I can safely say that Outside Lands is the best large scale music festival running right now. Having been to my fair share of music festivals for about 10 years now, nothing beats the lineups, local food and drink offerings, and most importantly, the weather. So when RIFF’s editors asked me and Joaquin Cabello to photograph this year’s Outside Lands Music Festival, we couldn’t pass it up.
With more than five stages and dozens of other attractions and, as Another Planet Vice President Allen Scott called “Instagrammable moments” spread over sweeping polo field and meadows tucked within Golden Gate Park, Joaquin and I knew this was going to be an exhausting job. In fact, editor Roman Gokhman sat us down and made sure this is something we were ready for. Hills, gopher holes and massive crowds can really mess with you when you’re attempting to make it from one end of the festival grounds to the other in less than 10 minutes between artists’ sets. Any delay and we would miss our three-song (or less!) opportunity to shoot.
Joaquin and I plotted to split the grounds in two on all three days. But since we were both huge fans of so many of the artists, that wasn’t always possible.
Here’s our favorite 10 moments from this year’s Outside Lands Music Festival.
Top for me on Friday was watching “Call Me Maybe“ at the Twin Peaks stage. I was already a fan of Carly Rae Jepsen. Her album E.M.O.T.I.O.N. is pure organic pop music crafted for the unabashedly optimistic listener. But when the first notes of the song rang out, I witnessed what could only be described as a shared spiritual moment. Everyone knows the lyrics and it’s an undeniably infectious beat, but I was not prepared to see thousands of festivalgoers belt out the song like an organized flash mob. I joined in too. I had to, and it felt awesome.
N.E.R.D. put on a complete performance on Friday as good as either of the headliners on the lineup that day. From the staging of the dancers to the group’s storytelling concept, the musical execution and the stage mastery of Pharrell Williams, N.E.R.D. made me a fan. There’s nothing set in stone yet, but I’ll be looking forward to seeing a longer headlining set.
My mom bought me a cassette tape of Beck’s Odelay when I was younger. At the time, I had only heard one song on the radio, “Where It’s At.” I ended up falling in love with this entire album to the point of wearing out the tape from hundreds of repeat listens. Friday night, I got to relive that experience and hearing all those songs again. I love music.
I could not wait to photograph Chvrches. I love the band’s synth-pop sound, which has entranced me for years, and I was looking forward to seeing frontwoman Lauren Mayberry, who is a constant blur of energy on stage, never remaining in the same place for long. Her unique voice perfectly complements her bandmates. What is it about synth-pop bands from the U.K.? They get it.
I’ve said it once already but it bears repeating: Jonathan Van Ness is an American treasure. His appearance at The Barbary was one of my most anticipated performances and he did not disappoint. His superhuman positivity and love of life is contagious. I’m fairly certain everyone in the audience that day left a little less cynical. I know I did.
I see you, by The xx, was one of my favorite albums last year. And last year, I got to photograph the band at Lollapalooza Chile last year. So I was stoked to see Jamie xx play a solo set. I have followed his career and think everything he produces or composes is special. Another point for Jamie, DJs today do not mix with vinyl, but he does.
I have been listening to Tycho since his first album but had yet to see him perform. Boy, was I blown away at the meticulous yet lighthearted performance from the band that evening. As a photographer, shooting Tycho at sunset while the beams of light reaching out like fingers through the fog on stage was an absolute dream scenario.
For some reason, rappers always seem to have excellent lighting and production value. And there’s a lot of smoke. Future certainly fit the bill. At times, his irreverence made it difficult for me to figure out what I was witnessing—but it was great. I was really impressed by Future’s ability to be precise and powerful at the same time, which doesn’t happen often. He was the perfect closer to Saturday at the Twin Peaks stage.
I had photographed Janelle Monáe once before and it was a wild ride of dance moves and passionate singing like I’d never seen. I was curious to see how she had evolved as a performer with these new songs. Well, she’s just best there is. Monáe is living in her own timezone; an otherworldly master of her own craft. For me, she was the best act at Outside Lands, without a doubt.
Having been a huge fan of John Gouley’s previous band, Anatomy of a Ghost, Portugal. The Man‘s set on Sunday was my top goal. Rock critics Beavis and Butthead may disagree, but I love this band because Gouley showed that he is still just as hardcore as he used to be. It’s no coincidence Portugal. The Man covers Metallica and other metal bands in its sets.
RECAP OF ALL OUR OUTSIDE LANDS COVERAGE
- Florence and the Machine, 13 other acts we loved on Saturday
- Daniel J. Willis’ Saturday best and worst
- Q&A: Oakland’s T Sisters eye Outside Lands performance, prep new album
- San Francisco’s Sweet Plot brings funk-infused rock and roll to Outside Lands
- Oakland’s Dick Stusso moseys on to Outside Lands
- Outside Lands expands into new directions in 11th year
- 10 Outside Lands 2018 under-the-radar acts you shouldn’t miss
Until next year, you can catch us in the photo pit.