Advertisements

Outside Lands 2018: A return to form in Year 11

Outside Lands 2018Photos by Norm de Veyra // Written by Kevin Quandt //

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
August 10th-12th, 2018 //

As another summer festival season winds down, we look back at the 2018 edition of Outside Lands with highlights, thoughts, musings and enough images to make you nostalgic for the Bay Area’s banner music festival. With the Superfly, Another Planet Entertainment and Starr Hill event celebrating its 11th edition, this incarnation of the annual Golden Gate Park soirée saw more of a return to form over the past year while also experiencing a notable shift in the sound that could be heard emanating through the eucalyptus and other flora.

While cancellations left a slightly sour taste in the mouths of last year’s attendees, this year only saw limited lineup hiccups. However, the bigger story at hand surrounds the changing tides of popular music. Sure, you’ve heard folks state “rock is dead,” but is a once-amusing quip starting to take greater shape as the youth clamor for a different sound and aesthetic? Though it was pretty evident on the 2018 lineup poster when it dropped in April, this query started to take greater shape once you were on the grounds and bouncing between sets. So, let’s jump straight into this now.

Outside Lands 2018 - Billie Eilish


Billie Eilish

Friday

Day 1 at Outside Lands tends to be a slow trickle of fans entering the park as some are able to play hooky, bounce from the office early or only show up for the headliners. Sure, some folks had to deal with longer-than-expected box office lines and others even had to bear the fest’s new bag policies, but luckily those in attendance were blessed with some clear skies instead of the usual August dread of the Outer Lands.

While Billie Eilish was relishing in her rising appeal on the Lands End stage, covering Drake and running through the majority of her singles, Rex Orange County was trying his hand at something a bit new and terrifying. The UK wunderkind was forced to play his first-ever solo festival set as his band and their gear ran into transit issues on the way to SF from the Pacific Northwest. The young crooner seemed a bit nervous about this predicament but competently knocked out a solid, eight-song performance that included “Sunflower” and closer “Loving Is Easy”.

N.E.R.D., meanwhile, played their first SF show in many years to a raucous crowd, opening with “Anti Matter” as a hyped Pharrell Williams feverishly worked every corner of the huge Lands End stage. The set featured a massive medley of tracks by The Neptunes, a cover of “Seven Nation Army” and a double dose of “Lemon” to send us on our way to the next set.

Simultaneously, Carly Rae Jepsen was apparently throwing down one of Outside Lands’ most enjoyable performances in front of a rather large crowd. While the pop sensation pleased the masses with a rendition of her breakout hit “Call Me Maybe”, she also performed more recent songs like “Emotion”.

ODESZA obviously drew a large crowd for their main stage afternoon showcase, putting the spotlight on the changing tides and tastes of the youth music market. That kind of youthful angst and energy seemed to be danced out to ODESZA, DJ Snake and Big Gigantic compared to the pits of rock bands from the 2000’s, be it Queens of the Stone Age, System of a Down or Deftones.

With the under-25 crowd predominantly stationed at Lands End, you could say there was a more intimate feeling at Twin Peaks for Father John Misty. Touting his expanded band that featured a string section and dialing back his quirky stage banter, Josh Tillman’s latest tour has been pretty much about presenting his music as faithfully as he can. “Nancy From Now On” opened his career-spanning performance as the shadows began to drape the park.

While FJM’s attendance was noticeably a bit small for a rock act, the king of “jizz jazz,” aka Mac DeMarco, was able to attract a rowdy crowd for his closing set on the Sutro stage. When the synth sections of “On the Level” opened DeMarco’s set, a certain air of relaxation swept the crowd as various smokeables were consumed in honor of indie-slacker royalty onstage.

Abel Tesfaye, popularly known as The Weeknd, enjoyed a sort of victory lap as he headlined the festival’s first day with an onslaught of hits such as “Starboy”, “Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills”, along with a few select covers of Future, Belly, Drake and Ty Dolla $ign. Though Tesfaye’s current large-scale show is nothing new to the live music circuit, he still threw one helluva party before sending the masses into the wilds of the City.

Outside Lands 2018 - Florence + the Machine


Florence + the Machine

Saturday

It has been a couple of years since Outside Lands was fortunate enough to have a truly clear, sunny Saturday — and not just for a few hours, but the whole damn day. Plus, it was topped off with another insanely gorgeous sunset, but let’s not jump the gun here.

As the day got underway, New York indie artist Amen Dunes performed an extremely tight set, showcasing his wavy take on psychedelic rock/folk. Led by Damon McMahon, the trio played heavy off its most recent release Freedom while also not completely ignoring its back catalog. Moreover, McMahon’s stage presence was infectious and somewhat akin to R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, as his slender build moved to the emotive nature of his craft.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Lizzo was bringing down the early-afternoon house as she decimated the Lands End stage. “Fitness” opened her 10-song set as her pair of dancers, as well as Lizzo herself, left everything on the stage for the sizable crowd that was yearning for her energy, and some even yearned for a shot of tequila from her bottle of Patrón as she entered the photo pit for an up-close appearance during closing song “Good as Hell”.

When the Lizzo crowd dispersed, Broken Social Scene fans got prime real estate to catch the Canadian indie-rock demigods perform a blistering set of guitar-heavy tunes like opener “KC Accidental” and closer “Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl”. Even in such a large setting, the massive band was able to cook up a sense of intimacy and really engage.

While OSL this year leaned more toward R&B, electronic pop and other hip genres, UK jazz purveyors GoGo Penguin delivered a stunning set of avant-garde-leaning jazz. This punchy trio showed their chops over tracks like “One Percent” and set closer “Window” and could easily be compared to The Bad Plus. GoGo were a perfect palate cleanser before heading to more current stylings from either SOB X RBE or CHVRCHES.

Local legend Tycho performed to an enthusiastic crowd while Scott Hansen stated this would be the last incarnation of this phase for the group (we look forward to the next chapter). Back over at Lands End, Bon Iver delivered a prototypically powerful set as the sunlight dwindled, simultaneously providing a seriously stunning sunset.

As the limited amount of darkness fell over the park, one-third of The xx was preparing to hold court as the Sutro crowd swelled, moving their dancing feet to the new-school dance pioneer known as Jamie xx (born James Smith). Even as Jamie xx eased into his intro (The Animals’ “San Francisco Nights”) and more fans pushed in, it was rather evident that the Sutro’s sound system wasn’t able to fully reach the volume many were looking for. But an Above & Beyond nod (“Sun in Your Eyes”) eventually led straight into Smith’s mix of “On Hold” and all was right in the world, if only for about eight minutes.

There was a bit of controversy surrounding Saturday’s main slot as Florence + the Machine officially made the move to full-blown festival headliner. Some festivalgoers had their own doubts after FYF Fest 2018 was canceled with a near-identical top billing, but Florence and her bandmates proved, many times over, that she is more than capable of commanding any stage as her energy is unlike many others. She debuted a brand-new show, which featured “June” in the opening slot and was book-ended by “Big God” and “Shake It Out” for a two-song encore.

Outside Lands 2018 - Janelle Monáe


Janelle Monáe

Sunday

On the final day, the weather was back on track; by that, I mean it was cold, blustery and generally moist. Most were thankful for the two previous days as opposed to three days of “Karl the Fog,” as has been tradition for a good 3-4 years now.

The early afternoon of Sunday bore witness to some very lively performances from up-and-comers like Rainbow Kitten Surprise and Hobo Johnson & the Lovemakers, both of who are primed to make moves in the festival circuit over the next year if they play their cards right.

Continuing with the trend of electro-leaning acts playing to some big crowds, BØRNS fully commanded a youthful contingent with hits such as “10,000 Emerald Pools” and set closer “Electric Love”.

The incomparable Janelle Monáe was a tad late to take the stage, as she was fighting off a stomach bug, but when she did, she captivated the masses with a suite of tracks from her most recent release Dirty Computer and tossed in a fair amount of costume changes over a nearly hour-long set. Monáe proved that she’s easily one of the best in the business at the moment and will only continue to climb upwards.

Over at the Twin Peaks stage, The Internet was trying to hash out some sort of technical difficulties before beginning their abbreviated performance, which seemed to be a little lopsided and uneven as they did their best to deal with the 30 minutes that they had left. Fortunately, “Girl” got the majority who stuck around swaying to Syd’s sultry vocals and generally chilled demeanor.

Portugal. The Man held a fleeting rock slot on the main stage, putting their quirky brand of psych-leaning pop rock on display. Moreover, they tossed in some oddly placed Pink Floyd and Beatles covers before closing with their breakthrough hit “Feel It Still”.

Aussie newcomer Tash Sultana, meanwhile, was putting on a masterclass in instrumentation and looping. Sultana has really had one of the biggest breakout years in independent music, and it was clearly evident as she had a carefree stage presence backed by some truly unique, solo-delivered music ripe with psychedelic and world elements. The 23-year-old is certainly a name to watch over the next year and beyond.

As the last set of OSL artists got ready to play, James Blake brought us to church for this year’s final performance on the Sutro stage, failing to disappoint while the fog grew slightly thicker in Lindley Meadow. Highlights from Blake’s dreamy set were easily his take on Untold’s track “Stop What You’re Doing” and a semi-rare rendition of “Modern Soul”.

Some say Janet Jackson couldn’t pull in big crowds amid the current shifting landscape of large-scale music festivals, and although she didn’t pull in record-breaking numbers on a rugged SF night, it was clearly evident that those fans who stayed to watch her were all-in. Jackson’s career-spanning show touched on more than 35 songs and was accompanied by some fierce choreography and production elements. Sure, she wasn’t singing much of the time, but that didn’t stop a wide range of fans from showering Jackson with affection. Her closing performance was highlighted by “That’s the Way Love Goes” and later on, the MJ collaboration “Scream” that transitioned into “Rhythm Nation”.

As the music festival industry continues to deal with a shifting crowd and demand, Outside Lands regained its stride after a few hiccups in 2017. And while this year’s lineup might not have appealed to the core demographic from its incarnation, the event still offers something for everyone.

Advertisements

let's hear it!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s