Outside Lands: Daniel J. Willis’ Sunday best and worst

Outside Lands

Tunnel to Outside Lands in San Francisco on August 12, 2018. Photos: Joaquin Cabello and Shawn Robbins.

Welcome to the third and final installment of my Outside Lands 2018 best and worst. (But not my last column in general; I shamelessly plug that at the end.) If you missed Friday or Saturday, get on that! There are running jokes you won’t get without the whole series.

The running joke is that I spent the weekend eating a lot of bacon and pork belly. But you should still read the rest.

Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe performs at Outside Lands in San Francisco on August 12, 2018.

BEST: The best thing of the day was women. Specifically, Janelle Monáe.

Her set was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. The keyboardists-turned-horn section, the backup dancers, the vagina pants from the “PYNK” video. She even executed a moonwalk so effortless it took a second to realize she was doing it! I hope every other act, including the ones that came after her, were watching Monáe to see a master class on performing.

But it gets more amazing. That performance I just spent a paragraph effusively raving about? The one I’ll put up there with any Outside Lands set I’ve ever seen, including the two Metallica sets even though I’m clinically obsessed with the band?

She performed it while sick.

At the end of the she said she was throwing up backstage with food poisoning right before the show, then she blew the roof off the place, which was especially hard because it was outdoors. Janelle Monáe: The Michael Jordan of concerts.

WORST: Monáe was neither the headliner nor the act immediately before the headliner, so after I got done having my socks knocked off by a grandmaster of the art I had to go on to review Tash Sultana and James Blake.

Nothing against either, they weren’t the worst. The worst is that I was especially critical of anything that followed Monáe which is really saying something since I’m a critic.

Sorry you two, you’d have reviewed better if you didn’t have to follow the Michael Jordan of concerts.


Salt-N-Pepa perform at Outside Lands in San Francisco on August 12, 2018.

BEST: The best thing of the day was women. Specifically Salt, Pepa and DJ Spinderella.

Heineken hosted a mini-stage with a half-hour set by Salt-n-Pepa and, in short, they were just great. I saw them after Janelle Monáe and I still loved them, that’s how good they were!

Granted, part of that is probably that I’m a longtime, avowed fan. Part is likely nostalgia. Some is definitely that Pepa asked if the ‘90s was in the house and made us sing the chorus of Biz Markie’s magnum opus “Just A Friend” to prove we’re down with old school hip-hop.

Even without all that, though, they showed why they’re the all-time best-selling female rap group and rocked a crowd way bigger than the organizers probably expected, at least judging by the amount of square footage in front of the stage for people to stand.

“Push It” is going to be stuck in my head for a month and, you know what, I’m totally OK with that.

WORST: Why would you fly in hip-hop legends Salt-n-Pepa and put them on a stage I could fit in my living room!? They had to move so their dancers could get past them!

They’re—I can’t stress this enough—the best-selling female rap group of all time and they got half an hour on a stage smaller than my driveway. Smokepurpp got 50 minutes on the second-largest stage at the festival. One of those acts has been performing their timeless hits for 31 years, the other gets super high and plays his songs on a glorified iPod.

T Sisters

T Sisters perform at Golden Gate Park during Outside Lands on Aug. 12, 2018.

BEST: The best thing of the day was women. Specifically the T Sisters, Tash Sultana and Janet Jackson.

I had to lump the five of them together (there are three T sisters) because I’m running out of space but respect to all of them for the following reasons:

T Sisters have some of the best vocal harmonies I’ve ever heard. It seems genetically improbable that three sisters would have voices that good that harmonize that well but here we are. The most impressive thing my brother and I can do is polish off a whole tray of Wing Stop chicken strips while watching football; Erika, Rachel and Chloe can make me enjoy a country song!

Tash Sultana plays basically everything and it’s amazing. Their show is one person playing basically everything, looping layers and building a song around it. I’m an avowed fan of live-looping but I’d never experienced multi-instrumentalist live-looping and my mind is blown. The level of talent that takes, on top of the concentration and practice looping requires by itself, is incredible.

