Sadly, the time has come to say goodbye to Outside Lands festival mascot Ranger Dave, the spectacular stages, iconic windmills and beloved draft Beer Garden after the three day music festival had its last performances on Sunday. Festival-goers have returned to the daily grind, but are back at work or school Monday with the epic performances from Outside Lands’ final day burned in their memories.
After over 50 years of performing music, surviving members of The Who Roger Daltrey and guitarist Pete Townshend headlined the third day to close out Outside Lands, barely making the strict 9:30 music curfew. Daltrey and Townsend proved age is only a number after looking as youthful as ever on stage and keeping the crowd’s energy up to 100% during their whole set. They played fan favorites like “Who Are You?,” “I Can’t Explain” and “My Generation,” giving attendees a heavy dose of classic old-school material for those having their first The Who experience. Retro visuals and spirals flashed on the giant flat screen towards the back of the stage, giving fans a flashback to what it might’ve felt like seeing the legends live in London during the 70’s. Additional songs from the set list included “Sparks,” “Pinball Wizard,” and “See Me, Feel Me” from their 1969 album Tommy.
Soon, the infamous San Francisco fog began to roll in from the Bay, blanketing the festival grounds and making it a little difficult to distinguish the mist from the swirling pot smoke hovering over the Polo Field. The artists on stage, however, didn’t seem to care in the slightest. Daltrey took a brief pause to proclaim “Thank you, San Francisco for all your pot. I’m a high as a fuckin’ kite.” But, by the end of The Who’s set, it was San Francisco thanking them for choosing their city as the site of the rockers’ first U.S. festival performance and allowing a new generation of music lovers to check another legendary group off their bucket list.
On the other side of the park at the Twin Peaks Stage was R&B headliner Solange, a nice change of pace in a lineup that’s heavy with rock and indie artists. A giant moon hung from the ceiling of the stage and a glowing red light illuminated the entire area, shining throughout the whole set. Solange’s performance was empowering and moving; anyone in the audience could see she was passionate about her message to love your natural self. Sporting her natural curly locks and a skin colored jumpsuit, Solange performed intimate renditions of “Cranes in the Sky,” “Rise,” and “F.U.B.U,” all from her newest album A Seat At The Table.
Before closing out the show with “Don’t Touch My Hair,” Solange stopped to address the social injustice that seems to be going on in today’s culture, and offered words of solace to minorities who were going through a rough time. “When it all seems too overwhelming,” she confessed, “I go in my room and fucking dance it out.” The crowd was luckily able to witness some of her dance moves live on the big stage. After her final song, a musician on stage announced the entire crew’s dance was choreographed by the vocalist and the audience let out a loud supportive cheer. A fan in the crowd even uttered “Solange can do it all,” — this was probably a common epiphany for those present at her show Sunday night.
English singer/songwriter Lorde was another leading lady to remember. Putting on a seriously emotional and sincere performance, at one point it looked like she might have gotten teary eyed. She wasn’t the only one, however, as the waterworks began to come from the crowd during her song, “Liability.” “This goes out to the times that were so hard, when you lose a person because you’re just ‘too much,’” she said. “But something good comes out of it, because you learn to be alone.” Thousands of people screamed the chorus back to her, while Lorde sat peacefully with her microphone at the edge of Lands End Stage. The crowd that surrounded her seemed particularly large for the time of day, proving that her set was something special to watch.
The audience’s mood changed almost immediately, when she sprung up from the ground and asked “Are you guys gonna sing this one with me?” The next song was none other than “Royals,” Lorde’s breakout track from her 2013 album Pure Heroine. She also performed a cover when she brought out special guest Jack Antonoff, the man behind Bleachers (and previously, fun. and Steel Train) and a collaborator on her most recent album Melodrama. They sat side by side one another at the edge of the main stage; Antonoff on the guitar and Lorde on vocals. It was obvious the two weren’t just partners, but close friends because of the way they were teasing and hugging each other before they began the song. With infectious chemistry already radiating off of the duo, they performed Paul Simon’s “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard.”
Rapper ScHoolboy Q performed at Twin Peaks on Sunday, and acknowledged his presence as the only other rapper at the festival that day besides Action Bronson. He opened up his set with fan favorite “Collard Greens,” and the crowd’s energy was already climbing. After “Gangsta,” and “Hell of A Night,” from his 2014 album Oxymoron, ScHoolboy Q encouraged his audience to get crazy and to expand the gut punching mosh pits that were arising throughout the crowded set. “Fuck whatever artist is coming on after me! Back side, open up the mosh pit! Right side, open the mosh pit. Left side? Keep ya’ll boogie asses over there, you’re too drunk for me,” he joked.
Since the rapper is signed to TDE, a record label that signed popular MC Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q took the opportunity to play one of Kendrick’s hit new songs “Humble” from his 2017 album Damn. By this point, the Twin Peaks stage was more packed than it had been all weekend, and it was hard to point out a patron in the crowd who wasn’t dancing. Before signing off and reluctantly giving up his spot for the next artist to come up, Schoolboy Q made a quick confession to the juiced up Outside Lands crowd. “I’m not gonna lie I had never heard of this festival before and I thought it was going to be weak, but this was fucking dope.”
Before ScHoolboy Q, rap artist Action Bronson tore it up at the Sutro Stage with friend and acclaimed producer, Alan the Chemist on the turn tables. The eccentric and confident Mr. Wonderful performed new singles like “Let Me Breathe,” from his upcoming album Blue Chips 7000 and old favorites from his 2015 album Mr. Wonderful including “Baby Blue,” and “Actin’ Crazy.” On two occasions during his set, the crowd started chanting “Bronson, Bronson!” And he took to his knee to soak in the glory. While his ego may be bigger than his 308 pound body — a weight he made sure to point out to the crowd — his stage presence is infatuating and he no doubt knew how to put on an enticing show.
Young the Giant was another highlight of Sunday afternoon as they got another year of Outside Lands under their belt after playing the festival in 2013. Old and new fans alike swarmed to the Lands End Stage as the group kicked things off with the track “Amerika,” followed by “Something to Believe In” from their 2016 album Home of the Strange. A collective sway could be seen throughout the crowd, as the group’s upbeat rhythm was undeniably hard to sit still to. The vocals were being commanded by lead singer Sameer Gadhia, and powerful guitar performances were displayed by guitarists Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata. Soon, fans were going wild when Young the Giant rolled into one of their biggest hits, “Cough Syrup.” Attendees halfway down the opposite side Golden Gate Park ended up having to turn towards Lands End during their hit song “Silvertongue,” when the sing-along could be heard from at least a mile away. After this year’s performance and another successful festival set, it’s safe to say Young The Giant is welcome back to San Francisco’s Outside Lands whenever they please.
Photo Credit: Sharon Alagna