the Panhandle stage as the skies started to clear up and sun shone down. While scheduled performers Young Thug and Marc Rebillet canceled at the last minute, Aminé and Reggie Watts stepped in for them respectively and delivered great sets, the former took the crowd to another level when transitioning from his song “Spice Girl” into “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls. Without a doubt, Vampire Weekend brought it back to the old school for many as their set was filled with many of the classics the band is known for. The crowd was singing and dancing along as the band performed “Holiday,” “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and “Sunflower” and really got into it as the band played “Diane Young” into “Cousins” and their signature song, “A-Punk.” The highlight of the day without a doubt was the headlining set by Lizzo. Along with her entire dance crew, Lizzo came out on stage dressed up as characters from the TV show, “Squid Games.” Her set was packed with fans that extended all the way to the food vendors that were set up on the sides of the field, as fans were seen dancing on top of various tables and all the way back to the windmills. Performing songs like “Good as Hell,” “Soulmate” and “Scuse Me”, Lizzo had the audience by the palm of her hand and took it to another level when emerging from a short break to emerge back on-stage to the Michael Jackson classic “Thriller” and dancing the iconic dance as seen in the music video.

Photo: Marc Fong

The final day of Outside Lands was a strong one as it fell on Halloween day and acts like Cannons were decked out in costume as a couple of members were dressed like members of the band KISS and lead singer Michelle Joy was decked out as X-Men character, Dazzler “The Disco Queen” (she has the power to turn sound into light). Caroline Polachek was dressed as Marie Antoinette and the visuals that accompanied her set were a perfect backdrop as she performed songs like “Smoke,” “Door” and a memorable harpsichord version of “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings”. SOFI TUKKER performed at an overflowing Sutro stage to fans who wanted to expend any extra energy that’s been pent up over the last 18 months. The duo, who performed on Instagram Live for over 365 days straight during the pandemic, delivered a raucous set that had the packed crowd dancing the night away. The same could be said for RÜFÜS DU SOL, who preceded them on the Lands End stage. The Australian trio had fans dancing on top of picnic tables to songs like “Treat You Better,” “Like An Animal” and “Innerbloom”. Fellow Aussies Tame Impala dressed up as The Wiggles for their Halloween costumes and announced that “The Wiggles” would be performing in their place. A set that was perfect for a San Francisco night, Tame Impala was accompanied by stunning psychedelic visuals as they played “Endors toi” and “Yes I’m Changing”, two songs that they didn’t play during their headlining show at the Chase Center in San Francisco a month earlier. Standby songs like “Elephant,” “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and “The Less I Know the Better” elicited cheers from a crowd that was grateful that a sense of normalcy had been achieved by the conclusion of the weekend.