Attending music festivals can often be illuminating in most unexpected ways. Take, for example, lessons learned from the Day 2 of the 2015 Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival: A lot of people really, really like the Cold War Kids, Billy Idol is still in very good shape, artists on the bill are subject to issues with police, great impromptu stuff happens, and rap, so far, is the 21st century’s pop music.
Southern California-based Cold War Kids, guitar-based indie rockers who came together in 2004 but never quite reached critical and commercial acclaim, clearly have a fervent following. On Saturday, Golden Gate Park’s polo field was filled for the band’s 3:40 p.m. Lands End stage performance. Led by vocalist Nathan Willett, who has a feverish stage presence, the group blasted through its hits to the delight of the assembled masses.
Next, 1980s punk legend Billy Idol took over the stage. Armed with a catalog of iconic, MTV-era hits,he performed the crowd pleasers, including “Rebel Yell,” “White Wedding” and “Dancing With Myself.” Nearing 60, he still sports his signature lip curl, and still sashays with his shirt unbuttoned (he later took it off), revealing a surprisingly-toned midsection.
Mac Demarco, genuine and down-to-earth (he gave out his home address and invited people for coffee at his apartment), played an entertaining afternon set at Lands End. He performed music from his latest EP, “Another One,” covered Steely Dan’s “Reeling in the Years” as well as played his better known songs, including “Ode to Viceroy,” a paean to his beloved brand of cigarettes.
Aussie rockers Tame Impala, promoting their latest recording “Currents,” (perhaps the finest album released this year) gave an eye-opening performance on the headliners’ stage. Appearing in front of a trippy-looking light show, the Kevin Parker-led contingent mastered the synth-heavy material of “Currents,” but also blasted guitar-based material, including the hit “Elephant.”
Also from Australia, the indie folk pop duo Angus and Julia Stone played a range of material on the Sutro stage that showcased Julia’s ethereal vocals and the siblings’ musicianship, including work on guitar, harmonica, mandolin, banjo and trumpet.
Meanwhile, on the Panhandle stage, a young man announced, “We are a Christian a cappella group. … Wait, where is everybody going?”
It wasn’t really an a cappella group, although the gaggle of comedians including Ron Funches, Rory Scovel and Joe DeRosa did sing songs about holding hands on Sundays and rap about smoking dope for the Lord. The hourlong comedy show was a brilliantly improvised fill-in for Fantastic Negrito’s set. The Oakland bluesman’s performance was abruptly canceled after he reportedly got busted for allegedly trying to sell VIP festival wristbands.
Negrito, real name Xavier Dphrepaulezz, told Yahoo Music that he “got bumrushed by 10 San Francisco police” after arriving at the festival on Saturday. Dphrepaulezz says an intern confessed to trying to sell an extra wristband, but police insisted on apprehending him as well. Dphrepaulezz’s set was canceled.
“I rep the bay all day!” he tweeted Sunday. “I am the hometown kid. Wrongfully accused and detained. If it is proved that I knew of this. I’ll retire PROMISE!”
As Negrito’s nonset continued, New Orleans bounce queen Big Freedia made the GastroMagic stage twerk it and work it during the second annual Beignets & Bounce Brunch. Sweaty, celebratory and dusted with sugar, it was Saturday afternoon’s hot ticket. Big Freedia, the nom de twerk of rapper Frederick Ross, is already an Outside Lands institution after a rapturously received 2014 debut. Organizers, take note: Big Freedia’s danceable call-and-response jams belong at the Land’s End stage, not wedged between four cocktail booths.
At the comedy stage, “Daily Show” correspondents Al Madrigal, Hasan Minhaj and Jordan Klepper bravely weathered the booming sounds of Idol’s nearby performance to perform to packed tents. After the early show, they held an impromptu Q&A session in which they dished on Jon Stewart’s departure, who’s the show’s biggest pothead (the prop guy — he’s even a weed dealer!) and Donald Trump’s strange candidacy.
“[New host Trevor Noah] has the softball of doing a Trump recap during the first month,” Madrigal joked.
Down the way at Hellman Hollow, the mood was anything but mellow during G-Eazy’s set at the Twin Peaks stage. The white, Berkeley-bred rapper (aka Gerald Gillum) was almost as ecstatic as his plentiful hometown fans, his biggest audience to date. In a T-shirt, jeans and great slick haircut, he said “I’ve been looking forward to this festival my entire life” at the beginning, and that it was a “dream come true” at the end. In between, he was joined by guests including Del the Funky Homosapien, and, on “Let’s Get Lost,” songstress Devon Baldwin.
The night’s biggest, most massive crowd was for Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar, who drew tightly packed throngs of fans to the Twin Peaks stage (he should have been in the bigger Lands End area), and even inspired some to dance atop a portable structure — with songs like “The Recipe” and “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe.” One of the biggest responses was reserved from “The Blacker the Berry” from his latest album, “To Pimp a Butterfly.”
Meanwhile, the Black Keys closed out the evening with a no-nonsense set in front of a more modest audience at the Lands End stage. The Ohio duo’s catchy brand of garage rock translates perfectly for a festival setting, and the group clearly is comfortable playing the role of headliner. While the set didn’t have the wild urgency of Lamar’s message, it was an engaging capstone for another mostly successful day at Outside Lands.
_ Giselle Velazquez and Leslie Katz contributed to this report