It’s that special weekend in August, and thousands of music-lovers made their way to the enchanted Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, CA for the annual Outside Lands Music Festival. Once again, the 3-day festival was full of good food, great music, and I’ll-never-forget-this moments.
Here we go. My first set of the weekend was the one and only RL Grime, and I wasn’t the only one excited to see the 24 year-old LA-based artist. The Twin Peaks stage was beginning to flood with people getting ready to get down and dirty, and boyyy did he give us what we wanted. From the moment the bass began to boom out of the speakers, RL Grime dropped hit after hit, starting with an epic Mac Dre/Missy Elliot mashup, leading into What So Not’s “Tell Me,” Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money,” and his own “Core” and “Satisfaction” remix.
The last time I saw Porter Robinson was on his first tour yearrsss ago. Don’t get me wrong, he was good then, but wow, this time around at OSL he was SO GOOD. I was extremely impressed. The 23 year-old producer not only played live instruments, but he also performed his own live vocals. His music and art inspirations were very clear as different anime characters and stories played out on the screen throughout his set. The NC-based artist appeased all fans with tracks from both his Spitfire and newer Worlds albums such as “Spitfire,” “Lionhearted,” and even the very recent Nero's “Thrill” remix.
To close out the first night, Outside Lands got weird with Amon Tobin. Performing ISAM 2.0, the Brazilian musician’s set was accompanied by his infamous projection-mapped 3D cubic sculpture. Known for his unique and unusual techniques, Amon Tobin hypnotized the crowd with his one-of-a-kind visuals and a musical experience like no other.
I was actually really excited for Milky Chance (I first discovered them for the amazing, entrancing voice in Thomas Jack’s remix of Stolen Dance). Unfortunately, I think the popularity of the group was underestimated, and the German duo was put on the wrong stage (too small, poor sound quality). The Sutro stage was packed beyond belief, so packed that from where we were standing, we could hardly even hear the soothing electronic folk tunes from the Sadnecessary album.
Giraffage was somewhat of a new discover for me, but after writing my Outside Lands preview and learning more about him, I was very excited to witness the Bay Area producer for myself. If you get the chance to see Giraffage, do it; he exceeded my expectations in every way possible. Known for his remixes, Giraffage played a fun and eclectic set including everything from hip hop (Tinashe – “All Hands On Deck”), to classics (Darude – “Sandstorm”), to all-time favorites (Daft Punk – “One More Time”). The crowd went crazy the entire time. People actually danced to “Who Let the Dogs Out,” can you believe that?
The Classixx are the perfect sunset set. As the Los Angeles-based duo took the stage behind their respective instruments, Michael David and Tyler Blake played through their Hanging Gardens album with mystical perfection. Indie electro sound waves from tunes “Holding On,” “All You’re Waiting For,” “I’ll Get You,” and even a new untitled track danced through the air as the sky slowly faded from blue, to pink, to black.
“Girl, I’m Kendrick Lamar. AKA Benz-is-to-me-just-a-car” is probably one of the most repeated rap lines throughout my group of friends. The crowd rapped it emphatically Saturday night as Kendrick tore up the Twin Peaks stage. Compared to a few other rap headliners I’ve seen this festival season, Kendrick Lamar was by far the best; this is what an end-of-the-night show should be like. Performing tracks from both his Good Kid, M.A.A.D City album and the recent To Pimp a Butterfly, songs like “Swimming Pools,” “F**kin Problems,” and my personal favorite, “King Kunta,” kept the crowd dancing and singing along the entire set.
There’s nothing like getting absolutely ratchet on a Sunday afternoon. Say what you will about DJ Mustard, but his was one of the most fun and rowdy sets I attended all weekend. Hit track after hit track, the crowd was going absolutely wild to almost every single rap song you can think of. From classics like “California Love” to DJ Mustard’s own masterpieces like “Be Real,” “Post To Be,” and “I Don’t F**k With You,” the popular ‘on-the-beat’ producer started Sunday out with a bang (and some twerking).
