Even for the most seasoned festival attendee, by the end of the second night of any festival there comes this tugging temptation for rest and relaxation that you feel in your legs (and for many, your liver too). For those who attend Outside Lands, the hills of Golden Gate Park and the surrounding area add an extra hurdle to the usual that must be overcome at any event. It’s never been a deal breaker but if you’re the type of person who tries to do and see as much as possible, by the festival’s final day you were rightly exhausted. Thankfully, the festival grounds of Outside Lands were dotted with places to find some sort of moment of leisure that didn’t involve hiking from stage to stage and throughout the day people set up blankets across the various fields to sit and watch the day’s performers. Against the fog and wind of a true San Francisco gloom, fans enjoyed hot chocolate, cocktails, and funnel cakes as they settled in for the final day of Outside Land’s 2018.
Despite the apparent need for many to take day three a bit slower than the previous days, the performers didn’t appear to have the same sentiment. For its final day Outside Lands gave fans one last spurt of energy with a collection of rock and pop sets that gave attendees a second-wind with which to power through the day. Early in the day, Bahamas took up that mantle on the Sutro stage by giving those who’d arrived in the afternoon chill something to warm-up to–mainly his lush baritone vocals and groovy guitar work. Later, folk-singer LP gave a similarly impassioned performance with her anthemic pieces and soaring croons, winning over fans in the crowd who’d showed up early to snag spots for later acts.
But it was the Lands End stage that much of funk was going down on Sunday, with an array of performers imbuing a colossal amount of vigor to what would be Outside Land’s finale. Borns was the first of these performers, cutting through the fog with his piercing howls and stratospheric wails. Backed by the gorgeous synth cascades that pour themselves out in his songs, Borns brought a certain mania to the crowd that seemed to overflow across the field. Fans screamed and reached out for him as the young singer dived into pool after shimmering pool of pop-extravagance that was his music. In a similar but more theatric vein, Janelle Monae took the stage not long after to offer-up the rejuvenated reinvention of pop she’s molded out of her latest album. Complete with a dramatic entrance, backup dancers, a kick-ass outfit and a newfound ability to work large festival crowds, Monae has seemingly come out of left field as the rising pop artist of her day. Much like St. Vincent, Monae has a knack for production that leaves her shows glittering and bustling with an energy that is only bolstered by the riveting nature of her songs.
Ending the day was a one-two punch of funk and rock that came in the form of Portugal. the Man and duo Chromeo. Both highly kinetic bands that know how to get the most out of their fans, the crowds for each were a sea of flailing arms and crowd-surfing maniacs. With Chromeo’s following chanting their name at the top of their voices and Portugal. the Man employing their own unique brand of self-depreciating sarcasm to the humor of fans, the mood at both sets was one of unchecked rambunctiousness. Chromeo’s slick version of 80s synth-powered, R&B tunes was exactly what the doctor ordered for Sunday’s overcast day and the band managed to ignite some fire’s under the otherwise wearied feet of the crowd that had gathered in front of the Twin Peaks stage to see them. For two guys armed with just a guitar and talk-box, Chromeo never fails to bring large festivals to their knees with their vintage-tinted romantics.
Over on the main stage, Portugal. the Man not only had the groove, they also had an overwhelming sonic edge to go with it. Their massive sound blasted through the speakers spread out across the field as the band powered through their heady-rock discography. Drawing from a healthy mix across their albums, Portugal. the Man is one of the pure rock acts of the day to really bridge a lot of the decades-old nostalgia that exists from the 70s and 80s with a modernized touch. The band’s anthemic songs mingle cultural cynicism with a caustic hopefulness and are never lost on the ears of its fans who howl along with them. Full of wild riffs and delirious bass work, Portugal. the Man tore through their set with all the manic nature of someone in their crowd, offering their fans a true finale to the afternoon’s performers with something delightfully inflammatory. If there ever was a thing, Portugal. the Man was the pinnacle of rock bombast at this year’s Outside Lands.
Words & Photography: Steven Ward