The Very Best of Outside Lands 2018, Day 1

Perfume Genius's weird limbo moves, Carly Rae Jepsen's wig-clad dancer's even more exuberant moves, and a surprisingly high-energy set from Beck.

Lucy Dacus
She performed at the Panhandle later in the day, but we caught some of her much-smaller set at Cocktail Magic in the three o’clock hour. You can never play too many covers at festivals. Dacus’ acoustic version of Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” lured us in, and her gorgeous, Franglais version of “La Vie en Rose” — which she called the prettiest song of all time — carried us away. (See the fuller profile from SF Weekly‘s Outside Lands issue here.)

(Nicole Pratt)

Perfume Genius
The fey-est boychild in the indie universe, Perfume Genius’ Mike Hadreas is weird and getting weirder. His on-stage persona has drifted away from the overtly androgynous look of his early career and into more of an eccentric aunt-uncle who wears ugly-cute shirt-blouses. He doesn’t so much dance as limbo beneath an invisible pole that follows him everywhere, whether through beautiful supernovae like “Otherside” (the lead track to his most recent album, No Shape) or screamers like “Grid.” Hadreas sometimes subs his own vocals for other instruments that wouldn’t translate well on the stage, but even elaborate tracks like “Slip Away” don’t lose their fullness when performed live. And he closed on “Queen,” the song that put him on the map. The relationship may be tenuous at times, but he owes a debt to Portishead.

“This is the first show that my dog has attended,” Hadreas said at one point. “If you see her, don’t approach.” 

(Chris Victorio)

Carly Rae Jepsen
Although N.E.R.D is fantastic and Chicano Batman killed it at least year’s 20th Street Block Party — which is only one week away — sometimes the best way to decide who to see when there’s a car crash of good acts all happening on different stages at the same time is to go with the person you’re least likely to see again. In that case, Carly Rae it is! Are the only two songs of hers that you know “I Really Like You” and defining-song-of-summer-2012 “Call Me Maybe“? Who cares?!

Arena pop goddesses, even the ones who critics like, often face the accusation that they’re manufactured or somehow inauthentic but here was some proof of life. It’s pretty hard to beat someone who looks like they’re having the time of their life on stage, but dancer Mark Kanemura did it. (You might remember him as the guy who’s exuberant Instagram videos went viral in June.) Shirtless, clad in rainbow undies and a bunch of wigs, and looking as though he’d been raging since Pride Sunday, he managed to chew through the scenery and work a parasol like no other. Shrewd move, Jepsen.

Father John Misty

Father John Misty
Possibly the most polarizing act on the entire billing — see this particularly devastating nugget of satire or the 2017 New Yorker profile where he comes across as more than a little self-obsessed — Father John Misty more or less repeated his success at Coachella 2016 by filling out the stage with a brass-and-string ensemble. Whereas so-quiet-it’s-almost-about-the-negative-space acts like Bon Iver can struggle to justify their place on a main stage, FJM aka Josh Tillman knows how to fill what’s been given to him. We’re not privy to his contract, of course, but that’s definitely an expensive move, so good on him for caring more about art than money.

He might be the latest in a long line of mopey white dudes, and he’ll definitely mutilate his own melodies for the sake of working a zinger into his lyrics, but he’s prolific and sardonic and self-deprecating and he transmutes his world-weary misery into an intensely charismatic presence. Wisely opting not to play anything with misogynistic overtones, songs like “I’m Writing a Novel” sounded bigger and fuller than the piano-centric album versions. It’s really hard not to hear the last verse of “Pure Comedy” as a Billy Joel song, though.

But “I Love You Honeybear,” the apocalyptic title track to FJM’s second solo album, was the closer, and the mini-orchestra really shone on the two lovers facing certain doom together. That was a highlight of the day.

(Chris Victorio)

I spent a good portion of the day warning people about Beck’s occasionally listless live performances. He’s kind of a musician’s musician, and he can be as stoned-sounding as Tom Petty and as cryptic as Bob Dylan — plus when he played Outside Lands in 2012, he was nothing short of boring. But I was W-R-O-N-G this time, and his Twin Peaks closing set was anything but low-energy. A 16-song parade through his 25-year (!) career, it was heavy on 1996’s Odelay (“Devil’s Haircut,” “The New Pollution,” and closer “Where It’s At“) with well-measured detours through The Information (“Think I’m in Love,” one of his most straightforward pop tunes) and Guero (“Que Onda Guero” and the shamelessly na-na-na based “E-Pro“). Nothing off Mutations and hardly anything from Morning Phase, sadly.

Other notable songs include “Lost Cause,” still the best track from his finest, most mature album (2002’s Sea Change) and the only cut from 1999’s deliriously wacky Midnite Vultures, “Mixed Bizness.” Here is the obligatory mention of his adherence to Scientology, which seems to have zero relationship to his music even though everybody likes to bring it up as some kind of moral asterisk. Stretching “Where It’s At” into a sonic envelope to introduce his band, he let them all show off their chops on random, minute-long covers of things like the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You” (or a drum solo) before wrapping it up. It’s also great that you’re 48 and you don’t ever physically age, Beck, but please play “Debra” next time.

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