The excitement surrounding this year’s Outside Lands was hyped right as soon as the festival’s lineup was announced. Filled with all-star names accompanied by strong emerging and local talent the fifteenth anniversary did not disappoint. The sold-out event drew music fans from all over the country to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, CA August 11-13th with crowds showing up early nearly every day. The weather was typical of San Francisco in August, with either overcast skies and fog for the first two days and brief sunshine for a few hours on Sunday to give some warmth before the fog rolled in late afternoon. It wasn’t a deterrent either way, as many fans were either prepared by bringing layers of clothes or opted to ensure they were in the thick of the crowds to share warmth.
Friday without a doubt was filled with buzz and excitement as the interest to see Ethel Cain early in the day was a priority for many. With her breakthrough debut LP ‘Preacher’s Daughter’ causing quite a stir since last year’s release, Ethel Cain had a captivated audience right from the start. Fans sang along from the opener “A House in Nebraska” and cheered raucously for its follow-up “American Teenager”. With visuals playing on the screens behind the band, Ethel Cain kept the set straightforward and gracious to the fans, as lead singer Hayden Anhedönia came into the crowd in the front row during their final song, “Crush”. Electronic producer and DJ Disco Lines literally took headlines for Friday for his memorable wild set that caused the SOMA tent to cancel all performances thereafter. As the crowds inside were dancing and jumping, they inadvertently wound up broke the integrity of the flooring that created a dip in the floor. Based on the lines outside the tent, his set was already one that many were eager to attend and were unfortunately unable to partake. Other standouts during the day were DJ Diesel, aka Shaquille O’Neal, who showed up late to his set, but was able to make up to the young crowds who formed mosh pits at his encouragement and were dancing and jumping to his set that was filled with dubstep and hard electronic beats. Festival veteran Zedd was just as exciting, who kept the party going with a lively crowd versus Kendrick Lamar who gave a strong performance filled with 20+ songs spanning his huge catalog of hits from “m.A.A.d. city” and “HUMBLE” to “B*tch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” and “Savior”.
Day two was chilly as per usual this time of year in San Francisco, but the music lineup gave plenty of opportunity for fans to dance and get moving. Early acts like this year’s breakout band, Lovejoy were absolutely prepared for the huge crowd that showed up. Bringing their 00’s-inspired brand of British alternative rock, the band was entertaining and upbeat as they tore through songs like the popular “Call Me What You Like”, “Warsaw” and “The Fall”. Indonesian artist NIKI made a huge impression for her first Outside Lands performance. The seasoned artist has been playing numerous festivals this year and had full command of the audience, tearing through songs like opener “Before” and “Keeping Tabs”. The audience sang along loudly throughout the set as the fog rolled into the Twin Peaks, especially quite loudly to “High School in Jakarta” and “Every Summertime”. Speaking of the fog, it provided the perfect backdrop for electronic artist Nora En Pure at the Sutro stage, whose music is inspired by nature and was a major highlight for many in attendance. Father John Misty was filled with old school nostalgic sonics accompanied by his amazing showmanship. Songs like “Strange Encounter” and “Mr. Tillman” sounded even better amidst the natural rolling fog that was accompanied by even more generated from the fog machines on both sides of the stage. Lana Del Rey was nothing short of incredible during her set even if she was a few minutes late. With numerous shoutouts and stories about previously performing at Outside Lands on the very same stage in 2016, Del Rey was accompanied by numerous dancers and props like a swing, piano and visuals that only enhanced the set. Even though some had to be shortened to fit her tardiness and curfew, songs like “Young and Beautiful” and “Blue Jeans” fit right in with newer songs “Chemtrails Over the Country Club”, “The Grants” and “A&W”. Her cover of Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man” was fun and a nice addition to mix things up in the setlist that wound up with her huge hits in “Summertime Sadness” and “Video Games” before ending with the newer “Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd”.
The final day of Outside Lands was absolutely strong from start to finish. UPSAHL kicked things off strong with a thoroughly entertaining and energetic set on the Lands End stage. It was clear she was ready for the big festival stage as she had the crowd jumping and wave their hands in the air during “People I Don’t Like”, her song “Good Girl Era” mashed up with “That’s Not My Name” and her viral hit “Drugs”. Joy Oladokun was entertaining in all facets both vocally and with her stage presence that was laid back and perfect for a Sunday set. Songs from her critically-acclaimed album ‘Proof of Life’ sounded even fuller and more impactful live, especially “Taking Things for Granted” and “We’re All Going To Die”. Her cover of “Rocket Man” was unique and true to the original by Elton John. The trifecta of ODESZA versus The 1975 and Noah Kahan had many fans split with going to partial sets to see all three. ODESZA was an absolute party and might’ve been more befitting for a Saturday slot but the crowds were out in full force. Filled with pyrotechnics, fireworks and captivating visuals, the duo was accompanied by their now-omnipresent drumline. The 24-song set was filled with both new and old songs that blended into one another seamlessly as fans went wild for “All We Need”, “Say My Name” and “Line of Sight.” “Forgive Me” was another standout as their guest vocalist Izzy Bizu performed with them as she did on the original track. Even with a pared down festival setlist, The 1975 delivered the goods on the other side of the festival as fans were camped out on the barrier from early in the day. The British band opened strong with “Looking for Somebody (to Love)”, “Happiness” and “Chocolate” while lead singer Matty Healy had fans captivated as he spoke in between songs. Ending with “Give Yourself A Try” and “People”, their set was uniquely memorable as their music was performed against the backdrop of the famous San Francisco fog and surrounding trees of Golden Gate Park.
Fifteen years going and Outside Lands gets stronger and more appealing every year. The unique surroundings where legends have played since the 60s and arguably the birthplace of the music festival, Outside Lands has carried the tradition forward with an array of diverse artists, as well as the culinary and beverages that are only unique to the Bay Area and the peripheral region. More than ever, there were just as many memorable moments from the big names as there were the emerging acts that have the potential to perform to larger crowds later in the day on bigger stages. Something unique that only Outside Lands could curate.