Outside Lands Day 3: Big names, big finish


With empty beer cups and souvenir shirts serving as the last vestiges of the weekend, the third and final day of Outside Lands 2015 comes to a close.

I won’t miss the crowds or the mud or the port-o-potties, but I will assuredly miss being constantly surrounded by live music — an experience sometimes truly magical in retrospect.

It’s often hard to appreciate and analyze a live set when all your energy is being put into weaving through a massive crowd to get to the next one. However, looking back on the day — and the whole weekend —there were very few complaints, unless you count the lack of an espresso bar, but you can’t have everything.

Editor's Note
SFBay is unable to feature performance images of Elton John and Sam Smith for our readers because, despite being credentialed to cover Outside Lands with a writer and photographer, SFBay director of photography Scot Tucker was not allowed to photograph Sunday’s headline acts. Commitments by festival organizers to make available images of the headliners were not fulfilled by the time of publication. — Jesse Garnier, Editor, SFBay

 12:40 p.m. Twin Peaks Alternative R&B singer SZA has all the characteristics of a dynamic diva, but she’s so down-to-earth, you’d expect to see her waiting in line for a slice of pizza after the show. Between songs, she claims that if she weren’t doing music, she’d just be bartending, working retail and hanging out with her friends.

The songstress is accompanied by a live drummer and keyboardist, giving more dimension to the ethereal, minimalist beats that drive her music. Her vocals are smooth and mellow, but her stage presence is ardent and energetic.

Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay

2:18 The Barbary The Barbary — Outside Lands’ comedy and variety tent — is tucked away, up a flight of stairs and nestled behind a sanctuary of picnic tables in a quiet nook South of Land’s End. Upon entering the tent, you are teleported into a swanky comedy club, complete with a bar, high ceilings and chandeliers that resemble glowing jellyfish.

The fact you are in a tent — or even at a music festival — is suddenly trivial. I caught part of comedienne Cameron Esposito’s routine, who stepped off stage to traverse the audience, adding a personal dynamic to her show.

3:00 Land’s End Nate Ruess, former frontman of alt-pop band fun., prances on stage in a bright green blazer. His music is simultaneously anthemic and self-deprecating. It’s sentimental without being too contrived and uplifting without being extravagant.

Though he plays several fun. songs, like 2012’s infectious “We are Young,” it seems like the singer-songwriter is hitting his stride with his solo album Grand Romantic. Even his more somber songs like “It Only Get’s Much Worse” are performed with a vibrant enthusiasm. He also covers bouncy Prince single “Let’s Get Crazy.” Ruess’ repertoire is emotionally expansive and it translated well to a large festival crowd.

3:57 #NoMoFomo Tent  Electronic musician Giraffage coyly bites his lip as he seamlessly twists the knobs on his MIDI controller in the #NoMoFomo tent sponsored by StubHub. “FOMO” is an acronym for “Fear Of Missing Out,” which seems appropriate, since I missed Giraffage’s set on the Panhandle stage Saturday evening. The cramped tent is a place you stop by to hear a song or two before moving along to your next destination, but it makes for an entertaining concept.

4:13 Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Rockabilly band Beso Negro set up their equipment among several kegs outside of the Sierra Nevada tent as part of the brewery’s “Beer Camp Sessions.” This was a daunting feat, as it was only steps away from the Twin Peaks stage, where DJ Mustard was spinning hip-hop infused EDM. The band from Fairfax, California played sets at various areas around the festival grounds all weekend. “We’re like a bad ex-girlfriend, you can’t get rid of us,” the lead singer joked.

5:05 Twin Peaks Seattle-based DJ duo Odesza zealously bang on two snare drums to open up their set, rolling into the catchy “How Did I Get Here” off their first album Summer’s Gone. Two trumpets and a trombone also accompany their melodious downtempo pop. The chaotic crowd clashed with the pair’s ambient sound, a juxtaposition that made the set slightly less appealing.

5:55 Panhandle Dan Deacon began his set by asking the crowd to open up and allow several people to dance in the middle. By his second song, the crowd coalesced and became a blur of trashing hand movements and flailing head banging. At the end, he shouted a request that everyone in the audience join hands:

“This is the last day, so let’s get as sweaty as possible.”

Deacon’s music is confusing, bordering avant-garde and straight up nonsensical. However, his vehement performance — and the crowd’s spastic reaction to it — was nothing short of enthralling.

Deacon’s music transcends any genre typically associated with music. “Experimental electronica” seems too vague to describe the wandering wall of sound and 10-minute sonic excursions that Deacon, and his drummer, Jeremy Hyman embarked on, but it was a memorable experience to be sure.

7:35-Land’s End Elton John has probably amassed more accolades in his lifetime than every artist at the event combined. So it was hard to wrap my head around the fact that the prolific pianist was actually perched on a stage in front of me.

But there he was, donning an electric blue, diamond-encrusted suit and nimbly pounding away at his piano. Swedish EDM duo Axwell & Ingrosso simultaneously played across the park at the Twin Peaks stage, and when John performed “Tiny Dancer,” the crowd’s fervent sing-along must have briefly muffled a few bass drops.

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