Written by Shayna Chabrow
Heavy fog lingered over all of Outside Lands 2017, making for a misty event that was met with both highs and lows. The 10th Anniversary was hit with a blow before it even began when rock band Queens of the Stone Age cancelled their appearance due to an unspecified injury just one week prior to the festival. The high-energy performers of Cage the Elephant were picked to replace them but festival goers who came to see A Tribe Called Quest were also met with unfortunate news when the group rescheduled their Friday set for Saturday before canceling altogether. The group released a statement apologizing for their absence, noting that their grief for Phife rendered them unable to perform and that they would soon make it up to fans. But, the shows that did go on, displayed memorable performances that left fans leaving the San Francisco festival more than happy with what they got.
Belle & Sebastian
Stuart Murdoch and the members of Belle & Sebastian brought with them the ray of sunshine that was missing from the sky on Friday when they smiled and danced all the way through their spirited set. The Scottish band cheerfully played their most notable bright, indie pop songs that included “Piazza, New York Catcher,” “Boy With The Arab Strap” and most recent release “We Were Beautiful.” Murdoch conversed with the crowd, sharing facts and meanings behind their songs and the city they were playing in. He invited two girls dancing in the crowd to join him on stage to which they happily flailed around during “Sukie in the Graveyard.” Choosing to catch them after hearing of Tribe’s cancelation personally put a smile back on my face.
The synthpop driven band puts on a live show unlike any other touring band. This is mostly due to the animated stylings of lead singer Samuel T. Herring who puts his heart and soul into every lyric he sings. Whether he’s dancing across the stage, beating his chest, or staring into the eyes of the crowd while singing in a ravaging low voice, Herring is getting the crowd moving. A dance party of thousands broke out when they began with “Ran,” continued as they played through their breakout album Singles, and didn’t end until after they played their very last song.
Friday night’s headliners started the first show off their world tour with a bang and a slew of guest performers. Damon Albarn fiercely hit the stage and shouted to the crowd “Hello, hello, is there anyone there?” while the beginning of “M1 A1” creeped in. From there, the setlist jumped from album to album and songs that were left deep in Albarn’s pocket finally came out to play. Yukimi Nagano joined Gorillaz for “Empire Ants,” the first live performance of the song since the release of Plastic Beach. They utilized the feature heavy Humanz, and brought out Kali Uchis, De La Soul, and most surprisingly, Mavis Staples and Pusha T for “Let Me Out.” As expected from a band who uses animation alongside their music, their visuals were beautifully filled with their world of characters. And as if the 26 song, career spanning setlist wasn’t enough, Gorillaz brought out Del The Funky Homosapian to perform “Clint Eastwood” and everyone proceeded to lose their minds.
The Japanese House
Rising 22 year old artist from Buckinghamshire Amber Bain, otherwise known as The Japanese House, provided ethereal tunes that paired well with the foggy landscape that surrounded the stage. Her soft sound and harmonies made for a perfect middle-of-the-day set where people relaxed on the side hill and relieved their hangovers. Her standout tracks “Cool Blue” and “Saw You In A Dream” slowly got people moving on their feet, one crowd member gifting her with a flower crown, and her warm tones wrapped around the audience like a blanket, warming their cool bodies up for the rest of the day.
One of the most unexpectedly enjoyable sets came from Easton, Maryland native Maggie Rogers whose most well known for her viral video in which her music had Pharrell Williams tearing up. The singer-songwriter has only released one EP so it seemed that filling up stage time would be a difficult task. But, Rogers proved that she’s filled with more than just one hit and is a true, genuine talent. Her red jumpsuit with silver frills attached to her arms shined while she danced and encouraged others to do the same. She was the only act I saw who directly mentioned the Charlottesville events that happened just the previous day, making a short but moving speech about it. Before she finished with “Alaska,” she spoke of how surreal the past year had been for her and how much moments like these meant to her. Her reaction at the end of her set made the crowd truly feel these words as she was overcome with emotion.
Bay area rapper Kamaiyah started the last day of the festival off strong, getting lethargic bodies immediately hyped as soon as she stepped on stage. She commanded the crowd’s attention and had everyone shouting “Go Yah Yah, Go Yah Yah, Go!” throughout her performance. Her 90s’ hip hop inspired tracks set a vibrant tone as she jumped onto every corner of the stage. Her tracks “Build You Up” and “Out the Bottle” were all about focusing on having a good time and that’s exactly what everyone had during her performance.
One major thing missing from the Outside Lands lineup was a female headliner and with a performance like Lorde’s she could have easily taken that slot. Her dance moves were in full force as she came out wearing sneakers with a laced black dress that flowed in the wind. Before going into tracks from her newest, highly praised album Melodrama, she began with the crowd favorite “Tennis Courts” and her dance heavy, featured track with Disclosure, “Magnets.” The group that joined and surrounded her on stage were less like background dancers and more like performance artists. In the middle of her set, she sat down in the middle of the stage with Bleachers member Jack Antonoff (who co-wrote songs off Melodrama) for an acoustic rendition of Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.” When Antonoff left she stayed seated by herself and spoke of the loneliness that came with writing “Liability” and how strange it felt singing it to a sea of people. From that point on, the energy was electric. The crowd went crazy for “Royals” and her closer “Green Light” was transcendent.
One of the most crowded times the Twin Peaks stage had been all weekend was during Top Dawg Entertainment member Schoolboy Q’s set. Q brought with him hit after hit from “Hell of a Night” and “Collard Greens,” to “Studio” and “That Part.” The South Central rapper admitted that when he signed up to do the festival he thought it was going to be weak but he was shocked by how many die-hard fans he seemed to have. He encouraged every part of the crowd from the front, to the back, to the swanky VIP section, to start a mosh pit once the beat dropped in “Man Of The Year.” When he decided to show love towards his fellow TDE label mate Kendrick Lamar and cover “HUMBLE” and “m.A.A.d. city,” the crowd lost their minds and inhibitions to the best rap performance of the weekend.
The best stage production went to the weekend’s closing artist, Solange, whose white setup was covered in deep red lighting, the same color of her and her bandmates’ outfits. Each member was in complete synchronization with each other, every move choreographed by Solange herself. She displayed her incredible vocal range, twerked on all fours, and spoke encouraging words towards the hardships everyone was feeling in different way. She noted that when she has times that are hard for her she likes to “dance it the fuck out in [her] room” so she asked everyone in the crowd to dance it out with her during “Losing You.” In the last 30 seconds of her last song, while the horns were sounding off, the speakers blew out and the crowd could only hear what was coming directly off stage. But, Solange and her band didn’t miss a beat.