That was it. Did you remember it? Outside Lands Festival came and went with a bang. San Francisco’s signature festival was nothing short of incredible….again. Shouts to OSL for giving us another weekend filled with music, food, friends, dancing, bad decisions, lots of beer and simply feeling like you were in San Francisco for every second of it. There were highlights galore and below, you’ll see my take on the Best Moments. Hope you had as much fun as i did!
Best 80’s Movie Character Appearance – Chunk from The Goonies at The Flaming Lips
The Flaming Lips had it all….Mushrooms, rainbows, butterflies, someone in a sun suit, Wayne Coyne’s signature trek into the crowd in a plastic bubble, a cover of The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” lights on lights on lights on lights and someone in the crowd holding up a picture of Chunk from The Goonies.
Best Closing Song of a Set – Haim “Let Me Go”
Talk about a polished band…The Haim sisters were super tight on every track, hyped the crowd while showing their own individual personalities (they even dropped some “F Bombs”…Gasp! Ok….it was mostly Este) but nothing hit home quite like their closing performance of “Let Me Go.” Easily the most intricate track on the record, even the unique echoey re-verb was coming through. Spot on girls!
Best Sing-A-Long Moment – Death Cab For Cutie “I Will Follow You Into The Dark”
Latch on to whoever is next to you, sway and sing-a-long to Ben Gibbard’s beautiful poetry. Dude is one of the best rock stars in the game. Toggling from keyboards to guitars and from power vocals to soft lullabies like this one.
Best Dance Moves – Killer Mike (Run The Jewels)
“I wake up every morning laughing about this shit!” — El-P
Best Surprise – Atmosphere performs “God’s Bathroom Floor”
Wow…just wow…i rolled up into the biggest crowd i’d seen at the Sutro stage since 2012 when The Alabama Shakes played to Slug belting the chorus of “Scapegoat” from 1997’s seminal Overcast!. I ran into my college roommate and we listened to “God Loves Ugly”, moseyed further back with some other friends when to my absolutely pleasant surprise, Slug proclaims “We’re gonna play a cut from way back in 1995..called ‘God’s. Bathroom. Floor!'” I almost lost my shit, but instead raced my way towards the front, singing along with Slug. As i got closer to the stage, i made eye contact with another festival buddy from earlier that weekend and we were both belting the chorus “touched…hazy…god…change….rush…floor…life…veins!” The song ended, we laughed, hugged and just kinda processed that moment…We had the same connection with Slug, who if you were in tune to underground hip-hop in the late 90’s was “that other white rapper” (besides Eminem.) He represented a fork in the road for hip-hop heads…the one’s who went with Eminem, seemingly began to gravitate towards what was soon becoming the mainstream sound. The one’s who went with Atmosphere went underground, DEEP underground, to revere a tiny label out of Minnesota called Rhymesayers Entertainment. The rest is hip-hop history.
My buddy Christian made a mash-up video of this track with clips from Trainspotting. If you’re a fan of either/both Atmosphere and Trainspotting, it’s a must watch. See it here.
Best “If You Didn’t Know Me Before, You Certainly Do Now!” Band – Lucius
Everything Ecstatic touted Lucius as one of “The 6 Under The Radar Acts you Must See at OSL” and after they belted a sublime version of “Go Home,” the crowd was in awe. Such vocal symbiosis is a rare breed and the Brooklyn-based band led by the gorgeous Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe wowed everyone with their hour long early afternoon set on Sunday.
Best Shirt – The Wire Bro
You know those listical shirts…where it’s just 4 or 5 names one after the other? (Is there a name for these btw??) This dude was sporting one with the name of every drug kingpin from the greatest TV drama of all-time, The Wire. He won.
Best Daft Punk Appearance – Pulp Fiction Mash-up on this dude’s shirt
Daft Punk and Pulp Fiction. Together at last (with a burrito to boot!)
Best Dressed – Tie-Dye Morph Suit Couple
Super cool kids that were close to us for the Flaming Lips. They even offered me 2 hits of acid, but at 6pm on Sunday, i was past the point of no return for that kind of a trip. Props on those morph suits. They aint cheap either!
Best Indicator of Where Your Friends Are in the Crowd – Pink Hobo Satchel
Ryan Chisolm, American hero. “I’mma hold this thing up all day!” and we always found him. Props.
