Outside Lands 2015 Friday Recap – Natalie Prass, First Aid Kit, St. Vincent, Wilco, Mumford & Sons

2015’s iteration of the Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival started off strong, with a fantastic set by newcomer Natalie Prass. Her debut album Bird of Prey has already received considerable acclaim since its release in late January, and her set at OSL proved the accolades are well-deserved. Her single “Bird of Prey” hit home with the enthusiastic audience, but it was her cover of Janet Jackson’s “Any Time, Any Place” that really wowwed. Prass demonstrated a strong command of the stage, with a solid band backing up her wickedly entrancing songs. Be sure to catch her during her fall North American tour – it won’t disappoint.

First Aid Kit hail from Sweden, but the incredibly warm reaction they received at OSL made it seem like they were hometown favorites. Sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg played to their biggest San Francisco audience with their midday set, and proved why they’re such a great festival addition – wonderful stage banter, thick, shimmering harmonies, affable sensibilities and incredibly potent songs. Their set ran the gamut of their discography, but focused on their most recent release Stay Gold. That said, their cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” received some of the most intense applause, “Wolf” (from the special edition of 2012’s The Lion’s Roar) was spot on and closing with their major crossover hit “Emmylou” was the perfect cap to their set.


It’s really hard to not be caught up in St. Vincent fervor, and honestly – not many tried on Friday during her blistering OSL set. Opening with the growling, sinuous “Birth in Reverse” from 2014’s excellent St. Vincent album, Annie Clark set the stage for an hour of hypnotic, brawny guitar shredding. Focusing mostly on material from her last two albums, the couple of dips into older material (“Marrow,” “Actor Out Of Work”) felt just as fresh and immediate. Even if fans are already clamoring for new music, St. Vincent’s set had everyone dancing along and commenting on Clark’s remarkable guitar work.

Wilco opened their OSL set with the entirety of the new album Star Wars, and while the novelty of hearing the brand-new album from start to finish was appealing at first, the juxtaposition of it next to a set of “greatest hits” made the album feel slightly under-done and underwhelming. There are certainly hooks and fantastic arrangements on Star Wars, and some fantastic lyrics with Tweedy’s usual somewhat deadpan, hard-wrought delivery, but next to “Via Chicago,” “Impossible Germany,” and “Heavy Metal Drummer,” Star Wars just didn’t stack up. That said, they were totally in sync, lithe and gave the audience a wonderful pre-headline show.


Some may malign Mumford & Sons for typifying the Americana revival of the last few years, with their anthemic choruses, tightly wound arrangements and big drums with thicker harmonies, but their set closing Friday night at Outside Lands did reveal the talented songwriters and arrangers that they are. Many are dubious of their latest release Wilder Mind, but those songs were really fresh and well-done, next to some slightly more tired renditions of bigger hits like “I Will Wait.” Still, they drew a huge crowd, with most knowing a majority of the words and ready to hop up and done and shout fervently for the band. It was a solid booking for the festival at this point in its history, and Mumford & Sons definitely delivered. And who doesn’t love a bit of fireworks to close a set?

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