San Francisco is custom to foggy skies, so it’s no surprise that weather aside, Outside Lands still drew a sold-out crowd of more than 200,000 music lovers for their ten-year musical celebration on August 11, 12 & 13th. This year featured more than 60 artists and DJ’s, an expanded Winelands, A Barbary tent with comedy and Improv, the Heineken EDM tent, lots of great food choices and of course the beautiful landscape of Golden Gate Park. Unfortunately, with any festival, there come a few unexpected challenges that even Ranger Dave couldn’t predict, but with a decade of experience and planning, organizers Another Planet and Superfly were able to make quick, on the fly decisions to ensure fans got their money worth. When Queens Of The Stone Age pulled out due to an injury followed by the last minute cancellation from hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest (which was hard for some fans to take), the organizers brought in Cage The Elephant along with many other surprises including Big Boi – who rocked the House By Heineken outside stage to fans delight! There was no shortage of talent as the line-up was stacked throughout all three days. See our highlights below!
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FRIDAY, DAY 1
Dr. Octagonecologist, released more than 20 years ago, was the only official release by rapper Kool Keith’s Bay Area Eclectic hip hop act – Dr. Octagon – and it was a rare treat to see the concept album which was part horror soundtrack come to life. The set featured Keith, super producer Dan “The Automator” Nakamura who sported a face mask and DMC world champion DJ Robert “Q-Bert” Quitevis and immediately got fans excited and into the mood as they poured into the polo fields for this early Friday afternoon set.
One of the best acts by far! Powerful, bluesy vocals that just hit you in the chest and with the help of an impressive band and female singer was impressive. His big hit, “Human,” got the crowd singing along and if everyone hadn’t already been standing, would have commanded a standing ovation.
Alexis Kraus and Derek Miller the duo that make up the Brooklyn based Noise pop duo were on fire! Whether you were a fan or someone stumbling across their set, there was no denying the charisma as Miller shredded on guitar busting out Black Sabbath style metal riffs, but it was Kraus who commanded the most attention as she strutted across the stage rapping and singing with a Rockstar attitude. She even took time to ensure girls were okay as mosh pits erupted, showing that she’s not just a music God, but she’s human too.
One of the best live bands period, with a front man that is like Morrissey on steroids! Singer Samuel T. Herring, was just electric to watch, with his captivating dance moves and emotionally driven vocals over his band’s synth-pop grooves, just mesmerizing! It was a non-stop dance party from start to finish and their biggest hit “Seasons Change,” just sounded so good, as thousands danced along.
Friday’s headliners were one of the most anticipated acts of the festival as they kicked off their 1st show of their World tour with an impressive line-up of featured MC’s and singers. Head maestro Damon Albarn, not one known to be shy, lit up the stage with hit after hit as the insane signature Gorillaz animated characters filled the giant LED screens. A sea of excited fans watched on as guest appearances by De La Soul, Little Dragons Yukimi Nagano, Bootie Brown of The Pharcyde, Mavis Staples, Pusha T and the nights highlight Bay Area’s own Del Tha Funky Homosapien performing “Clint Eastwood,” took the stage one after another. The Gorillaz rocked an impressive twenty-six song set list before they concluded the night. They were beyond epic and will go down as one of OSL’s best live moments!
SATURDAY, DAY 2
“Holy sh…t!” was the reaction from myself and the thousands who rushed the Polo Fields to catch arguably the most exciting set of the festival from this Brighton duo! Fans banged their heads, as mosh pits erupted to the massive sounds of two band members, yes only two consisting of lead singer, bass guitarist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher. If you closed your eyes, you would swear there had to be more musicians on stage, but not so. As the duo thrilled the head banging sea of fans with songs that included “Out of the Black,” “I Only Lie When I love You,” and “Figure It Out.” One of the best rock bands today!
The Sutro stage was jam packed for Australian Singer Songwriter Vance Joy’s Saturday afternoon set. Clearly a festival and female favorite, he spread the joy, good vibes, and sounds with an amazing backup band that included a horn section. Fans cheered, smiled and sang along to songs from his album, “Dream Your Life Away,” that included a fantastic live version of “Riptide” closing out the set with style and good fun.
CAGE THE ELEPHANT
The Kentucky rockers became one of the heroes of OSL’s ten-year celebration as they took the place of Queens Of The Stone Age who canceled due to injury. They took the main stage by storm, and their sound was amazing, as singer Mathew Shultz strutted shirtless and showed off his front man stage presence that had a strong resemblance to a young Iggy Pop with fan favorites “Cry Baby” and “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked.” Hats off to Outside Lands for being able to land such a great act at the 13th hour and a perfect warm-up to Metallica.
The local rock legends are no strangers to Outside Lands, having headlined in the past, but they clearly had plans to step up their game for the big ten-year festivity and their sound and production was just magnificent! With pyrotechnics shooting out fire from both sides of the stage, the band roared through a massive set list that could have gone on for hours including all their biggest hits, “Enter Sandman,” “One,” “The Unforgiven,” “Master Of Puppets,” and “Nothing Else Matters.” If anyone had any doubts about Metallica’s relevance today, this performance cemented the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-ers legacy as one of the best acts to ever grace the Outside Lands stage, and it doesn’t hurt that they are originally from the Bay Area!
EMPIRE OF THE SUN
Luke Steele and his Australian based band EOTS closed out Saturday nights Twin Peaks stage as some fans ditched Metallica’s main stage set to catch the exciting EDM band. Blending theatrics, amazing choreographed dance moves (courtesy of five sexy cosmic ladies), hypnotic video and a stunning light show, the band navigated the crowd through a journey of their musical catalog. Playing their hits “High and Low,” “Alive,” “We Are The People,” and “Walking On A Dream.” Channeling Jimi Hendrix, Steele shredded on guitar before smashing it to pieces, literally leaving the stage with a bang!
SUNDAY, DAY 3
Playing an opening set on the main stage can be hit or miss, but not for Bay Area native, Kristine “K.Flay” Flaherty, as thousands of fans showed up early Outside Lands final day to catch the rising alternative hip hop singer and songwriter and she didn’t fail to impress. She breezed through songs from her last two albums, rapping, singing and playing both guitar and bass showing off her multiple talents and her uber cool style. Songs like “Dreamers,” “High Enough,” “Blood In The Cut,” and “Hollywood Forever” really resonated with fans as they sang along and swayed to the beats.
One of the most unexpected surprises came from this young Maryland Native. We 1st caught wind of her from her viral video, where Pharrell Williams gave her high praise. Dressed in a colorful jumpsuit and channeling a young Janis Joplin she brought a youthful, fresh flare as she danced around belting out effortless songs and given that she doesn’t even have an album out, was able to entertain for the entire set. She closed out with Alaska and told the crowd she was having the time of her life and given the reaction it seemed like everyone watching was too.
The New Zealand singer songwriter didn’t fail to impress as she ripped through hits like “Tennis Courts” and “Magnets” before taking the eager main stage crowd on a journey through her newest album Melodrama. A pleasant surprise was Jack Antonoff, who performed earlier with Bleachers, jumping onstage for an acoustic version of Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.” Of course, she saved the best for last as “Royals” and “Green Light” took the fans into a frenzy, singing along to every word.
“I never expected to be in front of a crowd this big, I’m gonna play a hit,” yelled the Los Angeles rapper, who had the largest Twin Peak crowd of the weekend and brought his A game. Older hits like 2012’s “Hands On The Wheels” as well as anticipated tracks like “Collard Greens” and “Studio” got fans hyped! Q even paid tribute to label-mate, Kendrick Lamar by doing an awesome rendition of “Humble.” Even a few older festival goers could be seen twerking and feeling the grooves.
The rock legends that included original members Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend took the stage to one of the biggest crowds of the festivals as a sea of fans young and old stood in anticipation of the old school rock legends performance. They took the stage with confidence and flair, as Townsend entertained the crowd with stories of their youth and chimed about being too old to tour. But it was the songs that ignited the crowd, as even the youngest fans sang along to timeless classics like, “Eminence Front,” “Who Are You,” and “You Better You Bet.” They sounded bigger and better than ever with both Daltry and Townsend sharing time on vocals, while Townsend showed off all his guitar tricks and in all reminding us why they are still one of the biggest rock acts of all time!
Other highlights included the newly expanded Barbery comedy tent that had LED screens strategically placed outside for fans that couldn’t get in and still wanted to catch improv and cool jazz by actor, comedian Jeff Goldblum, Henry Rollins, Nick Kroll, breakout Girls Trip star Tiffany Haddish as well as others. Of course, there was lots of wine to sample at Winelands, arts and crafts to check out, giant installs and tons of good eats.
It takes serious planning and years of music savvy to build one of the world’s biggest and best music festivals, and that clock never stops for the teams who work behind the scenes at Another Planet and Superfly. Each year, they book hundreds of acts, handle production, staging and continue to expand on their venue footprint with creative new ideas and of course to ensure that it’s a safe and memorable experience. So we have to give credit to these amazing folks for all their efforts in giving San Francisco such a ground breaking musical event. It’s hard to imagine Outside Lands has already been around for ten-years, and they commemorated this feat with massive billboard style posters placed along the Lands End main stage field that featured lineups from all the different years. Looking back the festival has been nothing but impressive year after year with acts like Radiohead, Elton John, Pearl Jam, NIN, Paul McCartney, Jack White, Stevie Wonder and so many more. The organizers, Another Planet, can now add another amazing year to their legacy. (For a look at OSL’s ten-year past lineup’s visit www.sfoutsidelands.com!)
There was just so much to experience this year, and the festival ended as always on a high note with a skyline of giant rainbow colored trees, making for a magical feeling that everything in the World was peaceful and filled with good vibes, at least for three amazing days. We can rest assured the Outside Lands team will be working around the clock to ensure 2018 continues in this tradition.
For more information on Outside Lands and 2018 ticket information visit their website HERE.
Photos by Andrew Jorgensen, Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Marc Fong, Michael Chan, Josh Withers, Joshua Grafstein, Cal Bingham, Marianne Kuga, Brandon Yadegari, and Michelle Drown