"Music!" yelled Lil Wayne on Friday night, ordering his band to play with the tone of a cartoon villain demanding the hounds be released. After pausing for a moment to humbly bask in applause, his face flashed a mischievous, Joker-like grin of diamond grills as the DJ dropped the instantly recognizable drum roll of "A Milli," one of the many hits that defined his reign over the 2000s rap charts.
Humor and theatrics came naturally to Wayne on the opening day of Outside Lands on Aug. 9, where his early-evening performance was indisputably one of the day's strongest. Like a big little kid in his oversized, multicolored Gucci sweatsuit, he gleefully frolicked on stage while delivering dynamic, arena-scale renditions of sex songs like "Bed Rock" and "Lollipop," rap braggadocio like "6 Foot 7 Foot," and testaments to resilience and survival like "Can't Be Broken."
At 36 years old, Lil Wayne is still young for a rap veteran, though influential and successful enough to have a decade-defining resume of hits, and to have spawned a legion of successors (Nicki Minaj, Drake, Young Thug) who've carried his zany, raunchy style into the present. While some of his peers barely rap along to their backing vocal tracks, at Outside Lands, Wayne went full rockstar in his live show, flexing his vocal abilities with a DJ, a mighty drummer and a solo-happy guitarist with a top hat like Slash from Guns N' Roses. It was a dynamic format for his hit parade, and Lil Wayne joyfully presided over the party.
All in all, Wayne exuded an uplifting, centered energy. He implored the audience to love and celebrate themselves, to applaud (and to tip) the festival staff. Throughout the show, he reminded us of his gratitude with his self-effacing refrain: "We all ain't shit without the love, and I ain't shit without you."
There are fewer indie rock bands at Outside Lands than usual this year, and the festival lineup includes a noticeable increase in dance music acts. One of the standouts of that genre is Yaeji, whose hard-to-classify style encompasses club bangers like "Raingurl"—which sparked an unselfconscious dance party—and slower, more contemplative songs like "One More," which had the English-speaking Outside Lands audience singing along in Korean. A one-woman band, she switched between singing on the mic, dancing at the front of the stage like a pop star, and working her magic behind the decks. Her minimal cover of Drake's "Passionfruit" inspired dreamy sways and sentimental embraces among lovers and friends.
Oakland's Still Woozy proved himself a promising up-and-coming performer, commanding a surprisingly full and enthusiastic early crowd with his charming, awkward exuberance. His lo-fi R&B and indie pop tracks gained new dimensions with the accompaniment of live drums, bass, guitar and keys as Still Woozy wiggled around the stage like an inflatable tube man, bending his knees and shaking his hips with unbridled enthusiasm.
Pop-punk idols Blink-182 took the Outside Lands audience back to 1999 with "Adam's Song" and "All the Small Things," peppering their angsty anthems with sarcastic asides that kept the mood light—essential for a bunch of adults (both on stage and in the audience) channeling their whiniest middle school selves.
San Francisco techno producer Luttrell is better known in the Burning Man circuit than the festival scene. At Outside Lands, he sparked a small yet enthusiastic dance party with his euphoric grooves during the lull before headliners Twenty One Pilots. Grandiose, soaring synths carried listeners away like the wings of a pegasus, while pounding bass grounded them back down to earth.
Flying Lotus' sculptural DJ booth looked like an outer-space submarine as he spun his golden threads of jazz, hip-hop and experimental beats. Transfixed festival-goers in 3D glasses bobbed along, vapes in hand, to his heady music and biomorphic, neon visuals.