The sprawling green meadows of the golden gate filled with eager festival-goers by the tens of thousands for the first of the three day Outside Lands Music and Arts festival that kicked off Friday. The shuffling crowds streamed into the urban forest from all directions, bottlenecking through the last gates where the security’s final words of “welcome to outside lands” fade at your back.
The comedy and variety tent, aka the Barbary, hosted comedy-folk duo Garfunkel and Oates early Friday afternoon. The two actress-songwriters Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome have their own IFC network show that premiered on the eve of their Outside Lands appearance at the Barbary. The red velvet tent full of mirrors and carnivalesque accouterments filled with people for the performance. The pair took the stage in girly sundresses with huge dimpled smiles on their faces, bantering from the moment they reached the mics, making the audience giggle before song-provoked guffaws. Starting off the set with crowd-appropriate tune “Weed Card,” they playfully satirized the legitimacy of medical marijuana cards. A few quirky anecdotes led to the next song where the girls asked if anyone in the crowd was pregnant and proceeded to sing “Pregnant Women are Smug” to an unsuspecting but expecting woman named Kristen. This tune segued into a batch of quirky songs about sex. First came “Handjob, Blandjob, I Don’t Understand Job,” an explicit tale of second base struggles sung sweetly with a guitar and ukele, the girls swishing their hair with endless flares of girlish charm as they sung, “move it like a shake weight.” Tales of bisexuality and ‘God’s loophole’ to virginity had the crowd hooting and hollering for the charmingly crass pair.
One of the festival’s first shows at the Lands End main stage, hip hop duo El-P and Killer Mike aka Run the Jewels, warmed up the bass for the weekend as they took the stage to “We Are The Champions.” Rapper El-P laid out some spitfire verses in the first song of the set, their self-titled “Run the Jewels” track. Plumes of sweet smoke drifted up into the brightly overcast sky for “36” Chain.” Killer Mike dedicated the next song to Oscar Grant before a ground-shaking bass began the intro to “DDFH.” The pair fed off the energy of the audience, which grew as many trickled in with the deep bass drops. A slow water drip sound grew faster and louder as Killer Mike laughed, saying, “You guys be high as fuck out there. That aroma of great kush, man, there’s nothing like the bay,” to raucous applause before El-P shouted, “Let’s make an ocean out there y’all are beautiful!” for “Sea Legs.” Next came El-P’s track, “Tougher Colder Killer” and then Killer Mike’s “Big Beast,” which he began with “shout outs to E-40, my personal idol. RIP Mac Dre, and Too Short is my fatha figga.” The crowd went nuts for the Bay Area nods as the beat dropped for Killer Mike’s track. Stage screens showed fans going dumb, dancing Mac Dre’s Thizz Dance to the hip hop stylings of the rambunctious duo until the finale of “Pew Pew Pew” closed out the set with ferocious verses and a scratching fuzzy beat that had the crowds dancing like mad.
Nestled in the grassy cove far across the fields at the Twin Peaks stage, female foursome Warpaint took the stage as the morning fog burned off. Without much ado, the four ladies all dressed in warm clothes walked onto the stage and dove right into first tune, “Keep It Healthy.” The hazy atmospheric guitar chords and light percussion could’ve gotten more shape from the too-delicate vocals in the opening song. The pace picked up for second song, “Bees,” slowly building the rhythm around the spacey repetitious chorus. Next came the eerie and ethereal layering of the four members’ high- pitched vocals in the intro to “Composure” where the groove picked up before the band found their stride with the more balanced layering of vocals on “Love is to Die.” Member Theresa Wayman’s vocals drifted above the hum of her band mates as she loosened up, dancing, eyes closed, hair blowing in the wind and the crowd grooved with her. Drummer Stella Mozgawa’s hair covered her face as she pounded out the beat. Wayman cradled listeners down with echoing and entrancing “oohs.” The mid-set danceable beats continued with, “Undertow.” The hypnotic layered voices with a heart beat drum steadily built the energy as the voices rose in pitch, compelling listeners into a trance until the chorus overflows and overwhelms as the Sirens sang, “Now I’ve got you in the undertow.” Next came “No Way Out” where the tempo rose and fell with shrill peaks and whispered valleys before the wonderfully poisonous, “Disco//Very.” The moody dance track with trippy synths and a danceable beat rose around the psychedelic otherworldly singing of “She’ll Eat You Alive.” Wayman thanked the crowd saying, “We’ve been so many places. This is one to remember. We love you guys!” before finishing out the set with “Elephants.”
At the smaller Panhandle Stage, Mikal Cronin and his band of long-haired dudes could be found playing in the late afternoon. Cronin has been making waves in the San Francisco garage scene with his pleasing blend of unlikely genres, often pivoting in songs from doo-wop-esque intros to 90s garage rock to psychedelic rock all in one song. Opening with “It’s All Right” showcased his versatility, starting with a soft strum and melody before slamming into electric guitar jams. The catchy tunes rife with blazing electric guitar solos continued throughout the set with “Apathy” and “Am I Wrong” as a kaleidoscope backdrop spun in the afternoon sun.
