Pity the poor event staff at the Outside Lands Festival. Armed only with bright yellow T-shirts and deep scowls, they’re tasked with corralling mobs of fans and keeping scofflaws out of the Golden Gate Park bacchanal.
But even they had to give in and dance Friday during Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats’ on the first night of the festival, now in its ninth year. The muscular R&B ensemble released its eponymous debut last year on Stax Records, fabled label of Booker T. & the M.G.’s and Otis Redding, which feels apt.
Rateliff, with a howl that shows his folk-rock and Americana roots, mopped his brow with a designated sweat rag during songs like “S.O.B.”
At the main Lands End stage, singer Andrew Wyatt and producer cohorts Bloodshy & Avant in the Swedish pop band Miike Snow played peppy, keyboard inspired material before Duran Duran, offering the day’s nostalgia factor, led its own dance party.
“You deserve to have the best time of your lives!” Simon Le Bon exhorted the modest early-evening crowd.
Some danced with enthusiasm, some danced ironically, and some appeared to just be really, really high.
Still, the band sounded impeccable on songs like “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Rio” and a cover of Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines.” (However, some concert goers thought the band occupied the stage for too long between hits, and played too much new material.)
Headliners LCD Soundsystem capped Friday by playing every song a fan could ask for.
The electronic rockers’ set list rose and fell for over an hour, the intensity reaching epic heights with “Losing My Edge,” remaining steady with “Home” and drifting southward before promptly going nuts like the crowd in “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.”
Frontman James Murphy’s vocal range is holding up (the band broke up in 2011 and recently reunited), and he ended the night with “Dance Yrself Clean” and “All My Friends,” wherein many members of the audience ought to have reached for their nearest friend.
Earlier on the Sutro Stage, the sun actually came out for Foals, as the band powered through high energy English rock, prompting perhaps the only mosh pit of the day. Yannis Philippakis, lead vocalist and guitarist, encouraged it, belting “Space!” at a cathartic moment in the middle of “Inhaler,” a single off the band’s third album.
Philippakis, who usually has his hand outstretched, finger pointing downward, sailed into the crowd. At another point, drummer Jack Bevan stood on top of his drum set, smashing his sticks together. The performance was full of tension.
Later, the Claypool Lennon Delirium took the same stage for a performance of an odder variant.
Primus bassist and vocalist Les Claypool and Sean Lennon, of The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (whose father is John Lennon) played through a darker set of songs from their debut album.
Claypool looked like he could sell snake oil, in a beard and top hat, sometimes playing an upright bass. Both shared vocal duties in the set, which included a crowd-pleasing cover of King Crimson’s epic “In the Court of Crimson King.”
Later, Victoria Legrand of the Baltimore dream pop band Beach House provided moody, smoky vocals to nicely accompany the sun setting and offered a feminist message, saying, “Ladies, get on top. Take control.”
Ahead of his planned performance with Phantogram Saturday as Big Grams, Big Boi of Outkast surprised fans with a short set as evening fell on a small stage just outside Beer Lands, rambling through now-classics “Bombs over Baghdad” and “Ms. Jackson.”
Over on the Twin Peaks stage in Hellman Hollow earlier, the appealing and nice Jidenna (31-year-old Nigerian-American Jidenna Theodore Mobisson) played entertaining and energetic hip hop, perfectly infused with African beats.
Grimes, a Canadian synth pop artist, headed up a beat-heavy set, wearing neon green (and looking ready for a workout), before J. Cole, the hot 31-year-old North Carolina rapper, controlled the crowd with his charisma, heart and fashion. Shabby chic in an orange T-shirt and cargo shorts, he performed all his hits (“I ain’t never did this before” from “Wet Dreamz” was a major sing-along), and also did selections for fans, he said, who have been with him from the start.
On the smaller Panhandle Stage, Vulfpeck — University of Michigan music students with a fondness for funk and excellent taste in soulful vocalists — gave a fun, musically perfect history lesson on the form.
Closing the evening on the stage was Hiatus Kaiyote, a wild “future soul” group from Melbourne, Australia showcasing out-there, wide-ranging vocals by Naomi “Nai Palm” Saalfield, who looked great in a furry jacket and invited the crowd to dance to keep warm.
While music is the festival’s big draw, food is increasingly stealing the spotlight. At the GastroMagic stage, the Jazz Mafia and ice cream purveyor Humphry Slocombe joined forces for an inspired Prince tribute in which audience members could dance across the stage for free cups of a special-edition flavor, “Erotic City. ”
At a session presented by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, the “Bay Area Hipster Chef Roast” hosted by Paco Romane featured zingers by Kyle Kinane, Krista Fatka, Clare O’Kane and Kaseem Bentley, a black comedian who appropriately taunted privileged white listeners in the audience: “F— you, you all work at startups.”
He had a point. Tickets for three-day passes, going for $355 to $765, were sold out.
— Michael Barba and Giselle Velazquez contributed to this report