SZA headlines Outside Lands on Friday, August 5, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)
The Outside Lands festival returned this past weekend to its traditional August dates in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. And while the venerable festival took one year off in 2020 due to COVID, and moved last year to October due to pandemic-related delays, this year's return of the favorite end-of-summer festival didn't seem to skip a beat.
Here's what the scene was like, courtesy of Kristie Song and Estefany Gonzalez, with musical highlights and photos below.
Duckwrth Brings the Power to Land’s End Stage
As a mid-afternoon drowsiness fell upon Friday’s crowd, there was no better act than Duckwrth to bring them back to life. Opening with two of his most energetic hits, “Coming Closer” and “Power Power,” the musician danced across the stage, smiling and flexing his arms as he sang and rapped. In no time, attendees began to dance and light up their joints, carefree and revitalized by his infectious aura.
Dressed in a custom black suit with a chrome bull on the back in a nod to his upcoming EP, Duckwrth previewed three of its singles to a delighted crowd. During “Ce Soir,” a collaboration with musician Syd that was just released that same morning, Duckwrth moved his hips to the song’s mellow beat and rapped the chorus in French as the crowd shimmied.
Duckwrth was joined by vocalist Olivia Walker, known as Just Liv, whose soulful singing and lively dancing only added to the invigorating atmosphere. Together, they performed slow, sexy classics like “Crush” and “Kiss U Right Now” as well as an untitled, heavy metal-tinged single. As he transferred his energy to the crowd, and as they delivered it right back, Duckwrth demonstrated that it is possible to have an audience completely wrapped around your finger.—K.S.
The Marías Bring Romantic Mystery
Set against a large, blood red backdrop, Maria Zardoya of the psychedelic indie-rock band the Marías looked like an angel who had fallen into hell. In a distressed white dress with matching gloves, Zardoya carried her sultry, pixie-like voice across the crowd like a spell. Suddenly, everyone felt a little seductive and mysterious too, swaying their hips and shoulders to “All I Really Want Is You,” “Hush” and “Otro Atardecer.”
Like Saturday’s headliner Kali Uchis, Zardoya sang in both English and Spanish, blending the languages into silky songs of love and yearning. Her entrancing voice was accompanied by dreamy instrumentals that felt like waking from deep slumber by the sea, especially during “Only in My Dreams.” Slow, romantic and affecting, her music belongs in the most intimate of spaces, personified by cigarette smoke and black-and-white films.
With grand trumpet solos from band member Gabe Steiner and low, haunting backing vocals from guitarist Jesse Perlman and drummer Josh Conway, Zardoya’s soft, distinctive voice transformed into an entity—a story. During “Cariño,” a couple in the crowd held one another close, leaning in for kisses as Zardoya sang: “You're a masterpiece / Just by only looking at you, it's something that gives me peace / Darling, you're lovely / Darling, you paint in color.”—K.S.
Phoebe Bridgers Has 'Em in the Palm of Her Hand
Packed like sardines, the crowd waiting for Phoebe Bridgers on Friday night collectively screamed when she entered, dressed in a suit and bowtie, guitar in hand, silver tresses blowing in the wind. The Polo Field became a congregation, and hearing her soft voice live enveloped by stripped-down instrumentals beneath a dark sky and light dew was almost spiritual. Shoulder-to-shoulder, attendees sang along—some with tears in their eyes—as Bridgers played hits like “Motion Sickness,” “Kyoto,” Savior Complex” and “Chinese Satellite.”
In between songs, the Ukiah-raised Bridgers was sparse with words. When introducing “Funeral,” she offered just one line. “Um,” she said. “This one is an enormous bummer.” For “ICU,” she offered something similarly vague: “This is about the time I cried in a grocery store parking lot.”
These short, vague prefaces allowed a brief release for the crowd before being returned to the intimate landscapes of the quiet artist’s mind in the hour-long set. Holding this in their memories, the crowd stifled cheers during songs, looking up hopefully at someone who sang about a feeling that still bubbled in their hearts.—K.S.
SZA wowed the crowd at the Lands End stage with one of the most intricates set at this year’s festival. Starting her set atop a lighthouse, the R&B singer had fans hanging on her every word from the moment she took the stage. The life-sized anchor, marine projections and custom-made pier took the audience to a musical paradise where SZA reigns as queen.
The night was a clear glow-up from the minimalist approach of SZA's 2018 headlining set in Oakland. Her growth was not only evident in the stage design but her overall stage presence, with elaborate synchronized dance numbers and a colorful wardrobe.
Kicking things off with “All The Stars,” the singer's collaboration with Kendrick Lamar, the night was full of new and old hits, including “Love Galore,” “The Weekend,” and “Normal Girl.”
Most impressively, SZA did this all after shortly recovering from COVID-19 last week. As she told the audience: “I was definitely fighting for my life to be with you.”—E.G.
Mac DeMarco: 'They're All Love Songs!'
