The 10 Best Performances From Outside Lands 2015

first_imgFew music festivals can hang with Outside Lands.When it comes to the sheer scale of it, the lineup, the amazing food and drinks, all the different offerings — after eight years — the hand that pieces it all together has developed a masterful touch all the way down to the tiniest details. To put it simply, Ranger Dave clearly knows what he’s doing.With over 200,000 people in attendance over the three-day festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park this past weekend, Outside Lands had to deliver, and it did.Every year the lineup is loaded with living legends, current heavyweights, rising stars, and local acts hoping to make waves. This year was no different, featuring a spectrum of artists that caters to every sonic taste. There were few sets that failed to connect, so picking favorites is a challenging exercise, but in no particular order, here were our favorites from this year’s edition of Outside Lands.D’Angelo and the Vanguard The sounds, the sights, and the energy that D’Angelo and the Vanguard created Friday night were unbelievable, but then again, a true icon and a true showman can make the unbelievable, believable. Each song surpassed the peak set by the one before it, and the connection that developed between the crowd and D’Angelo was as genuine as any all weekend long. It was a dance party by definition, facilitated by the Vanguard’s flawless rhythm section and masterful instrumentation. After the set, the collective conversation was about how much the performance exceeded expectations. Lesson learned: never underestimate D’Angelo.Alex Bleeker and the Freaks: Play Dead (w/ Bill Kreutzmann)A music fest in San Francisco wouldn’t have been complete without some Grateful Dead. And not only is this year the band’s 50th anniversary, but Sunday marked 20 years to the day since the untimely death of Jerry Garcia. Shortly before Alex Bleeker and the Freaks stepped on the Panhandle stage early Sunday afternoon, word got out that Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann was going to sit-in to honor his longtime friend. The set featured staples like “Scarlet Begonias” and “Mexicali Blues” before Kreutzmann stationed himself behind his red drum set. He took a solo into “The Other One” before the band jammed into “St. Stephen,” and the end of “He’s Gone.” Kreutzmann walked offstage while Bleeker and the rest of the band sang “Ooh, nothing’s gonna bring him back.” While true in the literal sense, it’s hard not to feel Garcia’s presence during moments like that.Tame ImpalaFresh off the release of their new album, Currents (Read the review here), the skyrocketing Aussies unleashed one of the best sets of the entire weekend in front of a massive crowd at the main stage, Lands End. Stationed in front of tie-dye, acid trip visuals on the LED screen behind them, Tame Impala maneuvered through its old favorites like “Elephant” and “Alter Ego” while showcasing new songs like “Let it Happen” and “The Moment” in front of a San Francisco crowd that’s always embraced them. All the sounds and elements that used to accent the indie rock band’s music have shifted to the forefront, creating a danceable energy that’s more noticeable than their previous work.Cold War KidsCalifornia has been good to Cold War Kids, and like Tame Impala on Saturday, they felt the love at Lands End. They avoided their latest material from last month’s EP, Five Quick Cuts, and brought the hits like “Audience,” “Hang Me Up to Dry,” and “Miracle Mile,” which opened the set. It was those familiar sounds that loosened up the crowd, and the mutual respect between Cold War Kids and the San Francisco crowd was palpable in a way that said they might not be the indie rock band all others look up had it not been for the approval of music hub’s like the Bay Area.Karl Denson’s Tiny UniverseFor those unwise to Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, getting to step inside it Sunday afternoon was a refreshing change to most of the sounds that came from the Twin Peaks’ speakers. As he moved through his arsenal of woodwinds, Denson and the Tiny Universe’s potent ensemble blessed the Sunday air with its perfect blend of rock and funk that specializes in unhinging feet from the ground. The grooves were sharp and the jams were steady as more and more wandering festivalgoers stopped to bask in the vibes created by the best dressed band on the lineup.ClassixxOne of the best parts about music festivals is discovering new artists, specifically that moment when your ears catch something enjoyable in the distance, and like a magnet, it pulls you in. Saturday night, as the sky shifted from gray to black before The Black Keys and Kendrick Lamar, Classixx reeled in every wandering body that was migrating between stages. The Los Angeles bred duo, formerly known as Young Americans, brought their blend of house, funk, and disco music to the Panhandle stage, providing the perfect warm-up for Saturday’s headliners. Whether you were eating dinner or just walking by, it was impossible not to bounce in approval to those sounds.Check out some footage of the group playing from 2014:Kendrick LamarIf there were any doubts about who the current king of hip-hop is, Kendrick Lamar put that conversation to bed, murdered it, and dumped the body, leaving nothing but witnesses to tell the story. A seemingly endless, scrunched in crowd assembled at the Twin Peaks stage to catch a glimpse of Lamar. With a full ensemble backing him and a video screen cycling through visuals, he got funky on “King Kunta,” hyped on “m.A.A.d. City,” and broke it down on “Sing About Me” with every smartphone in the crowd pointed toward him. His charisma, presence, and abilities as a performer took root inside everyone watching, which created an energy that was felt only a few times throughout the weekend. Twice, Lamar paused during the set, taken aback by the Bay Area respect, saying, “That’s love.” Set of the weekend goes to the Compton native. GiversWhen New Orleans is your home, to generate the indie pop sound that Givers has is saying something. Their rib-sticking, lucid melodies created one of the most engaging sets that graced the Panhandle stage all weekend. The young quintet, led by Tiffany Lamson, boasts a huge personality, with plenty of hair to head-bang and contagious energy to feed off of. They debuted new material that was well-received, and ended the final show of their tour with some confidence to take home.ODESZA Sometimes it’s better to leave your EDM hang-ups at home and be part of something seething in genuine enjoyment. The Twin Peaks area became party headquarters, especially after DJ Mustard’s Sunday afternoon set turned into everyone’s guilty pleasure moment of the weekend, singing along and getting as ratchet as possible to what seemed like every club banger from the last decade. ODESZA followed Mustard’s beats, bringing some musical prowess back to the stage with their blissful, danceable music. The duo showcased true mastery of the tension-release style of electronic music that’s focused more on creating natural rhythms that flow rather than repeatedly building and dropping bass bombs. “Say My Name” was a truly idyllic moment as friends were lifted on shoulders and every climbable tree was conquered to get a decent view. Whenever that many people dance that hard with smiles that wide, it’s hard not to call it a moment of the weekend.Elton JohnWhat is there to say about Sir Elton John at this point? Following Sam Smith’s impressive, emotional set, donning a blue Captain Fantastic jacket, John kicked off the final main stage performance of the weekend with “The Bitch is Back”, and then went on to unleash every hit imaginable. “Rocket Man”, “Bennie and the Jets”, “Tiny Dancer”, “Your Song” — check, check, check, and check. Like Lamar’s show, John enjoyed the attention of the majority of the 70,000 fans in attendance. Most of the crowd lifted his vocals to greater heights as they sang along with the musical icon. Sometimes ending the weekend with a powerful performance is better than sweating the final notes away at a rager.last_img