The 11th consecutive year of Outside Lands kicked off at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on Friday, and the line up included Billie Eilish, N.E.R.D, Carly Rae Jepsen, Father John Misty, Mac Demarco, Beck and The Weeknd. The morning started off foggy and breezy, but that didn’t stop crowds from showing up early in the morning to enter the festival grounds. Among the sprouting food tents, art displays and merchandise booths, Shannon & the Clams were the first artist to perform at the Twin Peaks stage.
The band’s energy was infectious and immediately brought the audience to their feet and drew in the surrounding crowds. Singer Shannon Shaw noted being impressed by the size of the crowd, saying it was much larger than they expected. Despite Shaw stating that the freezing cold was keeping her fingers numb, the band was clearly having a good time and showed off their chemistry joking around and making faces at each other while performing. Some of the songs that filled their set included “It’s Too Late,” “Point of Being Right” and “The Boy.” Even those who weren’t familiar with the band were singing along to “Ozma” by the end of it. Everyone in the crowd was constantly twisting and jumping with the strangers around them to the band’s doo-wop rhythms. The band thanked the audience for coming to see their set so early and closed out their 40-minute set with “Hey Willy.”
Next up at the Twin Peaks stage was The Mountain Goats. At 2:05 pm, they emerged all wearing suits in front of their patiently waiting fans. They started with “California Jam” to pump up the Bay Area crowd before following with “Cotton.” Frontman John Darnielle jumped around the stage and headbanged to the beat, feeding off the crowd’s energy. Darnielle joked around with the audience with raunchy one-liners like “Hope everyone is having a good time, this is a song about death” before jumping right into “Harlem Roulette” without hesitation. The audience roared to the featured saxophone on the band’s decade-old “In the Craters on the Moon.” The first verse of “Damn These Vampires” went smoothly until Darnielle forgot the lyrics. “We haven’t played in three months, and I’m blanking on the second verse,” he laughed as he called on audience members to fill them in. Those that knew the lyrics pitched in, and those that didn’t were still dancing to the band’s infectious beats. Darnielle chuckled, shrugged and counted his way through the next verses, but the band was obviously still having a blast. The dozens of small groups scattered on picnic blankets far from the stage cheered on the band from a distance.
Meanwhile, Margo Price began her set at the Sutro stage, on the other side of the festival grounds. The alt-country singer stepped out in front of a smaller audience, but her roaring “What’s up San Francisco!” earned a hollering cheer from the gathering crowd. Price started off her set with “Don’t Say It” from her 2017 album, All American Made. She then introduced a new song titled “Leftovers,” and sassy lyrics drew in gasps and cheers from the audience. Her crisp, impeccable vocals soared through the space on “Tennessee Song” during long notes, and a larger crowd gathered. Among more of her own original work like “A Little Pain,” Price also performed a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” to introduce new fans to her rock-infused alt-country vibe.
On the biggest stage Outside Lands offers, Lands End, a vast sea of Billie Eilish fans were packing tight and hyping each other up for her performance. Festival staff members passed out grey paper crowns and spider tattoos before the show began, getting the audience decked out for Eilish’s most recent single, “you should see me in a crown.” The 16-year-old singer started her set with a short intro-style remix of her own “my boy” before jumping into “bellyache” and “idontwanttobeyouanymore.” The singer is usually known for her unique dancing and intense jumping during her performances, but a recent injury put her in a boot (specifically, a Louis Vuitton patterned one). She apologized for the injury and asked the audience to make up for any energy she may be lacking because of it. This clearly wasn’t an issue as the singer fought through the pain and jumped around during her performance anyway.
Eilish introduced the man behind the scenes, Finneas, her co-writer and brother. He stepped up from behind the keyboard to perform his own song “New Girl.” Fittingly, scenes from the TV show New Girl played behind him as he sang. Eilish continued her set with songs from her don’t smile at me EP like “ocean eyes” and “watch,” but also showcased singles like “bitches broken hearts,” “lovely” (without any surprise Khalid cameo) and of course, “you should see me in a crown.” The screen behind the stage showcased clips of her own music videos, Disney cartoons and Betty Boop throughout her set. Eilish slowed things down and took out her ukelele for an acoustic cover of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” before seamlessly transitioning into “party favor.” Eilish finished off her set with fan favorite “COPYCAT.” Clearly, Eilish is a dedicated performer, and her fans are equally dedicated. The crowd belted every lyric to every song and shook the Golden Gate Park ground with their dancing.
Again at Lands End, N.E.R.D took to the stage and started off with “Anti-Matter.” Pharrell Williams half-jokingly criticized the crowd for their lack of energy, saying “Is this Boston? Is this Miami? Come on! I thought this was The Bay!,” playing off of The Bay Area’s pride. Pharrell asked the crowd to open up circles for moshing and had everyone in the sardine-style packed crowd take a few steps back to space out. N.E.R.D continued with some of their older hits like “Everyone Nose (All The Girls Standing In Line For The Bathroom),” “Kill Joy” and “She Wants To Move.” The screen at the back of the stage showcased trippy visuals and a team of backup dancers showcases phenomenal skills throughout the whole set. The group didn’t perform many songs from their recent album “NO ONE EVERY REALLY DIES.” “1000” had parts of the crowd chanting to the chorus and examples of police brutality were shown on the big screen. The upbeat “Deep Down Body Thurst” had the audience bobbing as Pharrell ran around the stage and told more groups to open circles and applauded other groups’ energy.
