To whom it may concern at the Outside Lands Festival: Big Freedia doesn’t belong on the petite GastroMagic stage.
Sure, the rapper’s “Beignet & Bounce Brunch” early Saturday afternoon was a must-see event in its third year. But the tightly packed crowd barely had room to twerk to the contagious sounds of New Orleans bounce.
“I got some gin in my system! Somebody gon’ be my victim!” Big Freedia hollered, shaking her long, blond hair extensions — and everything else, by extension.
Twerk is the preferred artistic medium of Big Freedia and her dancers, and “Azz Everywhere” was their rallying cry as audience members grinded across the stage for heavenly-smelling beignets from Brenda’s Soul Food.
The hip-hop devotees twerked. Blue-haired hippies twerked. A gray-haired man in a “Giants World Series 2014” shirt twerked. The birds, bees and squirrels twerked (it was very subtle).
Big Freedia ended the show with some hooks from her recent collaboration with Beyonce, “Formation,” which has raised the rapper’s profile this year.
Now, can the queen diva get a decent time slot on a bigger stage?
Preferably with some beignets nearby?
Across Hellman Hollow, Fantastic Negrito enjoyed sweet justice on the Twin Peaks stage. The Oakland singer, real name Xavier Dphrepaulezz, was hot off winning NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert contest last year when his set at the 2015 Outside Lands Festival was abruptly yanked.
Fans were left disappointed, with one of Dphrepaulezz’s interns later admitting to having scalped a wristband (those things are really not transferable, apparently).
Fast-forward a year, and all was forgiven as the soulful bluesman pounded out songs from his latest album, the gentrification lament “The Last Days of Oakland.”
Soul was also the operative word for San Francisco funk-rockers Con Brio on the Panhandle stage.
The band’s irresistible groove is the fuse and singer Ziek McCarter is the dynamite, channeling the soul of the 1970s in his smooth voice and smoother dance moves. Con Brio turned the lights down low with “Give it All,” and the McCarter really does give it his all — including the shirt off his back, which somehow went missing midway through the set.
Glam-rock sex goddess Peaches also made some inspired fashion choices. Backup dancers dressed like vulvas — very anatomically correct vulvas — illustrated the lyrics of songs like “Rub” and “Vaginoplasty.”
San Francisco’s omnipresent summer chill was no match for the Canadian singer-artist-filmmaker’s natural heat. By the showstopping “The Boys Want to Be Her” — which “Daily Show” alumnae Samantha Bee has adopted as a cri de guerre on her late-night show “Full Frontal” — Peaches had also somehow lost her top.
She was followed by Dr. Dre protégé Anderson Paak and his band The Free Nationals. Dressed in summer white, the soulful, eclectic hard-to-pin-down singer, songwriter, rapper, producer and drummer (whose latest album has the seemingly unlikely title “Malibu”) told the attentive crowd, “If no one loves you, I do.”
Early in the day, at the Polo Field Lands End stage, the Wombats, a Britpop act not necessarily everybody’s favorite band, kept the crowd moving to the pivotal “Let’s Dance to Joy Division,” ending with a headbanging session that differed from the rest of the pop set.
Air, the elecrontric act of French musicians Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Duncke, played a pleasant, if subdued, set on the stage in the early evening.
On the Twin Peaks stage, 21-year-old internet singer-songwriter Halsey of “New Americana” fame subdued the audience with laconic electropop stylings and complained; she did, however, thanks fans for “sticking it out in the cold” with her.
She was followed by EDM star Zedd, who played a string of remixed chart topping hits in a wildly festive audience sing-along that was made all the more compelling by a captivating LED show synchronized to the music – for those close in the packed crowd who were enough to see the video.
Earlier, on the Sutro stage, the Last Shadow Puppets played a relentlessly catchy and somewhat psychedelic set. Headed by Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys and Miles Kane from the Rascals, the supergroup played through hits on their first album, including “The Age of The Understatement” and “Standing Next to Me.”
The band mostly stuck to its new release, except for a cover of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream.” The spotlight was on Turner who woo’d in a leather jacket, while Kane was decked out in a suit. Three violinists accompanied the group.
Eclectic multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens’ oddities are evident in his records, but it’s hard to grasp just how strange and brilliant he is without seeing him perform live.
On the Sutro Stage, he was mind-blowing. Stevens and his band, which includes horns, two female dancers and backup singers, were outfitted in matching neon attire. Sufjan took the stage wearing feathered wings like some sort of banjo-playing angel, until he broke the banjo (and one of the wings).
Song after song the layers of clothing came off, sometimes replaced with balloon suits or pieces of tin foil (and in Stevens’ case, the foil gown made him look like a god when he stepped on a ladder, also in foil, with his hands stretched to the sky).
When he sauntered onto the stage with a neon armband and aviator shades for “All of Me Wants All of You” from “Carrie & Lowell,” he transformed the depressing album version of the tune into a swaggering slow jam.
The real gem was when he encouraged mindlessly decadent festival goers to sing along to “Fourth of July,” a song about illness. Stevens and the audience together purged their emotions, chanting, “We’re all gonna die.”
And at one point he took a breath, and said he’s going to die, you’re going to die, your children are going to…. the person next to you…
All about release, the performance devolved into a balloon-filled dance party, a good lead up to headliner Radiohead, which encapsulated the Lands End stage for almost two hours.
Even though the group’s extensive catalog has seemingly become more and more experimental with each release following 1993’s “Pablo Honey,” Thom Yorke and his bandmates have a surprising amount of recognizable songs.
The band was bathed in deep colors on Saturday night as it played a range from “Idioteque,” off “Kid A,” the band’s first foray into electronic rock, to a succession of hits in the encore.
The set finished with “Paranoid Android” and “Karma Police” — classics from 1997’s “OK Computer.”
— Michael Barba and Giselle Velazquez contributed to this report