The second day of Outside Lands was even more eclectic — and hectic — than the first, as the musical lineup brought out interesting cross-sections of Bay Area subcultures. Metalheads partied with ravers in unicorn onesies; college students and first-time festival-goers could both be spotted having sensory overload.
Although the tragic news from the Charlottesville protests was fresh in revelers’ minds, Saturday’s performers were much less bold with their commentary than artists like Noname and Henry Rollins had been on Friday. Instead of specifically calling out white supremacists, or mentioning Donald Trump by name, some bands called for unity through music while many said nothing at all. The lack of overt acknowledgement might have felt disappointing for those checking the news throughout the day, but if anything, the festival offered a momentary escape from turmoil.
Check out our highlights from Saturday at Outside Lands below, and see coverage from Friday here.
S U R V I V E
S U R V I V E’s Saturday afternoon set was gear-nerd heaven. The four members of the Austin synthwave quartet stood side-by-side behind forward-facing desks as each musician plugged away at his respective vintage synthesizer. Each looked so lost in what they were doing that they didn’t pay each other — or the audience — much notice. But while they barely communicated, their timing and coordination were impeccable, with pounding electronic instrumentals sounding straight out of an ’80s sci-fi film — calling to mind Blade Runner and Tron. (It’s no wonder that S U R V I V E’s Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon composed and performed the soundtrack for Stranger Things.) As the band’s set progressed, the bass became physically palpable as their synths swelled to epic crescendos. Instead of dancing, the audience stood transfixed, watching the enigmatic musicians in awe.
While Canadian producer Kaytranada unassumingly bobbed his head behind his laptop, his house-inflected beats sent his audience into an ecstatic frenzy. People crowd-surfed, high-fived strangers, and enthusiastically cheered on each other’s dance moves. A group of 20 or so college bro types joined together in a giant group hug that culminated with one guy trust-falling off his friend’s shoulders into the audience. It’s these kinds of communal exchanges of energy that make trudging through crowds at festivals worth it. Kaytranada played standout tracks from his acclaimed 2016 album, 99.9%, as well as original remixes and instrumentals. His club version of Solange’s “Cranes in the Sky” offered a momentary emotional release (and whetted the audience’s palate for Solange’s Sunday performance). Pulsing, four-on-the-floor beats like “You’re the One” featuring SYD turned the party up yet another notch. Kaytranada’s set was also a rare opportunity to hear the deep-house instrumentals that made his Boiler Room set one of the most-viewed of all time on YouTube.
The Avett Brothers
The Avett Brothers sure can shred. The North Carolinian seven-piece, led by brothers Scott and Seth Avett, delivered an electrifying performance of country, bluegrass, indie folk, and Southern rock, expanding their twangy melodies into full-out jam sessions. With banjo, guitar, organ, and a full string section, the brothers evolved “Ain’t No Man,” a vigorous stomp with lyrics about independence and self-determination, into a blitz of jovial instrumentation in the vein of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Janis Joplin. During a couple climactic points in the show, Scott Avett sang so fast that his vocals morphed into country-style rapping — an unexpected twist that was met with plenty of cheers. The brothers also nailed a cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” ("We're gonna do one by some heroes of ours," Scott Avett said, in a nod to the recently departed Chris Cornell) before closing the night with their ballad “No Hard Feelings.”
Given the disheartening news from Charlottesville, it was refreshing to hear James Hetfield, the lead singer of Metallica, pointedly declare his gratitude to see “all different styles of music and all kinds of people” at Outside Lands. “We’re here to celebrate life,” he growled into the mic before launching into a two-hour headlining set complete with pyrotechnics, fireworks, and an incredible light show. With 30-plus years in the game, Metallica are masters of entertainment. Hetfield’s onstage demeanor was friendly and effusive — though still tough — and he undoubtedly converted plenty of casual listeners into enthusiastic fans. At one point, he even shouted out two blue- and green-haired elementary schoolers in the front row with their proud metalhead dad. During “Master of Puppets,” red laser beams emanated from the stage, enveloping the audience in a psychedelic grid that changed shape in time with Kirk Hammett’s explosive guitar solo. Sadly, there was no surprise Lady Gaga appearance as rumored for “Moth in the Flame,” which she performed with the band at this year’s Grammys. But the ending of Metallica’s set was unforgettable nonetheless, with fireworks and an extended, fiery rendition of “Enter Sandman” that had everyone screaming for an encore.
Li Saumet, vocalist of Colombian band Bomba Estéreo, shook her neon-orange mane as she danced across the stage in a trailing pink cape. Her colorful look was the personification of Bomba Estéreo’s high-energy set: A fusion of electro-pop, Cumbia, and moombahton that basically sounds like what would happen if The Knife partied in Miami with Pitbull for a weekend. Bomba Estéreo preaches a message of peace and unity through music; the audience pulsated along to “Internacionales,” a track about dance as an international language, as Saumet instructed Baila! Baila! in Spanish. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t speak Spanish, you can feel it,” she announced to the eager crowd. The audience and band’s enthusiasm created a positive feedback loop that lasted through the duration of the set.
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