FEMALE SUPERSTARS JANET JACKSON, FLORENCE + THE MACHINE AND JANELLE MONAE SOAR AT OUTSIDE LANDS 11TH EDITION…
Written by Sharina Bianka and Sason Bishope Parry
Who would have thought, even with a line-up that some might say wasn’t as big as past years that included powerhouse acts like Pearl Jam, Tom Petty, Radiohead, Elton John and Paul McCartney, that Outside Lands would still soar to new heights, delivering an experience that went well beyond our expectations. Outsidleands 2018, now in its 11th year took over San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on August 9, 10 & 11th for three days of music, comedy, good food and wine. Another Planet and Superfly the organizers behind the massive festival extravaganza continue to innovate and broaden the scope of the festival each year by offering more than just music. New attractions were introduced this year including Grass Lands, The Bubble Tea Party and Feast In The Trees. Also, this year marks the first time that females headlined and dominated the festival as Florence + The Machine became the 1st female headliner, with the Iconic Janet Jackson following foot. Florence’s day was the highest single ticket sold in OSL’s history. OSL also implemented a clear bag only policy, where fans were asked to bring personal belongings in bags that could be easily checked by security and to make entering the festival faster and more seamless, which seemed to work well. Ranger Ruth was added to help out our good friend Ranger Dave on activities and maybe just to keep good ole Ranger Dave from feeling a tad bit lonely. It was clear that Outside Lands improved on many areas of the festival, including the porta-potty areas, which were much cleaner and with fewer lines and that was a huge high note for me being a bit of a germophobe. Even the GastroMagic area was bigger and better then past years and seemed to be a hit amongst the older crowd as they ate from a variety of great food selections while watching culinary cookouts and other shenanigans that featured special guests which included Bill NYE and Portugal The Man joining chefs Eddie Huang, Matty Matherson, Naomi Pomeroy on stage to name just a few.
Our Friday highlights included;
BECK: Some may refer to Beck’s third Outside Lands appearance as his lucky charm, as he offered up an electrifying set. Those who skipped headliner The Weeknd for Beck were highly rewarded, as the 48-year-old Grammy Award-winning artist who brought his full band slain the crowd with hit after hit. Shout out to his amazing drummer Chris Coleman and a kaleidoscope visual setup that was pure eye candy. Beck performed songs across his catalog of 13 albums, with standouts being “Where It’s At” (and a reprisal), “Girl”, “Loser” and an epic cover of “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads. Beck was thrilling to watch and easily one of the weekends best.
MAC DEMARCO: The last time he played Outside Lands was in 2015, where he had a much earlier set time, so it was nice to see Mac closing out the Sutro stage Friday night. Clearly very comfortable as he stood shirtless and occasionally taking a swig from a bottle of his favorite wine, most likely courtesy of Outside Lands, Wine Lands. It was evident things had changed for the Canadian artist and for the better. Most songs were full on sing-alongs as we belted out tunes with him like “Salad Days” to the synth-driven ballad “Chamber of Reflection”. Mac DeMarco is just a laid back dude in nature, most Canadians are, but he kept our energy high as he played through some of his older tracks like, “Cookin Up Something Good” and “The Stars Keep Calling My Name.” He was so much fun to watch left us with a good vibe feeling that carried into the night.
ODESZA: For us, Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight who make up the duo, were the best act of the day. We originally wanted to squeeze through the jam-packed polo fields to get a close-up view and to dance our butts off but opted to the comfort of the media tent, where we still had a good view of the EDM superstars. They killed it! Song after song teleporting us to a magical feel-good land (hey Outside Lands take note, “Feel Good Lands” should be your next addition haha) and visually stimulating every chakra in our bodies, it was heaven, or otherworldly to say the least. Just when we thought they peaked, a group of drummers and a horn section comes out and just blows us away. From what we read afterward on message boards, the only complaint that fans wished they played when it was much darker so their visuals and amazing production could really be showcased. If there was ever an act that deserved to close out the main stage, Odesza should be at the top of Outsidelands list in the future!
