After shouting out Oakland, Berkeley and the East Bay, Toro y Moi's Chaz Bear got a packed Sunday afternoon Outside Lands crowd grooving with "Ordinary Pleasure," the single from last year's funkified album Outer Peace. In the capable hands of his band—which includes conga queen Brijean Murphy and keyboardist Anthony Ferraro of Astronauts Etc.—the track felt alive and wiggly, and the audience moved their feet and swung their hips in appreciation during one of the day's most memorable sets.
As Bear momentarily brought down the energy with the downtempo "Monte Carlo," couples winding down from a weekend's worth of substances made out and slow danced. Audience members greeted the local references in the lyrics ("I can't take the BART, makes me paranoid") with whoops of appreciation.
After that brief reverie, Bear cranked up the energy again with "Kawasaki," another two-stepping party track, shouting, "San Francisco, let's get freaky!"
Bear, who is originally from South Carolina, has made the East Bay his adopted home for nearly a decade, bringing talented local musicians into his orbit and sharing his platform with them through collaboration. That dynamic was apparent in his quintet's synergy on Sunday, as their passionate playing expanded the neatly produced tracks from Toro y Moi's discography into juicy jam sessions. Bear had fun on his vintage synth, whose bloops and bleeps sounded like a cartoon spaceship, while Murphy pitter-pattered on her congas with graceful dexterity.
Between songs, Bear fondly remembered his first show in San Francisco 10 years ago at Bottom of the Hill. "I just gotta say, that made me wanna move here," he told the audience sentimentally. With his spirited and skilled performance, he made the Bay Area proud.
A national treasure, folk-rock legend Paul Simon reimagined some of his best-known songs with the help of yMusic, a string and woodwind sextet, during his Sunday headlining set. The stripped-down version of his classic "Bridge Over Troubled Water," with weeping cellos and an airy, sparse arrangement, was especially touching.
When Simon wrote the track at 28 years old in 1969, he confessed, he underestimated its power. "I didn't know music could course through you like a conduit," he said, giving fans a glimpse into his thought process. He talked about how the song has taken on many forms: Aretha Franklin recorded her soulful rendition of it at the Fillmore West in San Francisco in 1971.
Though Simon's headlining set wasn't as well-attended as Childish Gambino's the day before (the festival audience this year skewed very young), his refreshing takes on familiar songs (and dad jokes) warmed fans' hearts. "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard," which he performed with his full 11-piece band, got the crowd doesy-doeing with wild abandon. Before performing his ballad "Rene and Georgette Magritte with their Dog After the War," he told the audience a story of visiting Joan Baez' house in the Bay Area in the '80s and picking up a surrealist art book that inspired the song.
After an almost two-hour set, the audience demanded an encore, and Simon obliged, performing "The Boxer" with a special guest: the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir. It was special to see Simon come out of retirement to play Outside Lands, and the fact that he donated his fee to San Francisco Parks Alliance and Friends of the Urban Forest made it even better.
Fox News recently got on Kacey Musgraves' case for saying "somebody f-cking do something" about the United States' gun violence epidemic, the channel's talking heads feigning outrage at Musgraves' swearing. During her charming Outside Lands performance, she seemed to troll those who want her to play the part of a prim-and-proper country singer, asking the audience to lift their middle fingers in the air before launching into a set of sweetly strummed songs from her Grammy-winning Golden Hour.
Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals
While Paul Simon played the large Lands End stage, Anderson .Paak fans overflowed the field at the smaller Sutro Stage, where the rapper, drummer and producer regaled them with a neo-funk dance party with the help of a band and three soulful backup singers. Paak has a knack for making party songs that prompt listeners to contemplate deeper social issues while they dance, as was the case with "King James," a track that pays homage to Lebron's philanthropy ("You can't gentrify the heart of a king"). With "Tints" and "Glowed Up," Paak got his legions of fans moving. The only downside was that there were so many of them. Hundreds of people were stuck in the back, where the music wasn't quite audible—a recurring issue during Outside Lands' most packed edition yet.