Known for alternative indie-rock classics and a history of unpredictable stage antics, Mac DeMarco began his Saturday set with mellow 2014 single “Salad Days.” Flashing his famous gap-toothed smile, his La-li-la-lalas were mirrored by dedicated fans in the audience.
DeMarco's ease on stage showed when he swung his mic around during “Chamber of Reflection,” cheekily smiling when it distorted the sound; when he periodically yelled during songs; and when, during a jazzy interlude of “Still Together,” he walked to each of his bandmates and asked them to improvise scat singing.
In his signature green bucket hat with a yellow smiley face, DeMarco laughed often and was eager to shout out his band members: guitarist Alec Meen, bassist Daryl Johns and drummer JD Beck. Together, they looked like a group of garage band kids, ecstatic to be in each other’s company as they played nostalgic riffs and sang along to the tender lyrics of DeMarco’s wide discography.
At one point, DeMarco admitted, “They’re all love songs!” With this in mind, it was hard not to have someone special in mind as he sang “Baby’s Wearing Blue Jeans,” “Let Her Go,” “Another One” and the rest of the set. Wistful and sincere, the evening was permeated with a feeling of yearning that stayed long after he played.—K.S.
Parcels Electrify Crowds with Funk and Disco
People eager to dance and groove packed the Sutro stage at dusk, awaiting the arrival of five-piece Australian band Parcels. When the clock struck seven, the members launched into a long musical intro, slowly building a simple guitar riff into a multilayered jam session with lush keyboard, drums and bass playing. After several minutes, this transitioned into their hit single, “Lightenup,” a soulful funk song with hypnotic vocal harmonizations reminiscent of Bee Gees-era disco.
As the last remnants of the day’s sun warmed the stage, guitarist and lead vocalist Jules Crommelin greeted the crowd. “San Francisco, this place is the best,” he said, smiling. “And the smell man. The smell! So good.”
With their remaining time, the Parcels played other crowd pleasers that included “Tieduprightnow,” “IknowhowIFeel” and an exhilarating cover of Lykke Li’s “I Follow Rivers” that blended the group’s penchant for genre melding and long, satisfying instrumental interludes that climb to euphoric and cinematic climaxes.—K.S.
Kali Uchis Serves Superstar Presence
When R&B singer Kali Uchis strutted on stage Saturday night, attendees shivering in the cold suddenly lit up, jumping to their feet. Dressed in an all-white ensemble and donning her signature smokey cat eye and glossy pout, Uchis opened with “Dead to Me” while fiercely sashaying and gesturing to the audience. Uchis’ powerful dismissal of an obsessive former flame had crowd members shouting along to every word of the independent-hot-girl anthem.
As the music transitioned into the smooth house beats of “10%,” Uchis delivered commanding glances as she sang, one hand holding the mic and the other performing precise choreography in sync with her backup dancers. Despite a few audio issues, Uchis put on a captivating performance, embodying a siren-like quality with her velvety contralto vocals, enchanting stares and sensual dance moves. Singing in both Spanish and English, Uchis performed hits like “fue mejor” and “no eres tu (soy yo)” from her 2020 Spanish album Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios), and even some older songs like “Loner” and “Speed” from her 2015's Por Vida.
Bathed in pink and purple light, Uchis bewitched the stage, and her voice—airy one moment and soulful the next—stirred the cold out of weary festival goers, ending the night with heat and dance.—K.S.
Dominic Fike Jumps From the Screen to the Stage
You may know Dominic Fike as one of the leads of HBO’s Emmy award-winning show Euphoria, or as Lil Nas X’s love interest in Brockhampton’s music video for “Count On Me.” But for those who caught the actor's set on Friday afternoon, Fike left his mark as a musician.
Coming off as a mix of an old soul and TikTok sensation, Fike fittingly kicked off with a cover of “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts before launching into original numbers “Baby Doll” and “She Wants My Money,” the latter of which included an impressive guitar solo. Fike also performed “The Kiss Of Venus,” a song that he worked on with Paul McCartney.
Joined by New York musician Blu DeTiger on the bass, a star in her own right, Fike performed with a skilled set of young instrumentalists. The audience was mostly composed of young faces who sang along at the end, when Fike played his biggest hit to date, “3 Nights.”
Post Malone, the Relatable Sunday-Night Star
Post Malone was all smiles at the Land End stage on Sunday Night. Raising a toast to the crowd with a red solo cup, the singer's carefree attitude carried across Golden Gate Park.
Dressed in Converse high-tops, cutoff butterfly shorts and a large t-shirt, the Grammy award-winning artist could have passed for one of the many concertgoers who spent the weekend partying and enjoying music. Perhaps that explains his appeal: watching Malone perform felt like hanging out with a friend. He made heart shapes with his hands and directed them at people in the front row. He reached over the stage railing to fist-bump fans.
During “Circles” and “Better Now,” even those who'd been napping on the field seemed to rally enough energy to cheer for the closing set of the festival.—E.G.
More photos below.
Care about what’s happening in Bay Area arts? Stay informed with one email every other week—right to your inbox.