Kendrick Lamar performs at the Outside Lands festival on Aug. 8, 2015. (Photo: Gabe Meline/KQED)
Kendrick Lamar performs at the Outside Lands festival on Aug. 8, 2015. (Photo: Gabe Meline/KQED)

Outside Lands Review: Saturday's Music Highlights and Photo Gallery

Outside Lands Review: Saturday's Music Highlights and Photo Gallery

Saturday at Outside Lands is always busier, crazier and more extreme in just about every way than either Friday or Sunday, and this year was no exception. As for the crowd, we witnessed more rule-breakers, gate-crashers, and people using Golden Gate Park's lush landscape to shield a variety of salacious activities than ever; we also saw huge surges of communal joy, good-Samaritan acts toward strangers, and 70,000 people becoming greater than the sum of their parts.

The music reflected this. Check our Friday recap here, and read on for what mattered on Outside Lands' stages Saturday.

Scroll down for full photo gallery. Read Sunday's recap here.

(Photo: Gabe Meline/KQED)
(Photo: Gabe Meline/KQED)

1. Kendrick Lamar

History will not be kind to the scheduling of professional Subaru salesmen the Black Keys on Outside Lands' main stage in the same time slot as Kendrick Lamar -- heir to West Coast hip-hop's throne, foregone victor of Album of the Year for To Pimp a Butterfly -- relegated to the second stage. But honestly, though it was crowded, the whole we're-all-in-tight-together thing just felt right. Kendrick turned in a festival-friendly set lopsided toward sure shots from his sophomore breakthrough good Kid, m.A.A.d. city -- “Swimming Pools,” “Backseat Freestyle,” “Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe,” “Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst” -- which felt, for the first hour, slightly like a missed opportunity to challenge minds on a massive scale by dipping into the highly politicized, musically experimental material from his new album. But Kendrick's smarter than that; no one wants to hear tortured, drunken, crying poetry at a festival. And so the three songs that came late in the set from To Pimp a Butterfly were the obvious, accessible choices: “i,” “King Kunta,” and “Alright.” And you know what? By their universal nature, they brought the whole 30,000-strong hollow together at a time when we could sure use a little more unity. For set closer “Alright,” the large-scale video footage switched to scenes shot on Treasure Island as a California flag waved above the crowd. After a long biographical spoken-word interlude about overcoming adversity, Kendrick dedicated the song to a guy crowd-surfing... in a wheelchair. We gon' be alright, indeed. -- G.M.

Billy Idol performs at Outside Lands. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend
Billy Idol performs at Outside Lands. (Wendy Goodfriend)

2. Billy Idol

Yeah, Billy Idol is nearly a caricature at this point, but he's an oddly lovable one. The curled lip and tough-guy posturing is easy to poke fun at, but can anyone successfully mock “Eyes Without a Face”? Good luck; the song is invincible. “Dancing With Myself”? Stands all tests of time. Even Idol's cornier themes like “Flesh for Fantasy,” as he showed Saturday, hold up well. The major downside to Idol's set was the criminal absence of “Kiss Me Deadly,” the greatest song about living on the streets of London ever written -- just this beautiful, Springsteen-esque anthem of poverty and loneliness and teenage recklessness. Listen to it here as played by Idol's early band Generation X, and then ask yourself why in the world Billy Idol would not simply play this song at every single show he ever plays. Instead, he closed with “Rebel Yell” and “White Wedding,” and everyone loved it, but alas. At least he represented Generation X's stellar debut album with “Ready Steady Go.” Bonus: Billy Idol still has that signature snarl, and his band looks exactly like you'd imagine them to look; see slideshow below. -- G.M.

Big Freedia at GastroMagic at Outside Lands. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend
Big Freedia at GastroMagic at Outside Lands.

3. Big Freedia

It's easy to feel down in an environment permeated by corporate sheen and overly targeted marketing -- and that's exactly when you should make your way over to wherever Big Freedia is, because Big Freedia is the antidote. What other artist can whip the crowd into a pure, visceral, ass-shaking frenzy, then calmly hand out fresh beignets from nearby trays -- because this a tie-in with Brenda's French Soul Food, you see -- without missing a single glorious twerk-beat? If last summer's relatively smoothed-out album Just Be Free was intended to carry the Queen Diva of Bounce over the mainstream threshold, it's reassuring to find that it wasn't at the expense of the fantastically frenetic style which earned Freedia her loyal fans in the first place. She was magnetic above all else, lunging around a too-small stage with a graceful ferocity and conducting a constant stream of booty-moving from both her backup dancers and stage-crashing audience members. Say what you will about the homogeny of the mainstream music landscape in 2015, but the fact that someone like Freedia thrives with the kids (and it was a young, amped crowd) is about as encouraging as it gets.-- E.S.

(Photo: Gabe Meline/KQED)
(Photo: Gabe Meline/KQED)

4. Tame Impala

Tame Impala's ascent has arguably relied upon songwriter/producer Kevin Parker's ability to satisfy his own curiosity while still conjuring a sound that lands squarely in the middle of some touchy Venn diagrams: The Australian wunderkind makes psych-rock for people who roll their eyes at psych-rock, and electronic music for people who don't think they like electronic music. Live, there's the added challenge of translating a highly solitary recording experience into a bass-booming, head-nodding, stoner-accessible five-piece dance party. By that metric, Tame Impala took the Outside Lands main stage by the hand and led it into a wholly entertaining, self-assured mating ritual last night, playing nearly all the way through their new, critically lauded album Currents. If there's something fundamentally uninteresting about synth-driven music played at a festival scale by five dorky guys when it's not even dark yet -- even at their most animated, electronic fireworks are just not as exciting a live experience as guitar or drum fireworks, etc., no matter how many screensaver-trippy visuals you project onto a screen behind them -- the gents make up for it by being just that endearingly dorky. "You look beautiful out there," said Parker to the adoring hordes near the end of the set. "I felt awful when I woke up today, and you guys have really turned it around." Do go on, Parker. We'd bet a healthy number of casual fans left devotees. -- E.S.

Fantastic Negrito.
Fantastic Negrito.

5. Support for Fantastic Negrito

We'd have loved to include a midday set by Oakland's own Fantastic Negrito in this roundup, but under highly questionable circumstances, his set was canceled. Instead of performing onstage as a victory lap for his NPR Tiny Desk Concert contest win, Fantastic Negrito -- born Xavier Dphrepaulezz -- sat for a reported three hours on Saturday in the back of an SFPD van, detained and handcuffed. The reason? It turns out a young intern of Negrito's decided to sell an extra artist wristband for the festival on Craigslist, and was located by police outside the festival on the sidewalk, where he and two others, including Negrito, were detained -- despite the intern reportedly admitting from the onset that he'd acted alone in scalping the wristband. Several news outlets picked up the story, both from the police department's point of view in the Chronicle and Dphrepaulezz's point of view in the East Bay Express, but the looming question regards festival organizers' collusion with SFPD over the detention, reported in the San Jose Mercury News, and the fact that the municipal code cited doesn't actually apply to online sales, or that illegal scalping remains rampant outside the festival gates. The upside to all this is that the story flew around social media all day, with Fantastic Negrito's many fans showing support. At one point, a frustrated but gratified Dphrepaulezz tweeted: "I owe y'all a free concert on the steps of the SFPD station." -- G.M.

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