Day 2 of the Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival in no way disappointed, and saw record numbers flock to Golden Gate Park for a day packed with a wide variety of talent and electrifying shows.
First up was Laura Marling, one of the most exciting contemporary singer-songwriters, whose new album Short Movie (her fifth in seven years) is a master class in combining folk sensibilities with larger, growling guitars and rock band aesthetic. Rather than deliver a set mainly comprised of music from her new album, however, Marling drew considerable inspiration from her last record, Once I Was An Eagle, choosing to open her set with the four song suite of “Take The Night Off,” “Once I Was An Eagle,” “You Know” and “Breathe” – a suite that she’s often done in her solo sets as an opener. It’s a breathtaking non-stop fifteen minutes, at times meandering and at other times searing, but all anchored with fervent open-chord strumming and picking and incisive lyrics. The rest of the set was a nice mix of her discography, with major cheers from the audience for “Sophia” and “Rambling Man” – the two closing tracks. “Salinas” from 2011’s A Creature I Don’t Know was underwhelming, with Marling speak-singing through the song, missing the beautiful melody of that sprawling track. And while it would have been great to hear more material from Short Movie, the three selections (“I Feel Your Love,” “How Can I” and “Strange”) gave audiences a taste of what’s next for Marling. And ultimately, what Laura Marling delivered was thirteen fantastic moments of art and poetry connecting in song, and even if she’s not the most flashy of the Outside Lands performers, she certainly is one of the most intentional and insightful.
Next up were Angus & Julia Stone, who (somewhat surprisingly) brought one of the largest crowds to the Sutro stage that OSL has seen. Yet, no one seemed to really know any of their songs, but more were there for the groove. And Angus & Julia Stone certainly have grooves in spades. The majority of their set relied on big, thudding bass lines, with electric guitar flourishes and relaxed singing styles, making it somewhat hard to decipher lyrics. Perhaps then it’s not as important what they’re saying but how they’re saying it, and they definitely gave the audience a delightful mid-afternoon, haze rock set.
Some may fault Outside Lands for the festival’s relishing of legacy acts, but when you see a master like Billy Idol on stage, you understand why OSL makes it such a point to bring many of these perceived relics back to the stage – because that’s where they were born, grew up and know how to deliver an incredible set. And that’s exactly what Billy Idol did. Opening with “Postcards from the Past” the relatively new track (off his 2014 album Kings & Queens of the Underground), it felt like we were back in 1978, rocking along to London’s punk rock best, and when Idol seamlessly segued into Generation X’s “Dancing With Myself,” he demonstrated yet again his command of material and the stage. And really, the audience was in Idol’s hands for the rest of the hourlong set, with many exclaiming just how good he was, in a seemingly surprised tone. It’s hard to pick highlights from a set that included heavy hitters like “Rebel Yell,” “White Wedding” a cover of The Doors’ “L.A. Woman” and “Flesh For Fantasy,” and instead everyone just enjoyed following Billy Idol through an hourlong demonstration of how legacy punk rock should be done.
Tame Impala is a San Francisco favorite – maybe it’s the combination of Beatles-reminiscent melodies with Flaming Lips psychedelia, but they’ve always been a hit in the City by the Bay. Their set at Outside Lands, though, felt a bit distant and disconnected, though. Admittedly, the band was suffering from some sound issues at the beginning, but they recovered a couple songs in, kicking back into gear. They delved mostly into work from their current album Currents, which was a nice soundtrack to the setting sun, but still their most potent moments were “Elephant” and “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” from 2012’s Lonerism. Maybe a bit too serious for the OSL early evening crowd, Tame Impala definitely translated their psych/electronica rock well to the Lands End stage, but lacked the humor and affability that made Billy Idol’s set so appealing.
Why The Black Keys were headliners on the Lands End stage and not Kendrick Lamar (who was booked at the same time on the opposing Twin Peaks stage) is beyond me. Lamar gave one of the best performances of the weekend, demonstrating why he’s one of hip hop’s biggest acts right now. Pulling mostly from 2012’s fantastic Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, Lamar’s set was relentlessly great, showcasing a young artist who is already in one of his primes, electrifying the audience and capping off a wonderful Saturday in Golden Gate Park.
Photos by Joan Bowlen