by Emilio Arias
Friday - Top acts: Grace Mitchell / Tove Lo / Little Dragon
Friday's set-time shuffle in response to Tribe's absence gave André Allen Anjos (a.k.a RAC) an outstanding opportunity to leave his mark on the main stage. Perhaps it was wide-eyed nervousness at being moved to a stage magnitudes larger than expected, or maybe I just don’t particularly enjoy anything he produces that isn't a remix, but his sound fell flat and failed to get the crowd moving. Maybe I’m placing too much blame here, as the festival goers were still grappling with the loss of Tribe’s performance, but whatever the reason, RAC didn’t do enough to cover it.
Saturday - Top acts: Royal Blood / Bomba Esteréo / Claude VonStroke
Tribe touted Outsidelands as their final performance, ending a long tour that spanned 2017. As they grieve the loss of the immortal Phife Dawg, I can only imagine what the march towards this final act felt like for them. While the disappointment was palpable and the frustration very real (even more so for fans who bought single day tickets to see them), I certainly understand and empathize with Tribe’s no-show. There are rumors they’ll return to the bay to “rectify” their absence, but frankly, the way I see it, the legendary hip hop artists owe us nothing. Of course, having seen them a few weeks prior at Pitchfork Festival, my nonchalance is understandably not shared by my fellow Outsidelands goers.
Sunday - Top acts: Bleachers / Young the Giant / Solange
The last day of any festival can be rough with aching feet, regret from poor choices and dismay over having to return to real life but this year ended on a high note with some of the best acts of the weekend giving it their all and our spirits high, even as Karl the Fog did his best to dampen (quite literally) our buzz.
(12:25pm @ Sutro)
Quite literally the first artist of the entire festival, the New York-based Porches will be the perfect band to enjoy while the crowds are still thin.
Propelled by Aaron Maine’s raw and adaptable vocals, Porches’ lo-fi sound, sparse hooks and, “I could have made this on my Casio at home,” production evokes memories of Youth Lagoon, while also giving you just enough beat to move your feet to. Combine that with their subtle humor (listen to the opening line of Headsgiving and let the chuckles begin), and you’ve got yourself an act worth seeing over lunch.
While I’m sure there are many of us out there that might feel inundated with the 80s inspired synthpop revival of the last half decade, I’m all aboard the groove train, and Porches is going to be my guilty pleasure for Friday. Rumor has it that Dev Hynes (a.k.a Blood Orange) is a frequent guest at his sets. More than enough for me to be the first one through the gates.
(12:45pm @ Lands End)
The calling card for major music festivals has long been their ability to put genre spanning acts in one place. From hardcore hip-hop and heavy metal to indie electronica and funk, Outside Lands seems to take pride in the sheer diversity of the acts. For my money, Hundred Waters is about as wide ranging as they come on this year’s lineup.
The Florida based outfit combines frontwoman Nicole Miglis soothing siren vocals with Trayer Tryon’s subtle beats and productions into an act that would make Portishead proud. They can pose as your early day EDM act, while also coaxing you to close your eyes and sway in the early afternoon, which is no small feat on the Polo Grounds. Having toured with big timers such as Alt-J and the xx, Hundred Waters knows how to play to a large crowd, and their production values certainly look the part. Expect a show perfectly suited to ease you into the rest of your weekend with a gentle, but powerful push.
(1:50pm @ Sutro)
While Leithauser’s name may seem like a newcomer on the circuit, for the discerning fan you’ll recognize his distinctively nasal, yet powerful wail from his days fronting the Walkmen. As a solo artist, Leithauser has taken a decidedly different approach from his alt-rock roots.
Having stumbled across Leithauser at Pitchfork Festival a few weeks ago, I was very much enraptured by his passionate, folk tinged rock sound. Channeling the best parts of 60s folk rock and roll, Leithauser produces a simple sound that will surely be a refreshing oasis in a festival headlined by a band made famous by its fictional cartoon avatars (no offense).
His cover of Bob Dylan’s anthemic “Mr. Tambourine Man”, is a fantastic homage to one of Leithauser’s profound influences. Combine this with the fact that you’ve got Vampire Weekend’s secret weapon, Rostam Batmanglij, collaborating on his latest album and there’s more than enough reasons to head in early for a great performance.
(12:40pm @ Twin Peaks)
MUNA is the type of band that makes you feel like they wrote every verse just for you. Their lyricism turns every song into a vignette powerful enough to be seen on screen. Added with the tenacity of lead singer Katie Gavin’s voice and catchy refrain, their dark electro pop anthems are impossible to turn off.
Josette Maski (guitar/vocals), Naomi McPherson (guitar/vocals) and Gavin (vocals) stand apart from their fellow all-female pop counterparts by proving fearless in singing about the sadder side of love. Lyrically, their songs don’t always preach strength and survival. But when mixed with the boisterous melodies of the dance genre, the listener is still left feeling empowered.
