Day One

"Hey, we're at Outside Lands together. We're spoiled," were the first words from the weekend's opening performer, Natalie Prass, at Golden Gate Park's Lindley Meadow. It's Friday, day one of the three-day festival that's essentially San Francisco's bi-annual backyard BBQ (the other being Hardly Strictly Bluegrass). Walk past the opening gate and you're hit with the wafting aroma of paired Bizam Donut Burgers with sweet potato tots. Gourmet carnival food is on the menu this afternoon.

The whole day had this genuine climate of appreciation between the artists and the Bay Area crowd. "I don't like audiences... but you guys are all right," glowed Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, who played their latest album Star Wars front to back before digging into their 15-plus year library to give us 'Heavy Metal Drummer.' "I'm not pandering San Francisco," said Tweedy, "you guys are the best."

St. Vincent's performance is another consensus highlight up to this point. The pitch-perfect delivery and guitar riffs had an attention to detail reminiscent of Mark Ronson and the Business International shows from the early '10s. Every sound and movement was interwoven to represent the music exactly the way she had intended.

But you'd be remiss to focus solely on the talent from the main stages. The fashionably late D'Angelo gave us an hour of his soul, but did you see the huge glowing muppet eyeballs in the trees? Or have you found the secret stage where the weekend's top headliners perform to a crowd no bigger than 50? I heard it was somewhere in Choco Lands, a spring of sweet treats and gourmet cupcakes tucked deep in the forest that acts as a pathway between main stages, right next to Juxtapoz Magazine's Dr. Flotsam installation.

There are areas of this adult funhouse that we haven't even explored yet, like The Barbary comedy tent that's curated by SF Sketchfest and Gastro Magic where in a few hours we're all gathering for "Beignets & Bounce Brunch with Big Freedia & Brenda's Soul Food." Stay tuned.

Day Two

Day two of the 8th annual Outside Lands was marked with charged up performances by some of the more household acts. The capacity audience of 70,000 arrived early Saturday to catch hometown indie folk band, HEARTWATCH (FKA The Tropics) at the Panhandle stage. It's an interesting space to find yourself, as The Panhandle is right in the center of Eco Lands, the "hub of environmental consciousness and community engagement" within the festival. Festival goers could grab seasonal produce from resident Full Belly Farm, or take a worm composting workshop with Garden For the Environment. And just north of all that is the Digital Detox & Camp Grounded Analog Zone where no phones or cameras are allowed.

The boldest statement of the day came from Billy Idol, who for an hour covered every inch of the stage hitting all the high notes. "Do you feel all right? I feel all right!" Billy repeated several times before unbuttoning his shirt and giving the crowd 'Rebel Yell.' "Show them what a hit song sounds like." It was nearing the midway mark for the festival now and the crowd was in top form, anticipating the psychedelic shift Tame Impala would bring to stage as dusk rolled in on yet another beautiful San Francisco afternoon. 'Let it Happen' got things moving and rode for nearly 8 minutes. "The trees have eyes," noted lead singer Kevin Parker, before moving into 'Mind Mischief.' New songs from Currents flowed seamlessly with the older ones, with standouts 'The Moment' and 'Eventually' getting the best reception.

A scheduling conflict for some happened during the final hours on Saturday as The Black Keys shared the same set time as Kendrick Lamar. The reasonable compromise for most was to catch the first 15 minutes of the Akron, Ohio rockers before sprinting across the festival to Twin Peaks for what was an incredibly charged-up performance by Kendrick. Every phrase had intention. It wasn't a passive, through-the-motions appearance. He was engaged, giving props to people in the audience he'd recognized from older shows before getting into 'The Art of Peer Pressure'. An interesting moment happened towards the last portion of his set, where Kendrick set the amped up crowd on alert with a shoutout to his mentor Dr. Dre. The crowd was certain that this meant an appearance by the Doc. Unfortunately he never showed, but no one had room for disappointment after such an incredible day, and tomorrow we have Sir Elton John for two hours. Here we go!

Day Three

"They're not giving up on this song. It's still going!" --Caribou fan

As with most festivals on Sundays, the energy in Golden Gate Park's Polo Fields was slow moving to start, and understandably so. Following a fire performance by Kendrick Lamar, we deserved a collective breather. It wasn't until Hot Chip jumped onto Lands End and gave us a locked in improv of 'One Life Stand' that we saw the festival blankets wrapped up and people back on their feet. The atmosphere was light and full of excitement on the field now. "Woooo yeahhh!" was heard in the crowd by lead singer Alexis Taylor, who replied "The feeling's mutual."

"Hey Outside Lands," said Odesza's Harrison Mills, "I know you've been rocking, but I think it's time we have one big dance party." The Seattle duo made full use of Twin Peak's sound system, playing through most of their In Return LP--a popular collection of euphoric dance tracks--with the support of a brass horn section. Now if Odesza's set was about a comfortable shoulder lean or hands up in the air kind of sway, Dan Deacon tore that vibe to shreds and went full throttle. There were fans chasing each other around Eco Lands in pure elation, electro headbanging and groups forming a dance circle to 'Sheathed Wings'. The addition of a live drummer added a punk edge and freed Deacon up to add more sounds and effects to his vocals. Winner of best crowd goes to the untethered group here at the Panhandle Stage.

"They're not giving up on this song. It's still going," yelled one Caribou fan to his friends during the second half of 'Our Love'. We learned Sunday that Dan Snaith is not a quitter. He and his band squeezed every ounce of dance from their performance, extending each song out to reveal its full arc. Those who opted to stay on the opposite end of Golden Gate Park to catch the last of Caribou instead of snagging a great spot for Elton John were rewarded with a psychedelic tranced-out live performance of 'Sun', one of the best jams of the weekend.

Elton John sparkled as Outside Lands' closer. The legendary rocker gave us a commanding performance, one that even left his supporting band visibly in awe of the moment. Something I overlooked was how badass Sir Elton is on the piano. Decades of performances show in his polish. The set was full of classic rock gems, the kind that inspire uninhibited dancing and crowd sing-a-longs. Elton encored with 'Crocodile Rock', said a heartfelt "thank you" to San Francisco and banged the lid of his grand piano shut a few times as an animated bow to SF's long ovation.

Best Food: Señor Sisig's California Burrito
Best Local Performer: Lake Street Drive
Best Crowd: Dan Deacon
Best Performance: Billy Idol




Angus and Julia Stone


Cold War Kids




Kendrick Lamar


Mac Demarco




Nate Ruess


Ryn Weaver


Shakey Graves


Tame Impala


The Drums


Twin Peaks

Waters2 Waters