Initially, I was going to talk about every show I saw, then I changed to doing my 10 favorite acts, but I think I’d like to condense it to a six show roundup. Six is an odd number, but hear me out. I’d like to focus on two things, my favorite show of the day, and my favorite surprise of the day. As I’ve mentioned before, discovery is my favorite thing about festivals, and that’s not only limited to discovering bands you haven’t heard of. Many artists whom I’ve enjoyed I didn’t really LOVE until I saw them live. If they do their job right, it can change your entire perspective and launch your fandom, and more importantly, take your appreciation of them to another level.
Overall I thought the festival was good, though, per usual, I was annoyed by scheduling conflicts. Year after year they seem to think that people who listen to alternative music don't listen to hip hop at all, so they scheduled J. Cole during LCD Soundsystem and the next night put Anderson .Paak during Radiohead, yet they left hip hop out of the lackluster final day headliners of Lana Del Ray and Lionel Ritchie (sorry to their respective fans).
All in, I saw most of what I wanted to see, even if some of the shows were only pieces, and what I did see, was solid. I like festivals; they are what you make them, and in my experience, they've always been worth it. If you haven't been or don't go, start going, if you already go....then go to more! Shout out to Brian, Kyle, Josh, and Greg for making the weekend a blast and to the Outside Lands tradition continuing!
*Some of the shows were released in full online, for the shows that weren't (which are most of the shows I've chosen), I'll choose a live video of a random performance for you, because I care*
Favorite Show: J. Cole.
Honestly, it wasn’t going to be anything else. Although it pained me to miss LCD Soundsystem, who I heard killed it (hopefully I’ll be seeing them during FYF later this month), there was nowhere else I’d have rather been. The energy he puts off is radiant and addictive, as evidenced by his unreal live recording of the epic 2014 Forest Hills Drive, the album that dominated this set. Other than that he dipped into early mixtapes The Warm Up and Friday Night Lights as well as his debut LP Cole World: The Sideline Story. He also brought out Dreamville label mate Bas for a couple tracks, which was great (if you haven’t checked out Bas’ 2016 record Too High To Riot go do that immediately). He finished us off with two cuts from Born Sinner, “Crooked Smile,” which I was waiting for all show (that second verse AMIRIGHT??), and “Power Trip;” I was on cloud nine. If you get a chance to see this guy live, don’t hesitate. It’s worth every penny.
Best Surprise: Vulfpeck
Vulfpeck is where it’s at. Simple as that. These guys can PLAY. The atmosphere they create is light and fun, and they clearly have a blast playing together. And why wouldn’t they? This quartet is crazy talented. The real treat was bringing out featured singer Antwaun Stanley, who’s contributed to each of their releases since 2013. He performed all three of his tracks with them and brought the show to new heights. The warmth exuded from this show stayed with me the entire weekend, as I’m sure it did with anyone who took in the set. My favorite tracks were either “Wait For The Moment” or “1612,” the latter is the song in the video below. Enjoy!
Honorable Mention: TOKiMONSTA
I know I know, it’s a bit of a copout putting a third show after I said I’d only do two shows per day. I get it. You can't trust me. But she KILLED her set. The only reason I didn’t choose her exclusively as Best Surprise was because I knew she’d be good, I just didn’t know how good. It was one of those shows where, after witnessing, you don’t have a choice but to be in attendence when she comes to town. It was that good. Her set was mostly original work with a few samples mixed in, including M.O.P's "Ante Up," which....was everything. She's the real deal.
Favorite Show: Radiohead
Their latest album is one of my favorites this year, so adding those tracks into their ridiculous body of work made them a shoe in to be one of my favorite shows of the weekend. Their set jumped all over the place, touching everything from 1997’s OK Computer up to their most recent release, A Moon Shaped Pool. They neglected cuts from their first two records, Pablo Honey and The Bends, which I’m ok with (though I would have enjoyed hearing “(Nice Dream)” ). Their set was a dream for fans, hypnotic and dreamlike at times, the crowd was more engaged than I’d seen in a long time. And ending the encore with “Paranoid Android” into “Karma Police” was icing on the cake of an already spectacular show.
One thing I always love is when bands tweak their tracks during live performances, especially with old material (like the heavier, more brooding version of “Everything In Its Right Place”). New riffs, sharper approach, improved vocals; Radiohead did this well and often, and it was a genuine treat. If you’re a fan, they put out the concert in full, which you can check out below.
Best Surprise: Years & Years
I wouldn’t say I was skeptical of how this set would turn out, but I definitely recognized the difficulty in living up to their massively popular debut album, and one of my favorites from last year, Communion. Boy was I wrong, led by lead singer Olly Alexander’s electric voice and energetic stage presence, the band provided the exact set you would wish for. Starting off with their album opener, “Foundation,” and then jumping right into “Take Shelter,” it was an immediate jam. They made me sweat a little bit waiting for my favorite track, “Real,” but they slipped it in towards the end.
Here's their set from the Reading Festival last year. It's got a similar setlist, enjoy!
Favorite Show: Chance The Rapper
In the running for the best show of the weekend, and possibly the biggest crowd (which is saying something for a 5 o’ clock start time). This set acted like more of a tease than anything, as it was a crime to only give him an hour on stage. He was just getting started!! If I wasn’t seeing him a couple times later in the year I might have started an official protest.
His set was actually split pretty evenly between Acid Rap, Coloring Book, while adding in a few of his recent features; including his cut from Action Bronson’s “Baby Blue” and his “Ultralight Beam” verse from Kanye's The Life Of Pablo, which was everything you think it would be. The highlight for me was he three song closing block of some of his best ‘feel good’ track in Coloring Books’ “Angels,” Acid Rap’s “Favorite Song,” and closing, appropriately, with Surf’s “Sunday Candy.” His style exudes warmth, and the crowd fed off of it, making his set magic. Chance is on top of the world right now, and you know what? He deserves it.
Here's a rogue video of his closer at the festival, the aforementioned "Sunday Candy." Normally these videos piss me off if I wasn't at the show, but the crowd was vibing and I hope you vibe too.
Best Surprise: Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem
You’re laughing but I’m not. I’ve been a Muppets fan my entire life and to see them not only perform but kill it, was a jam. With a string of lively covers, complete with a full choir accompaniment for The Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends,” and a road trip video chronicling their journey to OSL; Animal and company provided one of my favorite moments of the weekend. Check it out and be happy.