Sunday at Outside Lands always feels a little more subdued, with the majority of the 70,000-thick crowd tired and/or hungover from the previous two days' worth of revelry. Much to the chagrin of the bleary-eyed, the sun chose to make an appearance on Sunday in the otherwise foggy and overcast Golden Gate Park. And it actually may have kept some away -- while Major Lazer and Chance the Rapper drew huge crowds, audiences the rest of the day were graciously sparse.
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1. Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem
Like you, I am weary of the modern day's pervasive nostalgia economy, but I can't lie: there was nothing to hate on here. Announced as "the only stop on our world tour," the hilarious 1970s band from The Muppet Show (with the help of operators beneath a riser) played a 25-minute set that could have easily been some kind of crass tech marketing ploy. Instead, it felt as pure as the original television shows and movies, with Janice, Dr. Teeth, Animal and the gang joking about operating an "illegal bed and breakfast" in San Franciso's Haight Street heyday and -- after opening with their classic "Can You Picture That?" -- playing songs by the Band and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros.
Then, just when I thought it couldn't get any nuttier, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir strolled on stage for a Joe Cocker-inspired version of "With a Little Help from my Friends," and the entire over-the-top ridiculous fun of the whole thing blew through the entire crowd. For what was just a short one-time show, it had to have been a ton of work, and after the smoke settled, the crew of Muppet operators emerged from beneath the riser... to a huge burst of screams and applause for being zany enough to pull this off. (Watch the whole set here at KQED Pop.)
Making her first hometown appearance in eight months, Kehlani wasted no time talking about Oakland; growing up in the Town, singing on BART, and eventually going on a world tour. Throughout a gymnastic set heavy on her 2015 mixtape You Should Be Here, the 21-year-old repeatedly doled out inspirational advice and messages of self-love while running through the audience and getting close to her fans. And while a much-anticipated guest spot by Chance the Rapper on "The Way" failed to materialize, Kehlani still brought it hard for her home turf. "There's so much talent here in the Bay Area!" she said. "Don't let anybody tell you that you can't do what you want and make it! Go out there and get it all and bring it back to the Bay!"
3. Chance the Rapper
In 2013, Chance the Rapper was exploding in every direction. That year, during a neutron blast of a show at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, I witnessed the guy run through tracks from his then-new mixtape Acid Rap with a raw ferociousness, blending amphetamine jazz and rapid-fire rapping on a stage too crowded with talent to fathomably conceive. Since then, the stages have gotten bigger, the songs' rough edges have been smoothed, and Chance the Rapper's broad appeal is guaranteed: he's positive, uplifting, melodic, and continues to be insanely skilled on the mic.
That helps explain why Chance drew an even larger crowd on Sunday afternoon than Radiohead did the night before, in a set pulled almost exclusively from his latest album, Coloring Book. His show-stopping verse from Kanye West's "Ultralight Beam" killed, too, and the lines about God in that song as well as from Coloring Book aren't just talk: he explained that he nearly missed his set because he'd been volunteering for his grandma's church organization earlier in the day. Doncha just want to pinch the guy's cheeks?
After a one-two of "The Thrill" and "Ride that Wave," Miguel weaved a thread that led from his father, born in Michocán, to his mother, "a beautiful black woman from Los Angeles," on to the racial upheaval of late. "We're living in such a crazy time, it feels like a paradigm shift," he said. "All around the world, and at home, it feels like shit is slowly unraveling. And I ain't gonna ruin the moment by pretending that I know the solution." This led into a speech on the unifying power of music, the need for curiosity, and -- hey, it's a music festival -- a rousing chorus of "Do You Like Drugs?" At his best, Miguel channels strains of Prince, Michael Jackson, and James Brown (those moves), and he intertwined all three on Sunday.
5. Lionel Richie
I'm biased when it comes to Lionel Richie: I grew up on his music, and the fact that I knew almost every word of his headlining set is evidence that young brains are absorbent musical sponges. But I wasn't the only one amazed at how lithe, energetic and powerful he appeared to be while fulfilling an early promise of "all the hits!" "Runnin' With the Night," "Say You, Say Me," "Dancin' on the Ceiling," "Lady," "Penny Lover," and on and on until the inevitable closers "Hello" and "All Night Long" -- the guy really gave his all, and the crowd gave it back. "I may need security!" he joked at one point, "This crowd is out of control!" I remember when, after a long career hiatus, Lionel Richie at last turned up to headline the Paramount Theater in Oakland several years ago; then all of a sudden he was a country singer, with a lifetime tribute at the Academy of Country Music Awards to boot. Glad he ditched the pedal steel and brought the soul on Sunday.