All three members openly identify as queer women, which unless you listen closely, plays a secondary role in their music (like the choice to leave all gender-based pronouns out of their lyrics). However, the trio outwardly speaks about their sexuality in the media with the hope that it reaches their fans. In their words, they want to be the role models they always looked for growing up.
Appearing at Outside Lands this year is yet another stepping stone for a band with such potential. At the off chance you sleep-in past their set time, don’t worry, the band will be coming back to SF Oct. 18 at the Independent.
(1:50pm @ Lands End)
It seems like every festival has at least one obligatory Britrock outfit to keep the people happy. While Temples hails from Kettering, that’s about the only thing they have in common with your run of the mill English rock band.
Taking a cue from Tame Impala’s psychedelic sound, James Bagshaw (guitar/vocals) and Tom Walmsley’s (bass) sound is a sonic playground standing on its own. Just listening to the heavy and driving opening bars on “Certainty” would have you believe you’re in for a straight rock experience...that is until the glitchy synth cuts in, certain to give Mario Kart flashbacks to the 30-plus-year-olds in the crowd.
(8:05pm @ Panhandle)
When first perusing the official Outside Lands poster, one immediately notices the headlining acts at the top of the display. As your eyes wander down, your recognition of the names becomes hazier; you start to realize which of these acts you will have to skip taking a shower for, and whom you’ll be able to waltz in at 7pm and still catch.
By this seemingly foolproof formula, Bomba Estéreo appeared to be a lock for a mid-afternoon set. Imagine our surprise when the schedule was released and there, right at 8pm, scheduled against the indomitable Metallica, was the innovative Colombian duo.
While the rest of Outside Lands is head banging along to old (and for some of us, a little tired) metal standards, you will be finding us shaking our asses, stomping our feet and clapping our hands to the pan Latin-America infused electro beats of the Bomba. Taking the structures of cumbia, the wild energy of salsa and smashing it together into a groovy cocktail of electro-dance that is both recognizable yet wholly distinctive, Bomba Estéreo is the only way for you to cap off your Saturday.
One of the criticisms that Outside Lands has (rightfully) come under during its ten-year run is an egregious lack of diversity, be it racial, ethnically or musically. Well here’s your chance to prove that there’s enough space on the Polo Grounds for both thrasher metal and spicy Latin beats.
Lee Fields & The Expressions
(12:20pm @ Lands End)
What do you get when you combine powerful R&B, Motown era soul with the thrumming vibrancy of a major music festival? An act worth seeing of course.
While Outside Lands has long been faithful to its legacy act tradition, this year’s truly old school honoree isn’t those limey Brits closing out Sunday night. Nope instead, if you want to see a true professional that’s been touring and recording since the summer of ‘69, then Lee Fields is your man. Smooth and soulful as his heyday, Lee Fields and his band have experienced a revitalization since signing with Truth & Soul Records back in 2006, touring globally and just about non-stop, and somehow maintaining more vigor than acts half his age (Fields is 65).
More than just a curiosity, Field’s music is at the forefront of a Motown renaissance that can be heard in musicians such as Charles Bradley all the way to Sharon Jones and Mayer Hawthorne.
(1:20pm @ Panhandle)
Nothing frustrates me more than to recently discover someone as talented as Marco Benevento and find out he’s been making music for over a decade. But something tells me he likes it this way. A trained pianist and jazz impressionado, Benevento bounces from project to project, foregoing fame for a more sophisticated place in the music industry. He's a gypsy, a maestro and a jack of all trades. And he's inarguably the most qualified musician on this year’s lineup.
Benevento studied piano at the Berklee School of Music and quickly became a staple in the New York City jazz scene after graduating in 1999. Trained on acoustic piano, he’s since learned to experiment with an array of synth effects and drum machines, which binds his sound to not one single genre. He’s toured with members of the band Ween, collaborated with Annakalmia Traver of Rubblebucket, and recorded covers of songs from the Knife and My Morning Jacket.
There’s no telling where Benevento will go next, making him a must-see this year at Outside Lands.
(3:30pm @ Twin Peaks)
This band rocks. Period. If you’ve heard their single, “Drinkee,” then you already know. The jungle-pop anthem is infectious with guitar riffs, driving bass, bongos, and cowbells. The song is a brilliant salute to Brazilian culture (adapted from a poem by Chacal). And if you haven’t heard it live, you’re in for such a ride.
Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern are as charismatic as the songs they write. Their chemistry is palpable, and they know how to energize the sleepiest of crowds. The world barely knows anything about them because, as a band, they're only a little over a year old. But in that time “Drinkee” has been streamed over 30 million times and received a GRAMMY nomination.
The weekend will be weighing on you by the time Sofi Tukker’s set comes around. But if you make it in time, your diligence will be rewarded. Their set will without a doubt carry you through the rest of day.