ALL EARS The monster that is Outside Lands (August 9-11, Golden Gate Park) coasts less on San Francisco’s rock ’n’ roll reputation these days than when the music festival was new—which means on the one hand the music is more youth-oriented, and on the other we get a lot of the same artists who’ve been making the festival rounds for a few years.
Last year’s fest was dull aside from Janelle Monàe’s usual extravaganza and an astonishing but poorly-attended Janet Jackson set. This year’s lineup, its 12th, was just announced: It finds a happy medium, with some predictable perennials—Childish Gambino, Hozier, The Lumineers, Twenty One Pilots—and a nice cast of oddities.
Only two real ’60s icons show up. Expect a hell of a sing-along from Paul Simon, retired and now freshly un-retired. And Mavis Staples, who’ll perform not long after her 80th birthday, is still a fearsome presence and has made some of the best music of her career in the last decade (check out 2010’s You Are Not Alone).
Nineties nostalgia is in vogue, hence sets by Counting Crows, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, and, of all the bands in the world, Blink-182. The Killers, so dull at 2014’s fest, were a distressing early rumor. Blink might be a cheap nostalgia ploy, but at least they’re a fun one.
Outside Lands has fixed its former rap problem and gives us but a few prime picks, most notably Lil Wayne. He’s unpredictable live, and G-funk polymath Anderson.Paak is likely to put on the better show, even if I prefer the bemused wit of Weezy’s best tapes.
Denzel Curry put on a fantastic set at L.A.’s defunct FYF fest with Badbadnotgood in 2017; I’m excited to see how he does on his own. I’m hesitant to promote Harlem shouter Sheck Wes after allegations of domestic violence against him emerged this year, but at least bros will show up to his set for “Mo Bamba” before bouncing to Flume or Kygo.
DJ Koze might be the decade’s best dance-music album artist, a psychedelic sentimentalist who makes vocal samples cry the same way yesteryear’s guitar heroes did with their strings. He and hip-house wunderkind Yaeji represent the cream of underground dance music’s crop.
Flying Lotus will bring his immersive 3D experience to the fray. When I saw him at FYF, he sent a 3D starship rocketing over the audience, then chuckled like a demon as the crowd recoiled in shock.
The artists I’m most excited about are Kacey Musgraves and Tierra Whack. Musgraves is a cosmic cowgirl who broadcasts the vistas of her mind outward from a down-home vantage point. Whack is a killer wit who writes better than anyone since Joni Mitchell about how the multitudes of her mind go unnoticed because she’s a woman—a mistake no one who hears her poignant, eccentric art-rap should make.
The fest is far too Solange-free, and I’d trade at least five of the headliners for a Seun Kuti & Egypt ’80 set. But even as Outside Lands falls victim to the homogenization of the American festival, at least it’s focusing on now rather than then.
Outside Lands takes place from August 9 to 11 in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. View the full lineup here: