Outside Lands Review: 8 Reasons Saturday Was Perfect

After a tremendous Friday kickoff at Outside Lands 2015 with St. Vincent, D’Angelo, Mumford and more, we set high expectations for the rest of the weekend – and Saturday’s fantastic day from start to finish delivered completely. 

Did Outside Lands sell twice the amount of tickets this year? Sure, the festival sold out in under an hour, but the incredible human gridlock was our only gripe from a spectacular day of musical goodness.


Cold War Kids

It’s telling that a 3:40 set in the afternoon is considered by some to be an “early” start to the day, but music festivals call for a different kind of schedule. That said, our arrival to Cold War Kids’ set on the Lands End stage was a tremendously good beginning to the day, as the Long Beach rockers hit the precise sweet spot necessary to start our Saturday off. From the opening of “Miracle Mile” to the stomping, riotously fun “St. John” closer, Nathan Willett & friends built an increasing momentum of buoyant bass and piano-driven grooves as the entire Western half of Golden Gate Park packed in to jam along. The spirit of the moment was ebullience, a pure sense of energized enthusiasm as the weekend hit its stride.

Billy Idol

Veteran rocker Billy Idol was a fist-pumping nostalgia hot rod, after a bewilderingly underwhelming start with the unknown 2014 single, “Postcards From the Past”. Sure, he looks like Satan’s bleached grandfather and his band are dusted off relics of everything gaudy about the ‘80s, but that didn’t do anything to diminish the power of his remarkable run of hits including “Dancing With Myself,” “Flesh for Fantasy” and “Eyes Without a Face,” among others. Interestingly, Billy lost his place during “Dancing” and rebounded with a number of “ALRIGHT OUTSIDE LAAAAANDS!” screams, but we forgot about that as we tried to discern whether to feel excited or grossed out that his cover of the Doors’ “L.A. Woman” was changed to “San Fran Woman”.


Live-Action Art Displays

In addition to being the best food curators in the festival game, Outside Lands also showcases a number of artists working their visual magic on-site for all to see as the weekend progresses. 

Tame Impala

Current untouchable hipster darlings Tame Impala, whose fanbase rivals only Sufjan Stevens’ in snooty adoration, are riding a considerable new high of confidence following the release of their new album Currents. Playing the main stage, the perpetually scarfed Kevin Parker and his band did a fine job of translating their soft psychedelia to tens of thousands in the gorgeous San Francisco afternoon. 

Delightful Weirdos

I love you San Francisco.

Ben Harper

“Is Ben Harper ok?” That random overheard comment stuck with me through most of his set at the Sutro stage just before sunset, as new opener “When Sex Was Dirty” failed to build any real energy either onstage or in the crowd. Harper seemed somewhat pained in his delivery in the first half of the performance. Not disinterested, but as if he were somewhere else. The groove and soul eventually took over, as “With My Own Two Hands” resonated powerfully in the unusually small crowd (Tame Impala likely carved into his audience with their concurrent set). By the time “Steal My Kisses” and “Burn One Down” came along, the mood was considerably lightened – and both were taken by fans as musical instructions. Making out and smoking joints at Outside Lands – hell, it’s a festival after all, isn’t it?

The Golden Hour

Sunset at Outside Lands is just about perfect. 

Kendrick Lamar

I’m not sure if anyone actually saw The Black Keys’ set, which ran concurrent to Kendrick’s across the field. We were packed in at the Twin Peaks stage with breathless compression, and as far as the eye could see I was surrounded by K-Dot impersonators, guy and girl alike, rapping every word like they’ve grown up with the flowmaster. Maybe they have, actually – 90% of these kids looked under 20. All the same, maniacal enthusiasm greeted fan-favorites “Swimming Pools (Drank),” the new ”King Kunta,” the California anthem “The Recipe” and A$ap Rocky’s ‘Fuckin’ Problems,” which was perhaps the most wildly received song of the entire festival thus far. 

Kendrick no longer seems to be the humble & hungry young rhymespitter he was when we saw him at Bonnaroo a few years back – but the fire remains, and so does the respect for the game. Prior to show-closer “Alright,” which Lamar played 10 minutes after his officially scheduled end time, he delivered a passionate speech about Dre’s genius. Having just released his incredible Compton album (read our review) – on which Kendrick appears in three songs – the crowd roared with enthusiasm in anticipation of Dre’s arrival. He never showed, but two bars into “Alright” and we entirely forgot about Dre.


On to Day 3 with Caribou, Hot Chip, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Odesza and, of course, the queen himself, Elton John!


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