On Friday afternoon, the masses descended upon Golden Gate Park for the annual, three-day marathon of music, comedy, food and mayhem that is Outside Lands. And if the first day was any indication, a little more magic is in the air than usual: After all, this year is the festival’s 10th anniversary. The lineup is more star-studded and diverse than ever. And we’re keeping our eyes peeled for surprise guests and celebrity sightings.
Check out our highlights from the first day of the festival and stay tuned for live updates on Instagram throughout the weekend.
Kali Uchis hails from Virginia by way of Colombia, has proven herself to be an artist with vision since her 2013 debut, Drunken Babble. Her soul-tinged pop, though audibly contemporary, is a direct descendent of lowrider oldies from the ’60s and ’70s. And her pastel-hued wardrobe and music videos complement her vintage sound to a T. Uchis brought all of these elements to life on stage on Friday night at Outside Lands following her sold-out show at the Rickshaw Stop the previous evening. Dressed in all white, she delivered gorgeous vocals in her signature pout, swaying, twirling, and shaking her hips for the audience like the late, great Selena. Tracks from her last project, like “Ridin’ Round,” were audience favorites, but her cover of Elvis Crespo’s “Suavemente” turned into an all-out, Santana-style jam session with a raging dance party to match.
Henry Rollins, the former frontman of legendary ’80s punk band Black Flag, has never had trouble staying in the public eye. After Black Flag disbanded in 1986, he continued a successful solo career with Rollins Band. And in recent years, he’s gained a reputation as an outspoken, progressive media personality with his regular op-eds in the LA Weekly. Rollins brought his impassioned political viewpoints to the stage at The Barbary, Outside Lands’ comedy tent. In contrast to the hypersensitive stereotype of the liberal “snowflake,” he laid out his progressive politics with plenty of irreverent — and sometimes raunchy — humor. He took jabs at the Trump administration and called out fellow rock legend Ted Nugent for his racism and homophobia. But Rollins remained uproariously self-deprecating throughout, describing in detail how he bombed his comedy show the night of the 2016 election and sharing hilariously humbling experiences from his activist endeavors rather than painting himself as a savior.
Rising Chicago star Noname exuded effortless cool at Outside Lands on Friday night as she strutted across the stage in her denim jacket and halo of curls. The rapper, born Fatimah Warner, got her start competing in poetry slams before acquiring a cult following with her 2016 musical debut, Telefone. On the mixtape, her rap style is conversational and casual; on stage at Outside Lands, she revved up her motormouth flows and gave her set her all. Tracks like “Yesterday” and “Shadow Man,” both crowd favorites during her performance, were evocative streams of consciousness that prove Noname is a thoughtful — and sometimes pretty funny — observer of the human condition. She has a habit of being plainspoken yet profound: “Casket Pretty,” which she also performed, is a track about losing too many friends to Chicago’s gun violence epidemic. Although Noname admitted that the crowd of mostly white faces made her nervous as she performed the loaded song, the audience gave her reassurance to forge on.
Baltimore indie rock band Future Islands will probably always be associated with their 2014 performance on The Late Show, where they managed, in a rare feat, to leave David Letterman astounded.. Indeed, singer Samuel T. Herring’s emotional delivery is incredibly cathartic; Friday night, he danced, writhed, and clenched his fists as he sang the band’s best-known songs, “Seasons (Waiting On You)” and “Ran,” throwing his entire body into his passionate performance. The band’s driving percussion, punchy bass lines, and melodious synths counterbalanced Herring’s display of raw feeling with the structure of ’80s new wave. Future Islands have one of the most distinct styles out there. And it turns out they’re incredibly fun to dance to, especially if you have a heartbreak you need to shake off.
A cartoon band was the perfect way for Damon Albarn, the lead singer of ’90s rock band Blur, to reinvent himself at the start of the new millennium. Gorillaz’ fictional personas gave Albarn the freedom to collaborate with a wide range of musicians, creating a fusion of pop, hip-hop, rock, and even disco and trip-hop that was well ahead of its time. (Calvin Harris, for instance, is currently toping charts with a similarly eclectic, danceable mix of genres.) Gorillaz, whose new album Humanz came out in April, are now well past the gimmick of a virtual band. During their nearly two-hour headlining set, Albarn rocked out on stage to classics like “Feel Good Inc” and “Clint Eastwood.” But there were also plenty of surprises: Little Dragon, Pusha T, Kali Uchis, Del the Funky Homosapien, and even British rapper Little Simz joined Gorillaz on stage at various points of the evening. Albarn commanded the stage like the spectacle's ringleader, closing Outside Lands' first day with panache.