The Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival was co-created just six years ago by Superfly, who were best known for establishing Bonnaroo as the premier U.S. music festival. But in this short period of time, Outside Lands has already transitioned from being a festival newcomer to attracting lineups that rival Bonnaroo’s and a park location that is widely considered one of the world’s grandest. This isn’t all that surprising considering this epic location is San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park with the festival’s ability to bring in top tier headlining acts over the years like Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Paul McCartney, Phish and Arcade Fire.
Upon arriving to the festival on Day 1, your excitement about the stellar lineup isimmediately matched by the thrill of the overall festival experience, including everything from Wine Lands to Choco Lands, to first visualizing the main stage and festival grounds in their enormity. Outside Lands is truly an adventure like no other and this 2014 edition never left us disappointed, as here are some of our highlights…
Best Underage Rap Act: Aer
It’s hard to imagine that two young rappers new to the music scene could attract a very large audience, but twenty-year-olds David von Mering and Carter Shultz of Aer proved the stereotype wrong, drawing a huge crowd of teen festival attendees. Their debut album The Bright Side immediately hit number 1 on iTunes charts, making the duo a rising band to look out for. The boys arrived on stage with a ton of energy, showing off their unique sound rapping over fun beats and ending with their hit song “Feel I Bring.” Although most of the audience wasn’t familiar with Aer’s music, their distinctive onstage presence and energy made them a clear standout.
Best Act to Sit and Chill Out to: Phosphorescent
Although most of the large audience at Phosphorescent’s set treated the band’s music like background noise, it was undoubtedly one of the strongest shows of the weekend. With a small crowd standing and a much larger one sitting, front man Matthew Houck impressed the audience with his unique voice and his unexpectedly calming indie rock tunes.
Best Performance from an Ivy League Grad: Chromeo
This Canadian electro-pop duo brought a wave of funky energy rare to the festival, making it hard to fathom that lead vocalist David Macklovitch earned his PhD from Columbia University. The fact that Macklovitch and fellow band mate Patrick Gemayel have been friends since childhood shows in their onstage chemistry. The combination of keyboards, synthesizers, guitar, and a talk box made Chromeo’s set memorable. Ending their show with one of their most well known hits, “Jealous,” proved to be a successful, upbeat conclusion to an already remarkable show.
Best Performance from Someone Related to a Kardashian: Kanye West
Kanye West puts on a performance like no other rapper of his generation. Following a wild light show, Kanye dramatically appeared on stage with his face masked. As expected, older songs like “All of the Lights” were clear crowd favorites, and songs off his latest album Yeezus kept the audience dancing and singing along. A shout out to his wife Kim Kardashian, who was among the spectators, only raised the confused excitement, suddenly giving things a Coachella flavor of celebrity sightings.
Best Use of Dramatic Facial Expressions and Hair Flips: Haim
The Haim sisters know how to put on an energetic performance. From the crazy head bobbing, exaggerated facial expressions, nonstop prancing around stage, and racy comments, nothing was off limits here. Not only was their show visually impressive, but their debut album seems to keep sounding more poignant and catchy.
Best Quirky Pop Performance: The Kooks
Having been around for over ten years, The Kooks had a ton of hit songs to choose from to perform, and they did not disappoint. Lead singer Luke Pritchard’s eccentric vibe had the audience going nuts and his flexible vocals made every song memorable. From older hits like “Naïve” to several songs off their upcoming album Listen, The Kooks showed off their range of pop hits and kept everyone dancing throughout.
Best Legendary Rock Act: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Watching Tom Petty perform “American Girl” is one of the coolest things you could ever experience. Hearing a legend sing one of his most famous hits amongst a crowd of tens of thousands of people singing along was a moment unmatched by any other performance at the festival. It wasn’t just his older hits that blew minds, but the newer songs off his recently released album Hypnotic Eye were equally as impressive.
Best Electronic Act: Flume
It’s unbelievable that a twenty-two year old Australian guy with just one album to date had the power to attract well over half the Outside Lands audience with his electronic beats. Amongst what felt like an endless sea of people, there was no stop to the dancing, head bobbing and arm throwing throughout the audience. Flume’s ability to incite dancing throughout a gigantic crowd was especially impressive. His remix of fellow Outside Lands artist Disclosure’s hit “You & Me” was the perfect ending to a memorable set.
Best Use of Costumes and Props: The Flaming Lips
The first few minutes of a Flaming Lips performance are unforgettable. Shiny, bizarre outfits, neon makeup and wigs, and dancing robots accompanied the band onstage, creating so much visual stimulation that you never know what will surprise you next. When lead singer Wayne Coyne rolled into the audience in a large bubble, the crowd was confused, shocked, and exhilarated all at once.
Best Closing Act: The Killers
The Killers were by far one of the best acts at the festival. “Mr. Brightside” was the perfect opening song, leaving most of the spectators singing along to every last word. Resuming with more hits like “Somebody Told Me” and “Smile Like You Mean It,” the finale When You Were Young” was the perfect song to end another classic Outside Lands weekend.