SAN FRANCISCO — Eight years after headlining opening night of the inaugural Outside Lands Music Festival, Radiohead returned Saturday to the event with a two-hour set that showed their range of abilities.
Because of the way the event has grown and evolved, fans weren’t standing shoulder to shoulder back to where the festival’s distinct windmill stands today.
While Radiohead thundered away on the Lands End main stage, a different contingent spent Saturday’s closing hours watching hot R&B sensation Anderson .Paak and electronic dance musician Zedd.
Here are seven of RIFF’s favorites from Saturday’s second day of the festival:
Radiohead goes for a dip in the Pool — Lands End Stage
The British art rock quintet showed off six tracks from its latest album, May’s A Moon Shaped Pool, during its set. The band started with three Pool cuts , coming out swinging with the chugging “Burn the Witch” before moving immediately into the ethereal “Daydreaming.” That was tonal whiplash, but from there, the band seemed to build two and three-song pairings two show off its eras and skills. The best stretch came after singer Thom Yorke asked the crowd “Shall we” and then they fired off “Weird Fishes / Arpeggi,” “Everything in its Right Place,” “Idioteque” and “There There” in succession.
Sufjan Stevens gets weird with it — Sutro Stage
The New York-based art pop and folk singer proved as whimsical and unpredictable as his quirky songs would suggest. Sufjan Stevens set the tone on the first song, when wings began protruding from his back during “Seven Swans.” At the song’s conclusion, he smashed his banjo. Later, in a surreal moment, when he slowed things down with “Fourth of July,” he somehow lulled the crowd into pumping its fists and chanting “We’re all gonna die” along with the song’s closing refrain. His disjointed, neon-colored costumes and inflatable silver outfits seemed to lack rhyme or reason, but he made a festival set workable for his distinct brand of music.
Vince Staples lifts us up — Twin Peaks Stage
The Long Beach rapper may not have drawn the biggest crowd (Zedd) or the most active (Jauz) to the Twin Peaks Stage, but the strength of the material from last year’s stellar debut double album, Summertime ‘06, along with his breath control carried him. His stage presence wasn’t magnetic, pacing from one side to the other and jumping, although he did move down onto the barricade during the closer “Blue Suede” to rap to the front row. Staples got the crowd jumping and dancing thanks to hits such as “Señorita” and “Norf Norf.”
The Knocks bring the heat — Twin Peaks Stage
“It’s cold out, but we’re going to warm you up,” said The Knocks’ James “J-Patt” Patterson as the band laid down “Dancing With the DJ” and other hits to bring the groove and get the booties shaking. It didn’t hurt, too, that St. Lucia made a surprise appearance to perform their “Modern Hearts” collaboration. Between that and delivering woozy beats such as the one fueling “Brightside,” The Knocks did their part to heat things up.
The Last Shadow Puppets bring sexy back — Sutro Stage
This year’s Outside Lands was lacking some old school sex, drugs and rock and roll. Alex Turner and Miles Kane filled the quota of sexy rock, clad in black leather and hip-thrusting themselves during a unique scenario. While Turner, of the Arctic Monkeys, could have easily filled up Hellman Hollow, Saturday instead saw thousands storm to the Polo Field in advance of Radiohead. This left one of the festival’s most entertaining ensembles reachable, danceable and extremely enjoyment. We’ll also come out and say it: The Last Shadow Puppets are way more entertaining than the Monkeys.
The Wombats let the dogs out — Lands End Stage
Sometimes it’s impossible to catch all of the best moments at a festival, no matter how well you plan. Such was the case Saturday, when The Wombats were pitted against The Knocks. Liverpudlians Matthew Murphy, Tord Øverland Knudsen, Dan Haggis (OK, they don’t live there any more but how often can we say “Liverpudlian?”) introduced a raucous main stage crowd to their third album, 2015’s Glitterbug, along with older standards such as “Let’s Dance to Joy Division.” And to top it all off, Murphy brought out their dog, Daisy, who took one look at the thousands in the Polo Field and needed a moment of solitude.
Julien Baker breaks us and builds us over again — Sutro Stage
Artists who play first at Outside Lands usually play to smaller crowds and awkward silences. Julien Baker lives in the awkward silences. Her crowd Saturday afternoon was anything but small, but you could hear a pin drop during her sparse arrangements of songs that tell of pain and redemption. Baker, ever self-deprecating, mentioned how sad songs make her feel better and even promised fans the best was yet to come. “It can only go up from here.” The stillness created with only a voice and a revered guitar can hardly be matched, though. Every so often a whoop or color would break the silence — “I love you, Julien!” Ever the honest musician, Baker would respond with humble thanks or with “I’m sure I’d like you!”
Che Holts’ photos
Adrian Jusue’s photos:
Roman Gokhman’s photos