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.

Noise Pop 2018: A Bay Area indie culture celebration

Noise Pop 2018Written by Jacqueline Moore //

Noise Pop //
Bay Area venues – San Francisco & Oakland
February 19th-25th, 2018 //

While it seems as if the rest of the world slept soundly over the holidays, putting their work aside to relax and unwind, the people at Noise Pop stayed wide awake, producing the most eclectic and unique celebration of Bay Area independent culture.

Starting next week, the 26th edition of Noise Pop invades all corners of the Bay (including the addition of shows in surrounding cities like San Jose, Santa Cruz and Sacramento this year) to honor everything we love about SF, Oakland and the greater Northern California region.

As a festival, Noise Pop is one in which you can jump from show to show while seeing plenty of big-name acts — tUnE-yArDs, Ty Dolla $ign and Built to Spill to name a few this year — on one night, then catch some of today’s most emerging artists, whether it’s Japanese Breakfast, Sudan Archives, Mount Eerie or another.

Throughout the week, make sure to explore everything that Noise Pop has to offer. Between film screenings, art galleries, happy hours and concerts happening all over SF and the East Bay, you’ll find that Noise Pop knows how to transform the area into your own playground.

Last year for its 25th anniversary, Noise Pop saw its largest attendance numbers, with nearly every show reaching capacity. In fact, more than 28,000 people came together for a week of events to commemorate what makes the Bay Area so damn special.

Names on the 2018 lineup are strong and not to be slept on. Between local shining star Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, well-known acts such as Bahamas and Geographer, besties Jay Som and Japanese Breakfast, and former Vampire Weekend keyboardist Rostam, the Noise Pop bill (which was announced in three phases) is stacked to the brim, making it tough to choose who to see each night.

However, there are only two ways to get in on the action: buy a badge and gain access to every show, or individually buy tickets to the ones that you’d like to attend.

The choice is yours, friend.


Download the Noise Pop mobile app to get special updates, including details on Noise Pop After Hours performances, and create your own customized schedule here. Super Fan Badges are still available for purchase here.

Noise Pop 2018 - Phase 3 lineup

For its 10th edition, HARD Summer continues to mix EDM with hip-hop on its 2017 lineup

HARD Summer Music Festival - 2017 lineup

HARD Summer Music Festival //
Auto Club Speedway – Fontana, CA
August 5th-6th, 2017 //

Last July, HARD Summer spent its first year at its new home of Auto Club Speedway.

The two-day, electronic-focused music festival had occupied LA State Historic Park for a few years before moving to Whittier Narrows Recreation Area in South El Monte and the Fairplex in Pomona, but HARD founder and CEO Gary Richards’ annual event has seemingly found a more permanent location in Fontana and at a NASCAR race track no less, much like Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) has done in partnering with Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

As we started to see in 2015, HARD has once again moved away from booking strictly EDM artists and is now regularly incorporating more mainstream hip-hop acts into its roster. The 2017 lineup follows down that path, with Snoop Dogg, Rae Sremmurd and Migos sitting atop the bill next to electronic heavyweights like DJ Snake, Justice (DJ set), Dog Blood, Zeds Dead and Bassnectar. But the big selling point for most music fans should be the fact that Snoop will perform his 1993 landmark debut album Doggystyle in full on the festival’s second day.

Meanwhile, other notables names lined up for HARD include Tchami, Jai Wolf, Cashmere Cat, Snakehips, Skepta, Claude VonStroke, Ty Dolla $ign, What So Not, Malaa, Baauer, A-Trak, Kill the Noise, Mobb Deep, JME, YehMe2, Mike Will Made It, Doctor P, Destructo, Anna Lunoe, 12th Planet, Kayzo, Tinashe, E-40, MadeinTYO, Brodinski, Brillz, Charli XCX, Party Favor and many more. Check out the poster above for the rest of the lineup.

Back for its second year at HARD, camping will be permitted and allow festivalgoers to easily go in and out of the festival grounds, which span more than 500 acres. Two-day passes to the 18-and-over event can be purchased here for $129 starting this Friday, April 28th at 9 a.m. PT and single-day tickets will be available for $89.

HARD Summer reveals new location, lineup for 2016

HARD Summer 2016 lineup

HARD Summer Music Festival //
Auto Club Speedway – Fontana, CA
July 30th-31st, 2016 //

After moving out of Los Angeles and changing locations the past two years, HARD Summer Music Festival has found a new home for 2016.

The two-day, electronic-focused music festival, which occupied LA State Historic Park for four years starting in 2010, spent 2014 at Whittier Narrows Recreation Area in South El Monte and 2015 at the Fairplex in Pomona. Now, HARD founder and CEO Gary Richards’ annual event is headed farther east this year with NASCAR race track Auto Club Speedway playing host a la Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Much like last year’s lineup, which saw the fest move away from strictly EDM acts with The Weeknd serving as a headliner, this year’s bill welcomes several major hip-hop acts like Ice Cube, Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, Travis Scott, Ty Dolla $ign and Desiigner amid electronic heavyweights like Major Lazer, Flosstradamus, Dillon Francis, Zeds Dead, Porter Robinson, Claude VonStroke, Madeon, Baauer and Boys Noize. Other noteworthy acts set to perform include Vancouver live electronica duo Bob Moses and British synthpop/R&B outfit AlunaGeorge, both of whom we caught at Coachella less than two weeks ago. We also can’t help but laugh at seeing Fat Joe sandwiched in between Green Velvet and Brodinski on the festival’s hot pink poster.

UPDATE: Colorado electronic producer Pretty Lights has been added to Saturday’s lineup, marking just the second HARD appearance for Derek Vincent Smith. Earlier this month, the Fort Collins native released new music for the first time in nearly three years, sharing “Only Yesterday” in conjunction with a new music video that features footage from last summer’s two-night run in Telluride, Colo., where Smith will return this August for two more shows. HARD organizers announced the news on Thursday night, just two days after releasing its initial artist lineup.

For the first time in HARD Summer’s history, camping will be permitted to allow for easy ins and outs of the festival grounds, which span more than 500 acres this year. Two-day passes to the 18-and-over event can be purchased here for $129 starting this Friday, April 29th at 9 a.m. PT, and additionally, single-day tickets will be available for $79.