THE WEEKND: One of the most anticipated acts of the night was Canadian singer/songwriter/producer Abel Tesfaye, better known to fans as The Weeknd. His set sounded amazing but was a bit visually boring, at least for us and could have benefited from a bit more production. Nonetheless, he brought his vocal A-game, sounded like a young Michael Jackson at times as we swayed alongside a massive sea of fans singing and dancing to hits like the Daft Punk collaboration, “I Feel It Coming”, as well as one of our favorite songs, “Starboy.” There was even the occasional star-boy fan in the audience sporting signature bling bling jackets and acting cool, maybe just a bit to cool to fully enjoy their idol on stage, as they soaked up their own attention and egos. We danced, we sang, then we bolted for the exit, cutting the set a bit early to avoid the traffic, and yet we could still hear the magic of his set as we walked to our car and stopped periodically to say, hey I love that song!
Our Saturday highlights included;
JAMIE XX: EDM was heavy this year at OSL and if there was one DJ act we didn’t want to miss on Saturday, it was DJ/producer Jamie XX. We got to the Sutro stage early only to realize we weren’t the only ones excited to catch a glimpse, it was packed to the rafters. He warned fans in advance that he was going to kickstart the night with a different sound as he mixed acoustic psychedelic rock with funky grooves and took us on an eclectic journey through the mind of a musical genius. However once Jamie XX moved to the digital portion of his set he owned us and became everything that we hoped Outsidelands would be. Seeing him DJ live for the 1st time showed us how great of a DJ he actually is, as he navigated the crowd like a true mixing ambassador and took us on a night that left us wanting more.
BON IVER : Ripping through a set with his back to us most of the time seemed odd at first, but given that Justin Vernon aka Bon Iver is a quirky musician, who writes experimental and beautiful soundscapes, it didn’t bother us much. His songs sometimes remind me of a long run on a dream that brings to life emotions hidden away and secrets that you want to tell but is too scared to share. Hearing them come to life on stage, as the sun set over the Land’s End Stage was just mesmerizing. With help from a 5-member brass section courtesy of Trombone Paradise, the quintet from Richmond, V.A., Iver delivered a mind-blowing, noise bending opening rendition of “Perth”. He played through 16 tracks that included, “Towers”, “666” and other fan favorites. At one point he asked fans to scream out loud so he could sample them for a future recording and got a mixed reaction when he told fans that if you start smoking weed, you would stop having dreams, later explaining he meant sleeping dreams not real-life dreams, oh well, its Bon Iver! Everything we may have disliked about his set, is exactly what we love about him, as he’s that guy that doesn’t follow the pack, does shit his way, likes to draw a spark from the crowd and then turn you upside down with his music – in the end, the music is all that really matters.
FLORENCE + THE MACHINE: Outside Lands first ever female headliner, knew she had big shoes to fill, following in the footsteps of other great headliners over OSL’s past decade and she came ready to leave her mark high! We were so excited, I nearly pissed my pants as I had to go so bad, but didn’t want to miss her opening haha and was I glad I waited, she looked beautiful. Like an ethereal God transcended time to take the stage in her flowing gown and ivory complexion, she sang out, “Hold On To Each Other”, Hold On To Each Other”. We were captivated and in awe, along with 30,000 others, we just held on and let go as her voice echoed across the field filling every corner of Golden Gate Park. She is a magnificent live as on tape, even better some might say, with a heaven-like voice showcasing songs, “Dog Days Are Over”, “South London Forever, “Hunger” and encores “Big God” and “Shake It Out” perfectly. Florence was magnificent, gracing the stage with pure class and when she exited with her band for the final time and fans started to file out of the park, we knew we had just witnessed an iconic performance from a musical idol and one that left us high on life, high on music.
Our Sunday highlights included;
PORTUGAL THE MAN: The last time I caught this rock band from Alaska I had no idea they would become one of my favorites and we were so pumped when we heard they were playing mainstage at Outside Lands this year. They opened their set with a Beavis & Butthead intro, yes the MTV animated classic and then tore our heads off with an awesome cover of Metallica’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls”. These guys came to kick ass, covering everything from the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd to raging through their own hits that featured, “Feel It Still”, the song that brought them into the mainstream and their biggest hit to date. They also entertained fans at the GastroMagic stage showing off their culinary skills and their love for good food. Portugal The Man were the rock stars of the weekend, at least for us.
