With rainy summers and gorgeous falls, it’s hardly a surprise that Christmas comes to San Francisco in August. For three days, the natural beauty of Golden Gate Park is transformed into an odyssey of music, comedy, art, food, and wine. Returning in 2015 for its eighth year, the Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival once again delivered on its unique niche of fog-soaked tunes and lots of things wrapped in bacon (with a pinot to pair, of course).
Headliners Mumford and Sons, The Black Keys, and Elton John all delivered the goods with sets rich in popular tracks and gratitude for the mass of fans who braved the cold each night. As is always the case with festivals, some of the weekend’s best moments were the small surprises – Hot Chip covering Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark”, Bill Kreutzmann jumping behind a drum kit to jam with Alex Bleeker and the Freaks, and the last-minute addition of Wolf Alice to the bill.
Sadly, not all was flower crowns and microbrews. Fantastic Negrito made local headlines on Saturday when he was denied entry to the festival just ahead of his set. SZA, playing the morning after a brilliant performance from Kendrick Lamar, was unable to rouse him to join her for one of her most popular songs. Such is life in the whirlwind that is the modern music festival. Still, the chance to hear music you love again or discover your first taste of a new favorite artist among the trees in the majesty of Golden Gate Park is an experience everyone should take part in.
Read on for our extensive coverage of the highs and lows of the 2015 Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival.
Photo by Philip Cosores
George Ezra has the deep, thick, and passionate voice of that 50-year-old man who plays a set every Saturday night at your local piano bar. George Ezra, though, is actually 22 years old. He just sounds much older. Ezra was discovered on YouTube at the age of 18, and now, at 22, he’s a star, having already earned a top 10 record in his home country of England and a top 40 hit in the US with “Budapest”. His baritone demands your attention, but it’s almost too easy. His voice rarely waivers, becomes delicate; it’s just pretty and pleasant. His voice — deep and rich — is like syrup: thick and sweet. –Mike Anderson
Toro y Moi
Photo by Amanda Koellner
Call me a hater — many will, as Chaz Bundick is very popular — but Toro y Moi’s sound is a little flat. His synths don’t bounce and tickle you like some other acts’ manage to do. Of course, this is a chillwave act — which, although very vaguely defined, generally denotes music where the synths are processed and faded and, well, chill — but at least Neon Indian mines from the same sonic palette and crafts something with a little more depth and fullness (read: “Polish Girl”). –Mike Anderson
Photo by Amanda Koellner
ISAM is a funny choice for such an elaborate stage show. The album, which the Brazilian DJ performs the whole of, is harsh. It culls more from the industrial genre than the breakbeat jazz of his past work. The first 20 minutes of this show are made tolerable because Amon Tobin presents us with one of the most sophisticated light shows you’ll ever see: a pile of cubes sits on the stage, and a landscape lays itself out on them, folding and morphing into different worlds throughout the course of a song and in perfect sync with the music. While this was beautiful to see, the music certainly left some of us desiring an equally stimulating sound to match — not just electronic music as imagined by a slightly obtuse robot. –Mike Anderson