Best Headliner – Kanye West
Not sure how to sum up this amazingness in one short blurb (hence i’m writing a piece for GrungeCake.com on it later this week), but dammit did this dude kill it! Positioning ourselves early to get to watch Kanye in the flesh instead of on jumbo screens was a great call (and it sounded better too). He played every hit (including “Blood On The Leaves” three times!) and simply commanded the crowd like no other. “All of The Lights” was the clear winner, perfectly punctuated at every turn. No matter the demographic of the festival-goer, they were hanging on his every word, bouncing to every beat and rappin’ along to every chorus. He sprinkled in a few of his signature rants and was his usual genuine self…That’s right, Kanye believes everything he says. He aims not just to entertain, but also to inspire and build self-confidence. “If you’re a fan of me, you’re really just a fan of yourself!” You can’t bullshit that kind of statement. [puts diamond in the sky]
Best Nirvana Impression (aka “The No Fucks Given Award”) – Courtney Barnett (video)
There was noone i was more excited and intrigued to see this weekend than Barnett and i left with such a better understanding of her as an artist. There was really no better comparison than Nirvana. She sang, headbanged, absolutely shredded on the guitar and frequently staggered across the stage while playing a frenzy of nasty guitar riffs. She was such a grungy punk up there and it was refreshing. The set itself was mad under-attended, but it’s gems like these that make the Panhandle stage such a wonderful place to discover new music and get super close to the artist.
Best Festival Version of a Song – Disclosure’s “What’s In Your Head”
I remember the first time i heard this track in 2012 and was like “Who the fuck are these guys?” It was the track that indicated how much they understood the direction of electronic music and they’ve come a loooong way in 2 years. They drew “What’s In Your Head” out to an extended version and it was the marquee moment for a set that sadly, didn’t feature any of the singers from their album Settle.
Best Performance By A Sound-Booth – Holy Ghost!
I have a saying when the sound of a set is this good and that’s “the soundguy pitched a no-hitter.” Every note was on point, you could really feel that the sound the band was trying to push out there was coming across as they intended. A great hype up set for Friday too, where the Lands End stage was the place to be all day long.
Best Electronica Performance – Gold Panda
My affinity for the Ghostly International Label is well-documented and Gold Panda is a perfect example of why i love just about everything that the avant-garde electronica & art label puts out. This was an electronica set with nods to the roots of the genre. The beats were intelligent and it made me wanna dance like i was in the drum and bass tent of a 2001 rave. Despite admitting that part of his set-up (“40%”) went kaput just before the show, Gold Panda managed to churn out a spectacular Sunday set on the Panhandle stage with what seemed to be as many tracks from 2010’s Lucky Shiner as there were from 2013’s Half of Where You Live. “Vanilla Minus”and “Snow & Taxis” were old school classics and he ended his set with “You” (the beat of which was later made famous by Charli XCX). In my ideal world, this is where i saw electronica evolving, not to where that other asshole who played the Twin Peaks Stage right after this took it. The set was beautiful in every sense of the word.
Best Small Stage to Big Stage Development – Local Natives
For the sheer fact that i remember seeing them play at tiny little Bottom of the Hill here in SF a few years ago and now here they were playing the main stage at Outside Lands. All who were there can agree that “Sun Hands” was the standout track of the set.
Best Food – The Little Chihuahua’s Carne Asada Fajita Burrito
Because it tasted just like it would have if i ordered it at one of their locations. My biggest issue with the food options at the Festival was that they were serving marginalized versions of their menus for the festival. Now, i can understand paring it down a bit, but Glaze served teriyaki bowls without veggies, explaining that “we normally do, but not this weekend” and the ramen burger from Nombe was nothing like the ramen burger i’d seen before, with a plump ramen bun. This burger had a thin ramen disc as a bun and just didn’t hit home. Fact is, as a restaurant, you come to the festival so people can experience your food and want to visit your establishment following the weekend and that seemed lost at some of the locations i hit up. The Little Chihuahua on the other hand, gets it. Shouts.
Best Faux Pas – Dude With A Brand New Backpack at Run The Jewels
Best Hay Ride – Boys Noize
Sitting on the hay bleachers at the Panhandle stage is a comfortable way to relax after a long day on your feet. And then you jolt your nerves with powerful electro vibes from the German DJ/Producer Boys Noize (He’s REALLY German.)
Best Set to Only Hear One Song Of – Cut Copy
Cut Copy is a great band and highly responsible for furthering the electro-pop movement (ahem…and LCD Soundsystem…ahem…and Hot Chip), but their new record Free Your Mind is pitiful. While the luster of the first three records is gone on their most recent effort, approaching the edges of the Twin Peaks stage to hear them close out their set with the classic “Out There On The Ice” was everything that made that band significant.
Best Way to Arrive to The Festival – Lyft
Lyft’s were surprisingly easy to catch at around 1pm on all three days and the drivers were in good spirits. My Saturday driver, Willie was playing Miles Davis in the car and waxing philosophical on the way to the festival about one of the most classic yet progressive musicians of all time was so fitting. It took away all the stress of getting to where you’re going in the city. Shouts to the pink mustache!
Best Celebrity Tweet From The Festival – Patrick Stewart
If it’s good enough for Captain Jean-Luc Pickard, it’s good enough for me. See you next year peeps!