This year’s Outside Lands was about as memorable and successful as one could ask for. In between the fancy, albeit ridiculous food stands — think ramen burgers and donut burgers — there were standout performances from Radiohead and LCD Soundsystem, as well as a bizarre trend among some of the musicians, like Miike Snow and Miguel, to dress in all white. There was also that pop-up show from Griz that resulted in a mass mosh-pit and (literally) dozens of people getting pickpocketed. Not cool, bro.
If you didn’t make it to Golden Gate to partake in the festivities — or get your wallet stolen — we’ve rounded up six of the most notable acts for your perusal. Check it out and remember, if you’re feeling bummed about missing out, there’s always next year.
Radiohead played the perfect setlist for their Saturday night headlining set. Sure, there’s at least a dozen songs I wished they’d played – cough, cough “How to Disappear Completely” – but it’s tough when a band has that many great songs. At the end of the day, Radiohead played more of a greatest hits set, fitting in “2+2=5, ”“Pyramid Song,” “Paranoid Android,” and set closer “Karma Police.” Admittedly, the set lost its mystique and power from simply being on too early in the day. “Climbing Up the Walls” – which was also weirdly quiet – lacked that extra oomph because it was still light out. At times, it almost felt like the most exciting aspects of their performance was the unveiling of their setlist one song at a time – a few notes in to every song, there were collective “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd. We all know how great of a band Radiohead is, but with so many songs to choose from, the collection they chose was near perfect, leading to a legendary headline set that attendees will talk about for years to come. Steven Edelstone
Indie newcomers Whitney brought some sunshine to the chilly opening hours of the festival with Chicago-inspired folk-rock off their recent debut, Light Upon the Lake, refreshing falsettos, and a uniform of cuffed pants. The band is somewhat of an indie rock supergroup, merging moments of psychedelic glam rock via ex-Smith Westerns guitarist Max Kakacek with retro soul percussion and vocals from Julian Erlich, who once played with Unknown Mortal Orchestra (as well as Smith Westerns.) As far as Outside Lands’ indie-rock offerings went, Whitney was the creme de la cream of the smaller stages. Artemis Thomas-Hansard
Looking out over the truly massive crowd gathered around Twin Peaks stage for Grimes’ set, it was clear the event organizers should have put the experimental pop star on the main stage, Lands End. She came out to “Realiti,” a trancy, euphoric track she originally posted online as a throw-away demo, that, after taking over the blogosphere, became the lead single to her latest critically acclaimed album, Art Angels. Soon after she announced she had a terrible wedgie with her infamous lisp, which really was the most perfect introduction to Grimes: a supernaturally talented, amazingly genuine, and a bit weird in the most endearing way artist. ATH
Following his neon painted back-up performers — one of which continued to dance although she limped onto the stage on crutches — art-folk icon Sufjan Stevens appeared onstage with a banjo in hand and magnificent, feathered angel wings for “Seven Swans,” one of his more subdued hits that for this show was turned up to 11. As he smashed his banjo on the floor — a major element of his many albums — it became clear that his entire performance would be over the top, too. And it was: While performing unique live versions of tracks from his latest critically-acclaimed work, Carrie & Lowell, Stevens changed from a full ensemble made of foil to a rainbow coat of balloons as he climbed closer to the crowd in the photo pit and nailed some pretty intricate choreography with his back up dancers, one of which (the injured one) was picked up off her feet by the trumpet player mid-performance. It was crazy, and it was weird — the nearby event staff looked on with obvious confusion — but so, so fun. ATH
Last Shadow Puppets
Radiohead didn’t bring along a string section to play their heavily orchestral tracks from A Moon Shaped Pool, Last Shadow Puppets brought along three violinists and a cellist for their midafternoon Saturday Sutro stage show to great effect. The band’s most recent album, Everything You’ve Come to Expect, is essentially a lesson in how to write a James Bond theme – heavy on strings and big choruses. While the band – the side project of Miles Kane and Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner – has been mainly playing fancy theaters and beautiful music venues across the world, their music translated much better than expected in the outdoor festival setting. The set was chock-full of harmonies and rock star poses – let’s be honest, is anyone on the planet cooler than Turner? – but the highlight was their cover of “Moonage Daydream” by David Bowie. Turner was born to cover this song; his sleazy swagger and newly coiffed hair lent itself perfectly to the Ziggy Stardust rendition. Unlike Third Eye Blind’s miserable Bowie medley the next day, the Thin White Duke would have been proud. SE
Whoever organized Sunday’s schedule did a great job: The one-two punch of Jason Isbell and Ryan Adams pinned together two of the most respected alt-country stars this millennium. When Adams made an appearance during Isbell’s Rolling Stones cover, it was a no-brainer that Isbell would come out for Adams’ set. The only question was which song the two would collaborate on. That was settled towards the end of Adams’ hour-plus set as Isbell joined him for “Oh My Sweet Carolina,” a spot that I would have guessed would have gone to Bay Area local Nicki Bluhm, who recently sang the fan favorite with Adams on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Isbell added a bluesy guitar solo to the acoustic ballad, which turned the track into an extended jam. The set highlight however, was a song made up on the spot. At last year’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Adams and his band improvised a song called “Three Fucking Balloons” about a man in the crowd holding balloons the whole set. With Outside Lands as a backdrop, Adams performed “Goodbye Two Balloons” written for a group who was holding a single red balloon in the back of the Sutro crowd. Adams may have played a flawless set of his melancholy alt-country tracks, but it was a hilarious improvised song that stole the spotlight. SE