Since 2008, Outside Lands has drawn a diverse crowd of music fans to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park for three days of music, food and, inevitably, given the city's infamous micro climate, fog. By serving up a mix of musical and culinary stars, the aim is to satiate all the cultural appetites of California’s diverse inhabitants.
Similarly to many festivals across the country, this year marks a rise in the number of electronic and dance artists who have been invited to perform alongside the rock and folk artists that have dominated the line-up in years past. It's a phenomena which is giving electronic artists exposure to a previously untapped group of potential fans. Yet the challenge is still to get people actually dancing, something Brooklyn's A-Trak, DJ extraordinaire and one half of Duck Sauce (alongside Armand Van Helden), has mastered, thanks to what he calls “a completely different energy than many of the others. We are two of the fews DJs here that really make people jump.”
Flume’s set on Sunday afternoon sets the bar high. The Australian producer and DJ, who initially broke onto the scene just over two years ago, looks out on an estimated 20,000 people at the Twin Peaks stage, an absolutely mind-blowing mass of dancing and singing fans that rivals (and perhaps surpasses) Macklemore’s crowd the night before. This high attendance is undoubtedly helped by time-slot rival Chvrches’ unfortunate absence due to travel issues, but there isn’t a single person in the crowd that doesn’t seem to recognize “Holdin On,” “Sleepless,” or his remix of Disclosure’s “You & Me.” Other standouts include Chromeo and Disclosure, the UK duo playing back to back on Friday afternoon and keeping the massive crowd dancing and moving as the fog settles in.
The same can't be said of Kanye West, who spends half of his set on Friday night stopping and starting songs partway, choosing instead to preach to the crowd from the depths of his self-obsessed monomania. The visually striking stage might be impressive, but his musical performance is more self-serving than entertaining. Many fans still stick around, however, and are rewarded with a smattering of snippets of Kanye classics, but it's hard to miss the mass migration.
Closing out the weekend are performances from The Killers and Tiësto, two incredibly different but equally popular acts that represent how electronic music has come to rival the pulling power of rock. The Killers’ performance is of epic proportions, a perfect final night mix of old favorites and new hits off Battle Born. While it would have been unthinkable a few years ago, the same crowd is now also attuned to Tiësto’s set, which is full of summertime beats, chart topping hits and some unexpected hardstyle. It even happens without the usual pyrotechnic display, but given the festival’s location in the drought ridden and heavily forested park this keeps the event feeling cozy and less histrionic than some of its more garish rivals.
Words: EMILIE FUTTERMAN