JANELLE MONAE: OMG! Her performance was EPIC and my favorite hands down of the entire festival! She hit the stage at 4:40 pm, she was on time and put on a powerhouse performance from opening to close that was just wow, wow wow! Did I say Wow lol? From “Crazy Classic Life”, to “Electric Lady”, to “Django Jane”, she lit up the stage alongside an amazing band and horn section that had me and many others showing off our dance skills. Hats off to her guitar player who killed it playing a solo that for a minute almost stole the limelight from Janelle, which is not an easy feat. If Prince was still alive, given that he worked on her album Dirty Computer, he would have been on his feet as she did him proud and is definitely as gifted and as charismatic as the Purple One ever was. She was also visually stunning with all of her colorful retro outfits changes and her choreographed dance moves with her all-female backup dancers was just flawless. She is one of my favorite singers and proved why once again. Side note, she later told fans that she was backstage sick with food poisoning, yet still going on to blow our minds and leaving us in awe of her talents- Really damn, I love her!
JANET JACKSON: We never got a chance to see Michael Jackson live, so you could feel our excitement as we waited patiently for his legendary sister Janet Jackson to take the main stage and she did not disappoint! Janet lit up the stage with some of her best hits like, “Miss You Much”, “Runaway”, “Got Til It’s Gone”, “That’s The Way Love Goes”, “All For You” and “Alright” as well as many of her other chart-topping hits. There were many highlights but one was definitely when she performed, “Burn It Up” with the Missy Elliot video playing in the background. Her dance performance was as expected, tightly choreographed considering she was one of the best dancers to ever hit the stage. She also had a nice video tribute to her dad, Joe Jackson, who past away last June. Everyone in the crowd was smiling and singing along with her, me included, which left me with a mild case of laryngitis after, but well worth my karaoke moment. She was a class act and would often pause and ponder enjoying her sea of fans as though it was her last performance. While the music still played on in the background, she just gazed out feeling the love in the air. It was truly a special moment and an incredible way to close out a grand weekend with one of music’s greatest stars.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS WE ENJOYED:
GRASS LANDS: Being one that has indulged in many edibles and smoke on occasion, I was really looking forward to this new area at OSL. Grass Lands was promoted as a brand new curated cannabis experience which was located in SoPo (South of the Polo Field). Once I arrived, it was clear that Grass Lands was intended to be a marijuana educational playground for the 21+. Very cool that Outside Lands was the first music festival to have an area that focused on the celebration, education, and integration of cannabis products into daily life. Springing off of California’s recent legalization of recreational cannabis, OSL allowed us to enjoy sweet treats from The Confectionery, learn from “budtenders” at The Greenhouse, and explore activities like the Lemonade Stand, The Flower Shop, Farmers Market, The Smell Wall and more. I got my fill of lots of sugary treats, created my own bong pipe out of vegetables and actually learned a lot about Marijuana in all of its natural uses. There was even Hemp infused sparkling water and wine samples woohoo. I would say it was a big hit, considering how many people were there and it left me feeling all warm and giggly inside and out, trust me I wasn’t the only one.
BUBBLE TEA PARTY: Alice in Wonderland came to life this year at Outside Lands. Loved this area, so magical and was a cool replacement to my favorite Choco Lands which they did away with. Large magic mushroom decor, tea garden set up, a giant bubbles show and other fantasies and curiosities tucked away in the wooded wonderland of McLaren Pass really sparked my imagination. I wanted to climb the mushrooms, but security was on-hand to ensure that didn’t happen haha. We got lucky and strolled back there by chance at night, hoping to finally scale the giant shrooms and ended being part of the glow-in-the-dark Mad Hatter party and experience, which was a cool addition to an already trippy chilly night.
Overall we had an amazing experience, even with San Francisco’s chill and foggy nights rolling in, which was a benefit for OSL considering fans were lined up at the merchandise tent to buy branded hoodies, blankets and beanies. It was one of my favorite Outside Lands to date, for one it was nice to see female artists reigning supreme this year. Also, it seemed like an all-around good vibe from everyone in attendance. Everyone seemed happy, in good spirits and enjoying all that the festival offered to the fullest. In the end, that’s what music festivals are meant to represent, a feeling of unity, a coming together of like-minded spirits breaking away from everyday life to enjoy their musical hero’s and to forge new friendships and memories that last a lifetime. Outside Lands was all of this and more and were very excited to see what’s on the agenda for 2019.
For more info on Outside Lands go to: www.sfoutsidelands.com