Having recently witnessing Odesza in action at CRSSD Fest in San Diego, I knew the Seattle-based duo were going to be one of my favorite shows of the weekend. And I was not wrong: Odesza was spellbinding. The Electropop/Chillwave twosome represent the new generation of electronic music (confirmed by the size of the crowd). They stood strong behind their setup of live instruments on stage, as a major proof point against all the silly allegations that EDM is just noise from a computer. Tracks from their newest album, In Return, and popular remixes like Zhu’s Faded, had every person in the crowd dancing non-stop with a grin from ear to ear.
From one true artist to the next, Caribou was the perfect next act after Odesza. Backed by a full band, Canadian Composer Dan Snaith set the mood with simple but captivating melodies, masterfully built and layered to create the complex and distinct sounds you can only experience at a Caribou show. And when “Can’t Do Without You” blasts through the speakers, you can’t help but hug your best friend next to you and bust out your favorite moves together.
Claude VonStroke & Green Velvet
I mean, what can I say, Claude is a King, and Green Velvet was the perfect right-hand man. Performing on the smaller Panhandle stage and at the same time as Elton John, the crowd for the two well-known techno artists was small, but fully committed. Belting weird acid beats and sounds, Claude and mohawk-sporting Green Velvet satisfied the true House fans of Outside Lands.
Axwell & Ingrosso
I’m not going to lie, Axwell & Ingrosso’s show took me by surprise. But this same thing happened last year: I was not sure how the Sunday night electronic headliner would perform (Tiesto), but it ended up being one of the most fun shows of the weekend. I guess because I was such a huge Swedish House Mafia fan, I’ve always been a little disappointed in their individual solo careers and therefore wasn’t sure what to expect. However, the Progressive duo rocked the house, playing to the crowd’s beat-dropping, bass-loving desires. We danced the night away to tracks like “Sun is Shining,” Something New” and “In My Mind,” and it was the perfect ending to once again, an amazing Outside Lands.
What can I say? Golden Gate Park is pretty awesome, and the planning committee did a great Job this year adding new paths and shortcuts to the festival layout. The setup, however, does tend to cause bottlenecks and lots of “moving like a herd of animal moments.”
I’ve been to my fair share of festivals and I expect a lot of people to be there, but this year Outside Lands was C-R-O-W-D-E-D. Definitely the most crowded I’ve ever seen it, and maybe the most crowded I’ve seen a festival, ever. There were massive amounts of people, which led to long lines and almost impossible missions to get to a good spot at any stage.
Score: 6 out of 10
Outside Lands is also a food, wine, and beer festival, and with San Francisco being such a foodie town, top-notch nom and drink options are a must. From pork belly burgers, to peanut tofu nachos, gourmet s’mores, there is no limit to what you can eat. Got a sweet tooth? Wander through the magic forest to visit Chocolands and come out the other side to see Cheeselands. Parched? The extensive Winelands and Beerlands offer over 30 brewery/winery options to quench your thirst.
Also, there seems to be plenty of bathrooms around the venue. I must note however, because of the crowd this year, it took my friend and I over 50 minutes to go to the bathroom and grab a beer which is a little frustrating. I expect to be able to make a bathroom/beer run in-between sets without missing the next show.
Score: 8.5 out of 10
Outside Lands is known for it’s eclectic lineups and ability to please music lovers of ages and types. This year’s lineup boasted some of the today’s top artists like Kendrick Lamar, Mumford & Sons, Odesza, and Sam Smith as well as classic legends like Elton John. However, the lineup seemed to lack a little from past years, especially from the electronic stand point. Don’t get me wrong, there were some amazing artists showcased, but not the electronic explosion I was hoping for.
Score: 7.5 out of 10
If you can make it Outside Lands, go. Just go. I might be bias because I live in the wonderful city of San Francisco, but it’s truly a magical place. No matter who’s playing, Outside Lands is about the experience. The experience of being in the moment, with your friends, and yourself, and creating memories you’ll never forget.