Back at the main stage, chants of “Chromeo Ooh” could be heard blaring through the speakers and chanted by the crowds. The electro-funk duo started the set with “Night by Night,” getting the groove going with charismatic dance moves and ending the song with guitars raised high. Lead singer David Macklovitch was looking smooth in a black leather jacket, slickly coiffed hair and black aviators as he reached Prince-pitch notes on tracks, “Hot Mess,” and later, “Sexy Socialite.” He laughed with the crowd and said, “Outside Lands what’s good? We missed you guys, you guys have always supported the funk.” They got the huge crowd clapping in unison for “Momma’s Boy” before encouraging more girls to get on shoulders for “Over Your Shoulder.” The shimmering funk beat ended as the pair went back to back with identical chrome electric guitars and played the chorus in unison. The closed out the set with “Frequent Flyer.”
Next up to the main stage, electro brother duo Disclosure played a set full of hits, opening with “F For You” and going right into “When a Fire Starts to Burn,” as the sun slowly set, casting a golden light on the huge pulsing crowd. Purple and yellow lasers flooded the crowd as a neon outline of a taking head on the huge screens sang along to “You & Me” and “White Noise,” playing hit after hit without pause. Blue and red strobe lights flashed with ear-shattering bass beats as the brothers finished with “Help Me Lose My Mind” and an encore performance of “Latch” that proved the highlight of the predictably danceable set.
As the moon rose beyond magenta and blue-lit trees circling the field, the main stage sat in darkness awaiting Friday night’s headliner, Kanye West. The first hip-hop headliner for the festival drew thousands to the stage. Neon red screens cast the crowds in a feverish light as the sound of wolves growling over a carcass became the opening bass pounds of “Black Skinhead” that welcomed the infamous Yeezus to center stage. The red screens flashed with the numbing pounds of the bass as Ye rapped the verses without pausing for breath until he sung the final verse at the keyboard, tempering the bursts of passion made all the more aggressive by carefully timed melodic interludes. The bass returned for the next song, cover of Chief Keef’s, “I Don’t Like.” Giant screens behind and flanking Ye projected huge infrared silhouettes of the diamond-masked artist as he blasted right into “Mercy.” His infrared silhouette turned to a striking black and white of Ye pointing to the sky before the lights went down and the crowd went wild. A remix to Foreigner’s “Cold As Ice” played in the darkness before technicolor lights shot over the crowd for “Cold,” Ye strutting across the stage with smoke rising all around him. Next came the familiar hook to “Clique” which Kanye stopped midway and waited a moment for the “Yeezus” chants to die down before saying, “You know it’s crazy when I read the press…makes you think that people don’t like me or something. People seem to be amazed that I say mad truthful shit and get away with it…the press writes bullshit like ‘aww I hear he got booed’ and always lookin’ at the negative. But we livin’ in Yeezy season. I got a clique. All y’all who support me are my clique Drop this beat and sing with me.” And we obeyed as he held out the mic for the audience to chant the chorus.
Next came “Can’t Tell Me Nothin’” and “New Slaves,” where his diamond masked face with aviators was a giant infrared silhouette on the main stage screens. He sang the beginning of “Power” before cutting the song mid-way to preview the finale song, “Blood On the Leaves,” telling the crowd to make huge circles and go nuts when the beat dropped. After much adjusting and readjusting of circles in the crowd to his liking, the red screens flashed at strobe speed and he screamed “This is Yeezus!” before the beat dropped and the crowd erupted in chaos. Again, he stopped the song midway saying “We gonna save that for then end.” Next came a slew of his old hits, “Stronger” followed by “Runaway,” which featured an impromptu bestowal of Yeezy wisdom as his autotune voice sung “and by the way, I’m Kanye. And I can do whatever the fuck I want, it’s proven.” The crowd laughed as he continued, “And I promote self-confidence. If you’re a fan of me you’re really just a fan of yourself. Don’t listen to no one else,” and a few more anecdotes before cheers-ing to all the douchebags. He gave a shout out to his “baby mama” back stage before racking up the hits one after the other again with “Run This Town,” “Diamonds,” “Heartless” and “Jesus Walks,” where he called out the security guards trying not to move.
He continued: “We’re gonna stick on the first album. I thought of this shit when I was 10 years old” and “All Falls Down” went right into an energetic “Touch the Sky” and “Good Life” where he changed the lyrics to “It feel like San Fran” to the masses delight. Next he thanked the crowd for the love before “Bound 2” and a messy finale trying to reorganize the crowds into circles, finishing ten minutes early when he should’ve quit while he was ahead with the old slaps.