Outside Lands 2017: Metallica and Gorillaz Rock, The Who Give First-Rate Finale
The 10th annual Outside Lands brought thousands to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park over the weekend. Throughout the three-day-long event (Aug. 11-13) a legendary slew of artists took to the stage of this colorful music festival in the city’s famed Golden Gate Park. Many headlines have come out of Outside Lands, one of the biggest, unfortunately, was not good.
Renowned hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest were among the top headliners slated to perform, but just ahead of their Friday night set the group informed organizers that they were forced to cancel “due to unforeseen travel issues.” This was a big slam to single-day ticket holders, many of whom likely purchased the Friday night pass just to see the celebrated NYC rap collective. Those with a weekend-pass felt relieved when the festival tweeted out their rescheduled performance set for Saturday at 7 p.m., only to be disappointed when Saturday evening rolled around and ATCQ informed they were, once again, canceling.
Lowlights aside, the weekend saw plenty of artists take the stage ready to wow. On Friday, early afternoon artists like Swedish pop star Tove Lo – who, as she always does, gave a raucous performance which included her flashing the crowd during “Talking Body” – and Brooklyn-based noise pop band Sleigh Bells – who were making ears bleed and heads bang across the park – led concert-goers into an evening rife with promise. The Swedes once again stole the show as Little Dragon took to the main stage. Led by singer Yukimi Nagano, dressed in a neon avant-garde getup that looked like Curious George meets Carmen San Diego, this outstanding dream pop band gave a stellar performance ahead of the long-awaited Fleet Foxes return from hiatus. Through the confusion and last-minute set changes, this baroque indie folk band had a massive crowd before them, many of whom stuck around after Tribe’s cancelation. The band’s first album in six years, “Crack-Up,” was recently released giving the Seattleites plenty of ammunition to impress the thousands that stood before them. Closing out Friday night was Gorillaz, arguably one of the most highly-anticipated acts of the weekend. Their most recent comeback album, “Humanz,” has been blowing minds across the world since its release in late April. As an album full of collaborations, front man Damon Albarn and company gave the full treatment to fans bringing out artists like Pusha T, Kali Uchis, Del the Funky Homosapien, Brit-rapper Little Simz and even Little Dragon singer Yukimi Nagano to perform “Empire Ants” from 2010’s “Plastic Beach,” a song Gorillaz haven’t played live since the album’s release.
Saturday saw a ton of indie-rock acts including the all-girl outfit Warpaint, Jersey rock trio Real Estate, British rock band Temples, rising L.A. folk stars Dawes, English duo Royal Blood and Aussie singer-songwriter Vance Joy. Queens of the Stone Age was originally scheduled to perform Saturday night but were forced to cancel prior to the festival start, but fans feared not as the increasingly legendary Cage the Elephant took over. This boisterous, loud, unruly and down-right rock n’ roll band from Kentucky tore through their set led by front man and Mick Jagger impersonator Matt Shultz. At certain points, most members of the six-piece rock band made their way into the crowd to rage amongst their enthusiastic fans. It was a true multi-sensory experience, complete with fire and colored smoke, putting fans in just the right mindset for Metallica. Guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich stunned the SF crowd with a devilish performance accentuated by lasers, pyrotechnics and ending with a fireworks show. As bay area natives, Metallica drew more than enough local fans creating one of the biggest crowds of the weekend surrounding their own modified, rounded stage. “Master of Puppets” was among the favorites of the two-hour set, punctuated by the band’s biggest hit “Enter Sandman.”
Sunday saw an equally impressive lineup with rapper K.Flay, rising electro-blues star Jacob Banks, “Alaska” songwriter Maggie Rogers, Brazillian-inspired dance duo Sofi Tukker and Irish folk artist James Vincent McMorrow all taking the sunlit stages. Queens rap star Action Bronson kicked off the evening with fresh tracks from his upcoming “Blue Chips 7000” album. The foodie emcee bounced around stage, proudly showcasing his red beard and tattoos, splashing water and interacting with the lively crowd. SFPD kindly looked the other way as blunt after blunt was being passed around. As the sun set, the mist began to rise during Lorde’s 6:00 set. The young New Zealander rendered hits from her highly-acclaimed 2013 album “Pure Heroine” as well as the equally celebrated follow-up “Melodrama” from earlier in the summer. Providing one hell of a finale were The Who. Led by surviving members Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, these aging rock stars didn’t miss a beat as they plowed through “Who Are You” and “My Generation.” Much of Sunday’s performances were tinged with sadness, however, when news spread of that day’s Charlottesville, Va. protests and subsequent terror attack. Many artists denounced the white supremacists responsible, including Townshend, who raised his red Stratocaster to declare “This red guitar kills fascists!” – a take on the famous Woody Guthrie quote from 1941. While tough to overcome such a mood, The Who made sure to end on a positive note with tracks like “The Kids are Alright” and “Pinball Wizard” while Daltrey went into full pinwheel guitar mode. Lastly, the guitarist thanked the crowd in true Bay Area fashion, “Thank you San Francisco for all your pot. I’m high as a fuckin’ kite.”
Music wasn’t the only highlight of Outside Lands. Comedy played a central role as well with The Barbary Tent, a stage curated by SF Sketchfest, hosting huge names in comedy and film over the weekend. Nick Kroll, known from his role as Rodney Ruxin in FX’s “The League” and a plethora of guest spots on various shows including “Parks and Rec,” performed his rarely seen stand-up routine alongside fellow “Nick” comedian and musician Nick Thune. Actor/musician Jeff Goldbloom took a break from his upcoming roles in the “Jurassic World” sequel and the new “Thor: Ragnarok” movie to perform some comedy-tinged jazz music with The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. Other acts included Roy Wood Jr. (“The Daily Show”), Todd Barry, Nikki Glaser, Henry Rollins and the comedy-horror show “The Last Podcast on the Left.”
As a gastro-centric city, San Francisco’s premier music festival wouldn’t be complete without Gastromagic, a show where food meets music. Here, artists collaborated with local chefs to put on a cooking exhibition that was simultaneously hilarious and informing. Participants included rapper Action Bronson, comedian Matt Besser of Upright Citizen Brigade, twerk-master Big Freedia and celebrity chef Roy Choi.
Outside Lands really did have it all. From a vast selection of local craft beer and cider at (surprisingly) affordable prices, to live painting exhibitions by big names in street art, to a wine-themed mini-golf course called The Back Wine, to an hour of free food and a rock climbing wall. As always, OL continues to outdo itself, making it one of the most sought-after festival tickets each summer.
Outside Lands took place from Aug. 11-13 at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.