SAN FRANCISCO — At Outside Lands past, Sunday’s headlining slot has often been reserved for a legacy act. Producers went the other way this year with Post Malone.
From the moment the lights went dark, thousands of phones shot up, all trying to capture the return of the artist affectionately known as Posty. His was one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend, the singer’s first Bay Area appearance since an Oakland Arena gig back in 2019. Judging by the reaction of the throngs filling the polo field, his performance met the moment. After a rousing, electric “Wow,” he casually sauntered down a long ramp at the front of the stage, holding up a red Solo cup offering a toast to the crowd.
“My name is Austin Richard Post and I’ve come to play some shitty music and get fucked up while we do it,” he announced.
Post would address the crowd often throughout his 18-song set; for coming, listening and for supporting the singer and rapper. The stage was filled with towering lighting arrays in front of a screen that was filled with dark hues. Flashes of light emanated from the bottom of the stage. But as dramatic a scene as the production created, Post Malone played it relaxed for the majority of the set. Donning butterfly shorts and a black T-shirt with the likeness of Cam from “Modern Family,” he strutted, shuffled and pranced his way around.
While he didn’t have a band, Malone did introduce an important character: Dennis. The tech supported Posty through the set, but more importantly, he was the one who delivered a steady stream of red cups. The vocalist even balanced one on his head in the early moments of “Saint-Tropez.”
Malone gave insight to many of his songs by way of introduction.
“This song is about sitting at home for two years,” he said before launching into “Cooped Up.”
Post Malone’s unique voice remains difficult to pin down. His songs are rooted in pop and R&B, and he has the keen ability to deliver both a softer melodic vocal and all the way to a full-on heavy metal growl. Many times, all those various styles interweave within one song.
He brought the fire and brimstone on “Insane” and Ozzy Osbourne collaboration “Take What You Want,” the latter including some explosive pyro in the final moments as Posty let out an earth-shaking roar.
“You guys mind if I play some guitar for you for a minute?” he asked, lighting a cigarette. “If you need to piss, now is the time to do it, because this is the boringest part of the show.”
Despite the warning, the brief acoustic section was actually a nice change from the rest of the production-heavy set—a moment for Post the singer-songwriter to let his voice cut through even more. Every Time there was a brief lull, chants of “Posty!” immediately filled space. Dennis the tech got a few chants of his own. Posty got as close to fans as he could from the stage, offering high-fives from the end of the ramp.
“Do you guys like Spider Man?” he asked toward the end of the set. “I think he’s a pretty cool guy too.”
Naturally, that meant the intro for “Sunflower,” a track that appears on the soundtrack to “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” That segued into “Rock Star,” which also included pyrotechnics, with Post delivering his most urgent performance of the night. He smashed an acoustic guitar and then punctuated the gesture by putting his foot though it before handing out pieces to the crowd.
Before moving into his final song, Post Malone again thanked fans; this time for their patience, support and understanding for the time they’ve waited for him to return.
“Besides being a little bit chubbier, nothing’s changed.” he joked.
That led to a spectacular closer in “Congratulations,” which also served as the soundtrack for a massive fireworks display that would not only close out the set but the entire weekend. As the dust settled and the crowd began to file out, Malone made his way down to the barrier to offer final greetings.
Weezer just finished a tour with Green Day, which makes it odd that, in many ways, Weezer’s set was the polar opposite of Green Day’s headlining set on Saturday night. Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo was a man of few words, unlike Billie Joe Armstrong. Weezer offered no pyrotechnics, focusing on being a band playing together.
Yet like Green Day, Weezer’s set was polished and crowd-pleasing, packed full of classic, songs.
Weezer opened with “Hash Pipe,” “Beverly Hills” and “My Name Is Jonas,” which got attendees invested early. Showing the band’s staying power, those songs from before much of the audience was born got them in a frenzy.
But it wasn’t all about the ‘90s. Weezer is still putting out new albums at a fairly regular pace, so despite festival sets mostly skewing toward old stuff, Cuomo and co. broke out new songs “Little Bit of Love” and “Records” midway through. Not as many people knew the words, of course, but fans still seemed to appreciate them. As a reward, the band soon jumped right back into its first single, “Undone – The Sweater Song.”
There was also a cover Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” which Weezer recorded for The Metallica Blacklist album. Even if attendees weren’t on board with a sudden shift, they were rewarded with “Pink Triangle” and “Island in the Sun.”
The other cover was, of course, Weezer’s famously Twitter-inspired cover of Toto’s “Africa.” It makes sense that Weezer fans would know it now, but imagine being told in 2017 that tens of thousands of people mostly in their 20s would be enthusiastically waving their hands and singing along to a Toto song from 1982.
Weezer closed out with singalong bait “Say It Ain’t So” and, finally, “Buddy Holly.” Cuomo didn’t have to say anything, the music spoke for itself.
One could argue that Sunday’s mood began more relaxed, with plenty of groups laid out across blankets across the polo field. That is, until Bronx rapper Pusha T broke the mold, delivering a frenzied afternoon set that brought out a massive early crowd to the Land’s End stage.
There was plenty of buildup. King Push’s DJ took the stage first, getting the crowd adequately lathered up before the rapper appeared and delivered the goods. He was equal parts compelling and razor-sharp. Opening with “Let the Smokers Shine the Coupes,” Pusha T grabbed the crowd and never let go.
“I don’t do fans, I do family,” said Push, who limited his banter. “Everyone in front of this stage is family.”