About halfway through the set, the group attempted again to revive the crowd with a mix of crowd favorite hits from other artists including Migos’ “Stir Fry” and The Carters’ “APESHIT.” Pharrell showed off some of his more popular features as the crowd rapped along to Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and Pharrell’s part in Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright.” Pharell took advantage of the set’s half-time to attack “bullshit immigration policies and discrimination against the rainbow community, black, brown, tan, yellow… and disrespecting white women the same way.” The crowd cheered in response before the group continued with their own works with tracks like “Rock Star.” Again, the band stopped the performance to resurrect more energy from the crowd. Pharrell vowed to stop until 20 people were up crowd-surfing. He counted them out, and at 20, the band resumed. Of course, N.E.R.D finished off their set with a lengthy version of “Lemon.” The audience sang along, mostly to Rihanna’s part, as the band’s dancers earned more cheers. N.E.R.D definitely put on an energetic, exciting and eclectic performance, but unfortunately, much of the crowd seemed too tired to truly appreciate it.
Over at the Panhandle stage, Lucy Dacus was setting up for her performance. She had already played earlier in the day to a smaller crowd at the Cocktail Lounge and said it felt special and she hoped this performance would too. She performed many songs from her newest album Historian including “The Shell,” “Nonbeliever” and “Timefighter.” The crowd was smaller but still had a good time, and Dacus thanked everyone for coming and singing along to her music. Her vocals were crisp and filled the space. The stage lights danced to the beat of her songs, but sadly, the sun hadn’t set yet in San Francisco at 6:30 pm, so the crowd couldn’t get the full effect. Like many other artists of the day, Dacus took a moment to get slightly political and noted that the last time she was in San Francisco was for the March for Our Lives back in March. She thanked anyone that was also there and dedicated the following song to them and anyone brave enough to admit what’s wrong in the world. She then played some of her older songs like “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” and “Strange Torpedo.” She closed out her genuine, intimate set with “Night Shift,” and humbly thanked the crowd again for coming out to see her.
A little bit over at the Twin Peaks stage, crowds were quickly gathering for Father John Misty’s 6:50 pm performance. As he stepped out on stage, the audience packed together to get closer to the action. The bass was strong, and the music extremely loud, filling the large space and the never-ending crowd that was still forming. The singer started off with “Nancy From Now On” as the screen at the back of the stage showcased changing colors and patterns. “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)” and “Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All” continued to draw in crowds as the sea of dedicated fans sang along. “Total Entertainment Forever” showed off some quirkier visuals like cartoon monkeys playing saxophone. “Mr. Tillman” had the crowd starting to dance, and then “Hangout at the Gallows” really rocked the crowd. Father John Misty didn’t say too much to the crowd throughout his set but took this opportunity to dance around with the mic stand while singing. One emotional note during the artist’s fun performance was “The Palace.” The song had the singer sitting at the end of the stage, resting his head on his hand and singing emotionally and intimately to the audience throughout the ballad. He quickly got up saying “hot damn” before continuing his set. The music blared across nearly half of the festival ground, about as far as the audience stretch out, singing and dancing along even from far away.
At Sutro stage, Mac DeMarco fans crowded around for the singer’s 70-minute set. DeMarco immediately introduced each of his bandmates as he introduced himself and had the crowd say “hi!” to each of them. DeMarco performed favorites like “Salad Days, “No Other Heart” and “Chamber of Reflection.” The crowd swayed, sang and crowd-surfed along as the entirety of Nintendo’s 1994 EarthBound storyline played on the screen behind the band through the entire performance. From the first song, it was clear DeMarco loved performing and had amazing chemistry with his band. His vocals were clear and soared through the space, and the experience was similar to seeing a college band of friends perform to just 30 people. The energy of the crowd was euphoric without being chaotic, and DeMarco and his band had fun goofing around between songs. They told nonsense anecdotes to the crowd and showed off their inside jokes that the audience didn’t understand but still found joy in. DeMarco also took time being his usual quirky self, doing handstands, screaming into the mic and showcasing his John Mayer impression. The singer’s laid-back vibe made the performance seem extremely intimate and personal despite the enormous crowd. He hyped up his fans to sing along during the chorus of “My Old Man” from his 2017 album This Old Dog. DeMarco ended the performance taking his shirt off and covering part of Van Halen’s “Runnin’ With The Devil” mashed with an extensive version of his own “Still Together,” complete with screaming and a dramatic final explosion.
Meanwhile, at the Lands End stage, Day One headliner The Weeknd performed to the day’s largest crowd, nearly filling the polo field. The singer interacted with the huge audience and pointed out groups in the crowd that he noticed really having a good time. Of course, he performed popular hits including “Can’t Feel My Face,” “I Feel It Coming” and “Earned It.” The screen behind him showed off static and patterns to accompany the performance as lights shined bright through the dark San Francisco. The R&B singer constantly hyped up the crowd and the audience’s screams could be heard from far. The sea of fans seemed to know most lyrics to the songs performed, including “Wicked Games,” “Earned It,” “Often” and “Acquainted.” The pace slowed with “Call Out My Name” from The Weeknd’s recent My Dear Melancholy EP. The audience still kept up the energy and sang along to the emotional performance. Immediately after, bass exploded and flashing lights introduced “The Hills,” earning an overwhelming roar from fans. They sang along to every word as smoke and flames blared from the stage during the chorus. To finish off his performance, The Weeknd gave multiple shout-outs to San Francisco, bowed and blew air kisses to the crowd, ending his set about 15 minutes earlier than scheduled to close out Day One.
File Photo: Richard Saethang