Janet makes the list primarily for being Janet. She’s out there doing her thing with all the polish and energy of 20 years ago and that deserves respect.

WORST: I didn’t eat any pork products today, breaking my pig-related streak. No bacon, no pork belly, nothing. I’m a failure and I’m ashamed of myself.

I did have a giant tray of nachos though. It was a lot of nachos. Fully loaded with everything but sweet, sweet pig meat.

BEST: After this column is filed I’m going to bed, and because I’m a grown-up nobody is the boss of me so I can pretty much spend all of Monday in bed. We tend to focus on the bad parts of adulthood—bills, having to have a job to pay the bills, additional bills related to job expenses and commuting, not being able to survive exclusively on bacon—but we don’t stop to think how good we have it in a lot of ways.

Granted, those ways mostly involve eating bacon in bed after a long and exhausting weekend of festival coverage, but right now that’s all I really want in the world.

WORST: My RIFF colleagues Roman Gokhman, Joaquin Cabello and Mike DeWald wanted my last set of best and worst, and Roman is kinda technically sorta my boss so I had to give it to them. This robs me of a precious opportunity to talk about Kikagaku Moyo and bacon then go on a Grandpa Simpson-style rant, thus it’s the worst.

I’m pretty sure they expect me to drop their contributions in untouched, so my snarky comments will be in italics.

Grass Lands

Grass Lands at Outside Lands in San Francisco on August 12, 2018.

BEST: Grass Lands, the new cannabis-focused attraction finally debuted after much build-up at this year’s festival. [Not as good as Baconland. -DJW]  The area acts as a celebration of all things cannabis culture, from the plant itself, to accessories, the products that come from the extracts of the plant such as balms, creams and pretty much anything else you can imagine. The area featured a sponsored lounge, a greenhouse, and vendor booth offering all kinds of education on products and services. [But Baconland has a bacon sommelier and a variety of bacons from around the country. -DJW] The inclusion of Grass Lands is important as its the first time a major music festival has fully and officially embraced cannabis culture as part of its attractions. [Also bacon. -DJW]

However, in an odd ironic twist, Grass Lands is the only place on the festival grounds (and most of San Francisco for that matter), that you didn’t actually see anyone smoking or consuming cannabis-based products. Go figure!

The Internet, Syd tha Kyd, Syd

The Internet performs at Golden Gate Park during Outside Lands on Aug. 12, 2018. Photo: Joaquin Cabello.

WORST: Roman and photographer Joaquin were set to see R&B supergroup The Internet, hauled themselves across the festival grounds and settled in for their wait. [Roman doesn’t settle in for anything. He was probably trying to schedule something. -DJW] Band members were already sound-checking on stage and all seemed well.

The next time Roman checked his phone, he noticed the band was already 10 minutes past its start time, yet the members were no closer to getting the show started. [Shoot, I should’ve saved my scheduling joke. The man likes his schedules you see. -DJW] Another five minutes later they left the stage and walked back on to start, with vocalist Syd holding her mic.

Outside Lands, Outside Lands 2018, Outside Lands Music Festival

Except now, nothing worked. [Ha! The Internet was down. -DJW] The drums lost amplification first, followed by the bass. Syd’s mic never worked to begin with. [They should call IT. Because they’re The Internet. GET IT!? -DJW] It got awkward real quick, with the band jamming and Syd pointing at her mic. Following some stage banter, the band walked off stage as the screens announced the show was delayed until further notice.

Eventually they began, with another 10 minutes before their set was due to conclude.

FINALE: Hey, it’s me again, your normal author. Thanks for joining me on this year’s Outside Lands adventure! One quick shameless plug before I let you go: If you enjoyed my columns over the weekend check out my weekly RIFF Rewind column where I choose the top five (or so) songs of every year, in order, from 1967 to 2018. Fair warning though: I haven’t, to my knowledge, mentioned bacon once.

Yes, I put a YouTube-style plug in print. It’s called innovation!

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.

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