Most of the rapper’s comments were focused on his latest release, It’s Almost Dry, one of the best hip-hop albums this year. The crowd bounced along with tracks like “Brambleton” and “Hear Me Clearly.” More and more people showed up as the performance went along, becoming increasingly aggressive and frenzied. There was no band, no fire, no smoke shooting into the sky; just a show of force through loops and lyrics that captivated.
“This song with Kanye just got a VMA nomination,” Pusha T triumphantly shouted. “I expect all of you to go out and vote for it.”
That song, of course, was “Diet Coke.” It wasn’t the only appearance a Kanye track would have during the afternoon. Push also dropped in a verse of Ye’s anthemic “Runaway,” which had the crowd singing along. Before he left the stage, Pusha T offered one final declaration about just how much he believes in his most recent work:
“I’ll see y’all at the Grammys,” he said.
Mitski is one of the best songwriters working today. Her lyricism is incredible and her voice was amazing even in the suboptimal acoustics of Golden Gate Park. Her backing band jumped between styles seamlessly. Anyone who loves music should hear her perform.
Mitski’s performance was far more theatrical than her singer-songwriter peers. She pantomimed her songs as they were in progress. She jump-kicked and punched the air, she acted out stabbing herself in the chest with the microphone, she swung her arms around and ran back and forth across the stage.
Her diehard fans seemed to know and expect certain motions or moves and cheer wildly, while casual fans just saw an innocuous gesture. What the uninitiated saw as Mitski putting her hand on her hip or touching her head got the sort of reaction usually reserved for the first line of a hit single.
The dedicated fans sang along to “I Bet On Losing Dogs” and “Nobody” like any other fanbase would, and they cheered when they heard the band start playing favorites like “Geyser” and “Washing Machine Heart.” But, to paraphrase an overheard attendee, the timing and volume of some of the reactions felt a little like wandering into a cult meeting.
She’s a standard-setting musician and her performance, while unconventional, is well done. Just be prepared to potentially feel like an outsider until you get used to the customs.
The uninitiated may not have known what was coming from German-born pop songstress Kim Petras. The queer icon brought the club to the festival grounds, delivering a set packed with pulsing beats, anthemic songs and bombast. Petras opened with her latest EP, Slut Pop, playing it from front to back.
The songs were decidedly sex-positive. The throbbing electro-pop offered plenty of dirty lyrical themes on tracks like “Treat Me Like a Slut” and “Throat Goat.” It’s not for everybody, but the large crowd amassed at Twin Peaks stage hung onto every word and danced along with each passing track.
Petras at one point climbed the stairs at the back of the stage and pulled out a pink whip, which whipped the crowd into an ever bigger frenzy. Petras was giddy with excitement, giggling as she tried to find the words for her enthusiasm.
“This song’s been blowing up lately, so many new people are hearing it,” she said before kicking into “Can’t Do Better.” “If you know this song, it means you’re an OG.”
Petras’ singing was incredibly strong, especially on “Better,” where she showed off an impressive ability to belt it out when required. The second half of her set was more conventional pop, at least comparatively. Petras also covered “Running Up That Hill,” defending her love for the song saying it was already popular in Europe and that she’d recorded her version months before “Stranger Things” brought it back to life.
Pussy Riot isn’t, strictly speaking, a band. It’s a protest-focused performance art collective that started in Russia and spread to chapters all over the world. But it does make music; founding member Nadya Tolokno is an excellent musician who performs protest music to raise the group’s profile and raise money.
That background should have set expectations: Tolokno would be singing, and it would be intended to make a political point and challenge social norms. Her set was 40 minutes of increasingly overt sexuality set to aggressive, politically pointed music. And it was great.
The screen behind the stage showed things like burning penis-shaped candles, a knife cutting an eggplant, and a selection of sex toys. The backup dancers spent most of the show in lingerie and provocatively dancing. Tolokno herself—once she took off her “Free Britney Griner” T-shirt—was in her own revealing clothes and often brandishing a bullwhip. Pussy Riot is not just a clever name.
The music itself was good. The focus was on English-language songs like “Punish,” “Toxic” and “Hate Fuck,” and Tolokno brought out guests Salem Ilese for their collaboration “Princess Charming” and Boyfriend for their collaboration “Dance With the Devil.”
But in the end, the point of the performance was a show that advocates for freedom and women’s rights and challenges the patriarchy. It did that very well.
Tennessee native Amber Mark was styled in a purple-themed outfit and made her debut at Outside Lands Sunday afternoon performing songs off her first full-length album, Three Dimensions Wide. Rooted in R&B and soul music, “What It Is” showcased the 28-year-old’s intricate range. She followed that up with “Foreign Things,” which led with a funky bass guitar driving the grooving chorus.
Hyperpop duo 100 gecs, composed of both Dylan Brady and Laura Les, made their way to the Twin Peaks stage Sunday afternoon. The rapid beat of “stupid horse,” off 2019 album 1000 gecs, induced rhythmic headbanging among the crowd. Songs like “Doritos and Fritos,” “ringtone,” and “fallen 4 u” resonated with experimental glitch tones.
As a treat, 100 gecs played several songs from their recently completed forthcoming album, including the unique “757” and “Hollywood Baby.” The duo ended their set with the epic “money machine.”
Follow publisher Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData. Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald. Follow photographer Onome Uyovbievbo at Twitter.com/byonome and Instagram.com/by.onome.