A More Expansive Outside Lands 

Comedy, performance art, and audience participation were among the highlights at this year's festival.

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Australia's Tame Impala followed that up with a blistering set of throwback dreamy pscyh-rock. It could have easily been a highlight of the day, but we jogged over to see locals Geographer perform on the opposite end of the park, and kinda wished we hadn't. Although the band's electro-pop is catchy, fun, and totally inoffensive, it also wasn't the deepest of musical experiences.

A surprisingly great set came from Father John Misty, aka former Fleet Foxes drummer J. Tillman, over on the Panhandle Stage. If that name conjures any negative emotions from you, don't let it: Tillman's performance was electrifying, befitting his bold Americana-ish rock sound, as his lithe body flailed in the fog, seemingly inhabited by some other (warmer) life force.

The reunion performance of Grandaddy was another highlight of the weekend. The Modesto guys played "Hewlett's Daughter" and "Now It's On," amongst other old-school space-rock gems, as if it hadn't been dormant for the last six years. Everyone rocked like it was 2001.

If fireballs and light shows are your thing, then Metallica's headlining performance would have been the pinnacle of your Outside Lands experience, which it most definitely was for the older metalheads who came out for the show, plus some likely new converts. The band tore through a set of classics like "Ride the Lightning," "Master of Puppets," and "One," plus more recent material.

That set couldn't have been more different than Sigur Rós' on the opposite end of the park, with its epic, orchestral rock and light show that had the effect of transporting listeners to some far-off place where you reflect on life's trying experiences and how you've overcome them. Despite being cold and tired, there was no place we would have rather been.


It's to be expected that Sunday ticketholders fritter most of the afternoon away waiting for the headliner. A combination of heavy fog and a spotty main stage lineup (Jack White — yay! Regina Spektor — meh) guaranteed that this Sunday would be no exception. Add to that a slight delay between the sound and video synching, which had been perfectly engineered to capture all of Metallica's E-minor power chords the night before. It wasn't until about 4:30 p.m. that things started to really pick up.

But then the festival improved precipitously. The real turning point, unsurprisingly, happened at the Panhandle Stage, where Berkeley-generated, Los Angeles-based act Electric Guest unleashed its bubbly, burbly ear candy for an audience of perhaps a couple hundred. Singer Asa Taccone spawned from a well-entrenched Berkeley arts dynasty (his father is Berkeley Repertory Theatre Artistic Director Tony Taccone, and his brother, Jorma Taccone, is a writer for Saturday Night Live and a member of sketch-comedy troupe The Lonely Island), and he has an adorable alto to boot — it's several pitches deeper than Justin Bieber, though he occasionally veers into falsetto range. The band's most popular song, "This Head I Hold," is a self-conscious homage to Fifties doo-wop and Phil Spector girl groups. It's buoyed by slick production from Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton), who was hanging out quietly backstage.

Santigold, who took the Twin Peaks stage around 5 p.m., was a much-anticipated festival highlight. For those who've ogled the worldish dancehall-fusion singer on YouTube, she's much better live — that owes both to high production values and the fact that "dancehall-fusion," a scary combination on paper, is electrifying onstage. Her set involved several costume changes, two extremely fly backup dancers, a drummer and bassist dressed as Queen of Hearts sentries (or foot soldiers with "modified foreign legion hats," as one observer shrewdly pointed out), and an opportunity for audience members to get onstage, which seemed like a bold move, by Outside Lands standards. Fortunately, the festival crew is so competent that all of her antics went off without a hitch: "Okay, put them in a corner," Santigold ordered a stagehand, as two particularly ardent fans climbed up for the last number. "I don't want you fucking with what my girls got going on," she said, gesturing offhandedly to the chorus line. Then she smiled. "But do your thing — dance."

Stevie Wonder came on at about 7:30 p.m., and from the looks of it, pretty much everybody in the park migrated over to the Lands End stage to watch him (Wonder's only competition was "brostep" DJ Skrillex). And here's where we have to confess that we stopped tweeting and taking notes, because the final set was so dazzling. Wonder, who hit the news cycle last week after filing divorce papers to end eleven years of marriage with Kai Millard Morris, is back in full form. His set, performed with three stiletto-heeled backup singers and a funk band that included Bay Area keyboardist Victoria Theodore, quickly devolved into Stevie Wonder karaoke. Audience members who didn't own all of Wonder's Motown LPs — and most of them probably did not — could easily sing along to the choruses of "Superstition," "Isn't She Lovely," and "I Just Called to Say I Love You." The singer didn't seem to have an encore prepared — instead, he led the band in what sounded like an impromptu version of The Temptations' "My Girl." It was transcendent.


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