If you’ve been following along with my daily recaps, you know how much fun I had at this year’s Outside Lands. But what constitutes the best of the fest? And what did I do other than see music and make a pilgrimage to Grass Lands? The answers to these questions may surprise you.
I’m just kidding. The answers are pretty simple. For the first question, I’ll pick three performances from each day that I would consider the best of what I saw. For the second question, I had some fantastic wine from Albert Hammond Jr.’s Jetway line of wine seltzers and Brendel, a Napa winery that had some of the best chardonnay I’ve tasted in my life. I also had some amazing food, as Outside Lands brings the hits from the Bay Area into one place. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options are plentiful, and anybody can enjoy one of the many unique options for food that the Bay Area has to offer.
Now, onto the music recap. I’ll do these from the bottom up (i.e. three up to one instead of vice versa) by day, and then I’ll give my top three of the entire festival. Hopefully I do everyone’s experiences justice.
Although Friday had powerhouse performances from Bartees Strange, The Strokes, and Remi Wolf, there can only be three that make this list. Doesn’t mean those shows were bad. I think my day-by-day recaps make it apparent how much I enjoyed all the sets I saw. The three that make the list are as follow:
I wasn’t there for the whole set, but the portion I was there for was absolute magic. Starting from the foggy introduction to “August 10” into the jam where they played not one but two riffs sampled by the late MF DOOM, every moment was incredible. The crowd was massive, so getting close wasn’t an option, but you don’t need to be close to enjoy a Khruangbin show. You just need to make sure you have a mind that’s ready to be emptied and a body that’s ready to move.
2. Moses Sumney
I was a fan of Moses Sumney before, but anyone who’s willing to strut onto the stage wearing a cape and eye mask and then throw a shot at Coachella before chanting “TRAU-MA” for the audience is top tier in my book. Not only that, but his band was incredible, and his voice sounds even more perfect live than it does on record, which… How do you even do that? How is that possible? Moses Sumney found a way, and his performance was phenomenal.
Full disclosure: I love Earthgang. Absolutely love them. They can do pretty much no wrong. But this set was somehow light years ahead of the one I saw three months ago at Lollapalooza, and that one would have made my top three of the day they were on back then. This set somehow covered more ground, and they just seemed like they were having an even better time. The crowd was enveloped in stage glow, and everyone there was having the time of their life. That is a testament to the power of Earthgang live, and I am adamant that anyone who loves live music would enjoy an Earthgang show. This just proved my point.
Saturday was a little more subdued for me, and I spent a lot of time over in the Hellman Hollow area of the park. This top three was a little harder because I felt most of the Saturday performances were on par with each other, but for the sake of ranking, here it is:
3. Dr. Dog
If this is indeed the last time San Francisco sees Dr. Dog perform live, what a way to go out. They covered so much ground in their massive catalog, and the crowd was invested. Some people seemed to be there purely because they heard the words “Farewell Tour” associated with the show, but everyone in my immediate vicinity was going hard. Well, as hard as you can to indie folk. It was an incredible experience, and I’m glad I got to be a part of it.
2. Rexx Life Raj/ZHU
A tie kind of feels like a cop-out, but how am I supposed to put one Bay Area musician over another? I mean, I definitely did that when making these full lists, but this one deserved a tie. Rexx Life Raj opened the day on Twin Peaks with the hits and a dino costume, and ZHU closed down Twin Peaks with some phenomenal covers wedged in with his outstanding catalog of originals. Rexx Life Raj also had a costume contest (in a sense), and ZHU got an entire field of people moving in unison. These were two special hometown shows, and they both deserve to be mentioned on this top three.
1. Vampire Weekend
When I say Vampire Weekend owned the festival, I mean it. Ezra and crew put on the best show of Saturday, and (spoiler for ahead) the best show of the weekend. The set was perfect, opening with “Bambina” was a power move, and closing with “Walcott” is always going to make me lose my mind. It was perfection from the start. There was no set better than this one over the course of the whole weekend.
But I still have to cover Sunday, don’t I?
Sunday was the most chill yet somehow most exhausting day of the festival. I did the most walking even though I saw the least people. It’s very weird to think about. Anyway, here’s the list!
Call it a Chicago bias, but I loved Claud. Their set was equal parts funny and powerful, and it was just a joy to watch a young artist get their moment at a festival early on in their career. I’m sure we will see plenty more of Claud. I’m very excited about that prospect.
2. Tame… I mean, The Wiggles
While the loss of Tame Impala to the Squid Game is tragic, The Wiggles filled in quite nicely. You want to talk about equal parts funny and powerful, this was another set in that realm. They were up there having the time of their lives, and because of that, I was having the time of mine. It was by no means a perfect set for them, but it was incredible all the same. Maybe I’ll make a playlist of my ideal Tame… I mean, The Wiggles set list. That would be fun.
1. Yves Tumor and Its Band
While most artists focused on the Halloween festivities in a fun way, Yves Tumor took the intense and scary route and worked it to perfection. Their set was incredible, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else for those 45 minutes. Easily the best set of the day.
So I think you can kind of guess where I’m going to put each of those number ones on my top three of the weekend, but here they are anyway:
3. Yves Tumor and Its Band
1. Vampire Weekend
This was an incredible weekend for music, and I plan on returning next year. Keep the tradition going. Why not? It’s Outside Lands, after all.