Amid concerns about public safety in the wake of recent mass shootings and beefed up security, spirits were mostly high on Friday’s opening day of the 12th Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival in Golden Gate Park.
That partly could be credited to the new 21-and older Grasslands section, where cannabis in all forms (cannabis-infused Lagunitas and gummies and chocolates, for example) was for sale, and patrons could take advantage of their purchases in designated “consumption areas.” On Friday, mid-evening, the scene was appropriately mellow.
But, “consumption areas” be damned, many festivalgoers sat down, reclined and smoked within the sprawling grasslands of the park, between the festival’s main stages in the Polo Field, Lindley Meadow and Hellman Hollow.
As Oakland’s acoustic-electro bedroom act Still Woozy (aka Sven Gamsky) finished his set on Lindley Meadow’s Sutro Stage, The Neighbourhood, the Southern California rockers band fronted by shirtless vocalist Jesse Rutherford who sported a dramatic tattooed upper body, played the big Lands End stage, preceding Lil Wayne.
With booming bass and famed verses, the rapper, pushing his 2018 album “Tha Carter V” and including older songs such as “6 Foot 7 Foot,” put on a literally explosive afternoon performance in the sun on the packed Polo Field.
It was quite a contrast to Lauren Daigle, the inspirational, soulful singer with a modest but mighty audience at the other end of the park’s Twin Peaks stage. With a great band with a superlative horn section and backup singers, she powered through a set covering Steve Wonder, Bob Marley and Curtis Mayfield, before closing with her big Christian contemporary hit “You Say.”
Meanwhile, on the Panhandle Stage, psychedelic soul band The Marías was cool. Most members hid behind sunglasses and wore white turtlenecks, save for lead singer Maria, who sported a simple white latex coat over a black bustier, and sparkly mesh skirt.
Rousing trumpet solos were pleasing; the tune Cariño” got a complex, loud version, and toward the set’s close, there was a fun, easy sing-along of a slow, sensual rendition of Britney Spears’ “… Baby One More Time.”
On the Sutro Stage, Yaeji, an endearing fixture in house music who proudly throws her Korean heritage into the mix, successfully brought the nightclub outdoors. Basslines of “Guap” or “Raingurl” were equally hypnotic, if not more visceral, than in a cramped, dark club, as metal scaffolding onstage rattled with each beat. In some songs, though, the bass overtook her voice, and it was hard to distinguish whether the vocals were live or prerecorded.
Some audience members even found an excuse to start a mosh-pit during her remix of Drake’s hit dancehall song, “Passionfruit.”
““I don’t know what I was expecting,” said one listener. “Not this.”
Closing the evening on the Sutro Stage, experimental hip hop DJ and rapper Flying Lotus (aka Steven Ellison) led a ride through multiple dimensions, apocalyptic wastelands and time with a 3D show. Viewers were given red glasses to experience trippy visual effects as the artist showed all sides of himself, from old school leanings to his alternate irreverent rap persona, Captain Murphy.
Many were confused from the moment he started. If it wasn’t the strangely haunting onscreen cameo from David Lynch for “Fire Is Coming,” off Flying Lotus’ most recent album, “Flamagra,” it was the overall experimental flavor of his set that turned folks away.
Some might have heard Flying Lotus as an artist deliberately throwing himself into a chaos of sound in search of a melody; others heard a cacophony of clicks and clacks with more than generous servings of distorted basslines. Both are valid observations.
“What genre of music is this,” one listener asked.
“ADHD,” another one quickly responded.
Melodies, however, were front and center in the evening on the Twin Peaks Stage, where 1990s rockers Counting Crows (from Berkeley) cycled through their hits including “Hard Candy,” “Mr. Jones” and “Hanginaround.”
Frontman Adam Duritz – his soulful vocals and hair are still amazing — is known for deviating from studio versions during his live performances, but mostly stuck to the script as fans, including a few with gray hair, tried to sing along. He slowed down the set with “A Long December,” playing the piano as the fog rolled in. The set was the band’s first in about a month, and Duritz said it was good to be back home.
After the Counting Crows, the Lumineers gave off the sense that they might be of another era.
With suspenders and at least two fedoras on stage, the Denver folk rockers played hits “Gloria” and “Ophelia,” during which lead singer-guitarist Wesley Schultz made his way through the crowd from a side stage to the main stage.
They let out shouts of joy with “Ho Hey” as video screens reflected their set in black-and-white and sepia.
It was a trip back to the 1990s with blink-182 on the Lands End Stage. The punk trio from California – drummer Travis Barker’s tattoos looked great, blasted through tunes including “What’s My Age Again,” “Adam’s Song,” “Down,” “I Miss You” (“for the ladies”) and “First Date.”
Eclectic twenty-first century rock duo Twenty One Pilots – vocalist Tyler Joseph (also on ukulele, who greeted the crowd, “You look really good”) and drummer Josh Dun (also on trumpet)– closed out the evening on the main Lands End stage, with a satisfying modern set including a version of “Heathens” with a piano intro referencing Beethoven (“Fur Elise”) as well as “We Don’t Believe What’s On TV,” “Lane Boy” and their anthem for the 21st century, “Stressed Out.”
Leslie Katz and Michael Barba contributed to this report.