The 29 Best Moments From Outside Lands Festival 2015
Another edition of San Francisco's finest festival is in the books. Outside Lands 2015 took over Golden Gate Park for three days of music, food, beer, wine, people, creativity and more engaging experiences awaiting festival-goers at every turn. With that, what better way to tell the story of the weekend than recapping its best moments, amiright? Let us commence the exercise:
Best Way To Start The Festival: Natalie Prass
The Richmond, VA singer/rocker/overall badass played to the lucky (and/or well-prepared) souls who got to the Sutro Stage by noon on Friday. Hearing Prass and her solid backing band run through songs off her new album, was a blissful way to kick off the afternoon, and "Bird Of Prey" is easily one of the best songs of the year.
Best Year-to-Year Improvement: Free Camelbak Refillable Water Stations
Last year's refillable water stations were A) not free unless you had an OSL water bottle B) slow as molasses, which led to unbearable lines for WATER?! The 2014 machines poured water at a snail's pace because they were "triple filtering your water." Honestly, no one cares how amazing the water is. They just need the stuff, and this year's Camelbak sponsored stations has multiple workers, each wielding two lightning-fast dispensers. It was an essential adjustment.
Best Gluten-Free Menu Option: Beast and Hare's Texas-Style Baked Potato
Hey...this is San Francisco and the year 2015, and everyone has some sort of dietary restriction. That said, the best gluten-free items don't make you feel like you're eating something chalky. Beast and Hare's loaded spud has cheddar cheese, sour cream, green onions, butter, jalapeños, bacon AND braised beef. It was perfect and kept me full for hours.
Best Dressed: Leon Bridges
The Fort Worth, TX singer's entry was a page right out of James Brown's playbook. The band started playing and he slowly waltzed out looking dapper as can be. Extra shouts to the cowboy hat-wearing musicians on stage with him; they made it feel like SF had transformed into Texas for an hour.
Best Afro: Speedy Ortiz's Guitar Player Devin McKnight
That thing was just all kinds of smooth, and dude shredded up there with the electric Sadie Dupuis-led Speedy Ortiz.
Best Calculated Kickassed-ness: St. Vincent's Annie Clark
It's a pleasure to see an artist who is absolutely at the top of her game. The way Clark and Toko Yasuda robotically moved and shuffled around the stage was so precise, and added to her mystique. She's a wicked guitar player, was clad in an open-studded body suit and might've been the most comfortable and well-executed artist of the weekend.
Best Dancer: Long-Haired Blonde Surfer Dude
This guy was everywhere. I first saw him losing his mind at St. Vincent, shirtless and just feeling the damn vibe. On Saturday, he was posted up at the main stage again, twirling shirtlessly and blissfully to Tame Impala. On Sunday, he was at Caribou's set, shirtless again, mind lost again and filled with life. Festivals need more people like him. Wherever you are long-haired blonde, shirtless-dancer dude, I salute you!
Best Guitar Player: Nels Cline
Nels Cline is a gift to the world. Wilco ended its set with "Impossible Germany" and Cline played an elongated version of his infamous guitar solo that was just fucking beautiful. Later that evening, Cline watched D'Angelo from the crowd and could be seen playing air guitar. Legend.
Best Cover Song: First Aid Kit Plays Black Sabbath's "War Pigs"
First off, who knew that two Swedish sisters could churn out folk Americana singles this well?? To top it all off, they covered the Ozzy Osbourne-led classic, "War Pigs" in its eight-minute entirety. Later that night they changed my tire and solved a Rubik's Cube in under 20 seconds. (Not really, but is there anything they can't do?!)
Trippiest Weather For A Set: Chet Faker
6:25 pm on Friday at Sutro Stage. The line between fog machine and San Francisco mist was blurred as the spectrum of solar colors peeked through cracks in the stage's canvas and Chet Faker stepped to the mic. It was a visual phenomenon that can probably be chalked up as a "lightning in a bottle" effect, but one that could only happen with the elements of San Francisco weather systems.
Best Way To End A Friday Night: D'Angelo & The Vanguard
This was all smiles in the twilight of the Sutro Stage. The set was inexplicably under-attended when it started, but the crowd slowly trickled in and D'Angelo was well....flawless.
Best Coming Out Party: HEARTWATCH
Last year's Saturday opening set at the intimate Panhandle Stage was Vance Joy, who has since gone on to global stardom. While Joy is an extreme example, the grumblings in the crowd were that maybe San Francisco's powerful indie pop darlings, led by radiant singer Claire George, could be on a rising trajectory themselves. Saturday was the gloomiest day of the three and the misty rain made for a truly unique experience.
Best Food To Brag To Your Friends About Eating: AQ's Waffles
A mixed mushroom topped waffle with sesame seeds, crispy sage and a porcini cream sauce? Yes please. Not enough for you? How does a Monte Cristo waffle with a spicy habanero jelly sound? Sure.
Best Effortless Style: Unknown Mortal Orchestra's Ruban Nielson
Linen pants, a flowy crew neck sweater, rings, crafty necklaces, a small black hat and an Eye of Providence tattoo below his Adam's apple? Style for days.
