Photos by Patrick Tyrrell // Written by Mike Frash //
With so many blissful distractions at Outside Lands, it’s easy to get sidetracked. While encompassed by the most opulent culinary treats in the City’s finest park (sorry Dolores), festival-goers could get sucked into the beer or wine tent or even watch a long comedy set (I’m sure Jeffrey Ross slayed). But in the end, we all go for the music (and friends).
Here are five glorious sets I absorbed on Day 1.
Sir Paul McCartney
A lot of bucket lists were checked off Friday. McCartney’s boyish charm is truly uncanny and defies reality. His stories were contextualized to history, not simply music history, and they seemed too short. During “Back In The U.S.S.R., “FREE PUSSY RIOT” flashed on the screen for five seconds, and the legend said that when he met Russian government officials in Moscow, they told him they learned English through The Beatles. Macca took listeners through a progression of Beatles lore, starting with the early 60’s boy band material, then progressing to psychedelic fare once it was dark. McCartney is a rock and roll God, and he fulfilled the promise of an epic set — the “Live and Let Die” firework moment will never be forgotten.
The lyrics “with a beautiful white heaven hanging over me” have never been more appropriate; the foggy confines of the Lands End Stage painted that word picture. Matt Berninger’s group needs fog. And while the kids were busy getting their euphoria on over at Zedd, those looking for floaty poetic musings placed over life-affirming musicianship found it. Like Paul McCartney, The National were lovingly backed by the Kronos Quartet, adding uplifting symphonic layering. Those that stayed until the end were offered a local treat; Bob Weir of Grateful Dead fame came out to help on the final song “Terrible Love” — and that made me think, what ever happened to that Grateful Dead cover album that was to be curated by The National?
Twenty One Pilots
Twenty One Pilots might be trying to be cool, and that seemed to be on the mind of Tyler Joseph, as he kept referencing the ‘cool factor’ in a self-denigrating way. But the duo turned the stage antics up to 11, doing back flips off the piano, jumping into the crowd, and donning a full ski mask while climbing on top of the Twin Peaks stage. And ya know, as much as it was Macklemore-esque cheese, the passion these two young men exhibited transcended any second thoughts.
The brother-sister duo has evolved to a full band, but Natalie Bergman’s throwback-rasp vocals are still the focus of their strolling, reggae-dub style instrumentals. Dressed in classy white suits and surrounded by wooden keyboard barriers and speaker crates for added visual aesthetic value, there was certainly a timeless quality to the set.
Houndmouth provided a delightful opening to Outside Lands for many, including me. From the opening line of “Penitentiary” referencing San Francisco, the foursome brought bluesy gospel goodness right into everyone’s faces. With lyrics that seemed rooted in finding one’s self — and sobriety — Katie Toupin’s seductive stage presence and heavenly vocals were downright delightful.