Most Politically Relevant Totem: Donald Trump
Trumpasaurus has been all over the news following this week's GOP presidential debates and this dude captured the "talking head" feel well.
Most Surprisingly Awesome Set of The Weekend: Django Django
Wow...just wow. I had kinda chalked the British rockers up as being an indie one-hit wonder on the heels of the single "Default," but they were mind-blowing. I was dragging ass on Saturday afternoon and this set brought me right back to life. It was a rockin' dance party, with sweet art-rock guitar grooves and a much-needed infusion of energy to combat the festival's proverbial hump.
Best Thing I Never Expected To See At A Festival: Top Chef Master Chris Cosentino Cooking Lamb Hearts
Full disclosure: Chris Cosentino is my favorite chef. I worship the guy's imaginative and ambitious cooking. To my shagrin, as I walked past the music/gastronomy mash-up Gastromagic Stage in the woods, Cosentino was cooking plump Napa Valley organic lamb hearts and talking musical collaborations. I laughed and enjoyed it.
Best Set To Stretch and Do Yoga During: Tame Impala
6:30 pm on Saturday evening on the Lands End Stage was a re-charge session to the tune of Aussie psych-rockers Tame Impala. 'Twas a well-timed and rejuvenating exercise.
Best All-Around: Kendrick Lamar
King Kendrick dominated this festival. He played, what seemed like every single track off of his breakout sophomore album, good kid m.A.A.d city, three singles off of 2015's critically-acclaimed To Pimp A Butterfly and even a cut off his debut Section 80. It was the best rapper in the game putting it down and having the crowd hang on his every word. At one point, he shouted out a crowd-surfer in a wheelchair. It was special, unexpected and just added more feels to an emotionally charged set. KING Kendrick indeed.
Best Live Art: Murals
Throughout the festival, murals from year's past were interspersed and as new art got made, it would get up around the festival grounds. The art was on point and there was a central viewing area to see the large slates getting painted before being installed.
Best Hair: SZA
This electro R&B singer is a flat-out star. She impressed with her Sunday opening set at Twin Peaks Stage, while wearing a Chicago Blachawks jersey-dress. But you couldn't take your eyes off of her gorgeous auburn curls. It's as if Beyoncé and Boogie Nights' Amber Waves' hair merged into one divine coif.
Best Excuse To Overpay For Food: Lobster Rolls From Woodhouse Fish Co.
Twenty bucks. I know...it's sorta insane, but I had, like, half a Maine lobster in my sandwich. The lump meat was mixed with mayo, spices and chives on the spot and the toasty, buttery bun was perfect. I haven't stopped thinking about it since.
Best Appearance From a Giants World Series Hero: Pat "The Bat" Burrell
Well...he wasn't actually there, but this awesome totem sign was everywhere.
Most Crowded Set: DJ Mustard
Never in my wildest dreams did I think a 3:30 pm set from a hip-hop DJ was gonna be this packed, but DJ Mustard totally got the festival TURNT UP! The crowd stretched more than halfway between Twin Peaks Stage and Land's End. It was the only time I lost friends in the crowd all weekend. He coursed through a catalog of hip-hop club bangers and the slew of Top 40 hits he's produced. Extra shouts for opening with Tyga's "Rack City" and getting the whole crowd to sing along with Lil John's "Get Low."
Best "Where The Heck Have You Been?" Moment: Givers
The Louisiana indie rock group burst onto the scene with 2011's In Light and seemed to have crazy momentum. They were booked to last year's festival but were dropped mysteriously. The wait was worth it, as percussionist/singer Tiffany Lamson and guitarist/singer Taylor Guarisco led a furious display of relevance. Despite some feedback issues from the sound booth, Givers held it together with a mix of old songs and some eye-poppingly promising new cuts. Get 'em (back) on your radar now.
Best Burger That Tasted Like It Does At The Restaurant: 4505 Meats
The true test of good festival food, is if there's nothing lost during the mad rush to pump out your recipe to thousands of hungry revelers. 4505 produced a burger that was 100% the same as what you get at their Divisadero Street location. The [beef] force is strong with this one.
Best Weird and Amazing Dance Party: Caribou
Dan Snaith and company led a new-wave drum circle of electronic mastery thanks to songs from 2014's immaculate creation, Our Love. It gave a special energy to the sunset crowd at Twin Peaks Stage that saw new friends pulling each other into a slew of dance circles and had everyone losing their minds into awesomeness for an hour. If there was ever any doubt, Dan Snaith's Caribou is one of the best musical projects out there.
Best Indicator That You're Indeed in San Francisco: Wine Lands and Cheese Lands
I spy Humboldt Fog, Manchego, figs and fancy seeded crackers. Hey...don't shoot the messenger.
Most Unbelievable Festival Moment: Elton John
Utter disbelief. That's what I felt through the entire two hours of Sir Elton John's set. There are some acts that are so big, you just don't ever really expect to see them play live, let alone in a setting as magical as the heart of Golden Gate Park. It wasn't just "Rocket Man" or "Tiny Dancer" – it was the way Sir Elton played the piano to the soundtrack of our lives and it was the aura that filled the atmosphere far beyond the trees that hovered over the Land's End Stage. Bravo.