The Golden State and its rich musical history was the unofficial theme of this year’s Outside Lands, which, while it might have dialed back on the dance music a bit, had the California cranked up to 11.
If you were an artist who wasn’t born here, you performed something that was. Performances by LA hip hop titans Kendrick Lamar and DJ Mustard dominated the usual dance music haven of Twin Peaks Stage with West Coast classics. Berkeley’s G-Eazy brought out Oakland legends Luniz for none other than their timeless classic I Got 5 On It. RL Grime got his swabbage patch on to Mac Dre, and Billy Idol got in on it with a cover of LA Woman.
While “EDM” acts were represented arguably only once by Axwell /\ Ingrosso’s Sunday night set, the selection of electronic music that was on offer was a near-perfect blend of challenging and approachable. Amon Tobin and his heavy, thought-provoking ISAM 2.0 experience certainly scrapes the ceiling of what the typical festival crowd is looking for at a multi-genre event like this, but OSL did a great job ensuring that the majority of time and funds budgeted for dance music went to artists who place an emphasis on art.
On the whole, 2015 was a local affair and manifested a recognition for its home and its history, illuminating the weekend with an undeniable Cali glow. Here are our 10 absolute favorite flashes from Outside Lands 2015.
1. When RL Grime Had Us Hella Feelin’ Ourselves
LA’s RL Grime laid the first official bass beatdown on the de facto dance music stage, Twin Peaks, and it reached new hyphy heights when he dropped Bay Area legend Mac Dre’s going-dumb anthem Feelin’ Myself. The local-heavy crowd immediately recognized the intro and donned their best thizz faces for a proper peak to an unforgettable set, which was only the first instance in what turned out to be a weekend full of nods, props, and big ups to the musical impact of California and The Bay Area.
Grime’s recent originals like Core and Valhalla dominated his performance, which returned to the punishing drops from fits of pop remixes and hip hop infusions to keep the crowd guessing, which he does so well. Check out the punishing transition from Keys N Krates’ Tove Lo Flip to his TNGHT edit early on in his set:
2. When Porter’s ‘Worlds’ Turned 1
Worlds is an immersive, atmospheric experience, and the 8-bit trees and shrubbery that make up a good chunk of the imagery felt at home, looking up to the real-world Monterey Cypress trees that loom over the Twin Peaks stage in Hellman Hollow at dusk–an enchanting scene to celebrate Porter Robinson’s Worlds album turning one year old.
Porter sparked up the awaiting crowd’s singing voice with his Sad Machine intro, which moved into a low-tempo version of Easy and then to the buoyant, bouncy Flicker, setting us off on a journey that has brought his live performances praise on a level with his productions.
3. When We Said Goodbye To ISAM 2.0 With Amon Tobin
Brazil’s brainy beatmaker Amon Tobin and his 3D video-mapped marvel ISAM 2.0 made one final performance for the fans at Outside Lands, after which we’ll surely see something new from his team. In a weekend characterized by the more thoughtful side of electronic music, this show made sure that this endlessly inspiring live concept impacted just a few more creative minds before its retirement.
4. Beignet Brunch With Big Freedia (Again)
NoLa’s queen of bounce, Big Freedia, breaks into our top moments for the second year in a row with the satisfying combination of booty music and French pastries–she knows the way to our hearts. The GastroMagic Stage has been host to an impressive list of creative cooking-music crossover events like duck nuggets with Duck Sauce from 2014 or this year’s McDonald’s-themed Black Sabbath cover band, Mac Sabbath, who handed out oversized versions of their namesake chain’s own nugs.
5. When Giraffage Shouted Out His Folks During His Outside Lands Debut
“This is so crazy. I live like five minutes from here,” said the San Jose-born Bay Area luminary during his OSL debut. Giraffage’s luscious beats broke silence over the intimate Panhandle Stage with his party-primer Ignition, which fill-packed bodies into the grassy area adjacent the path to Twin Peaks. With their attention, he dropped down into a butter-smooth house beat and began to build to his signature heights once again. “Shout out to my parents; they’re here in the crowd,” he said, as he moved into his definitive Fool’s Gold hit Tell Me and through the rest of a fantastic coming-out set for anyone still unfamiliar with the exciting local talent.
6. When Classixx Premiered New Music On The Panhandle Stage
We’re going to call it Oh Yeah for now.
LA’s disco and indie dance duo Classixx followed Giraffage on the Pandhandle stage, and by this point, anyone who didn’t already know understood firmly that Panhandle was the place to get up close and personal. Classixx’ set was no different. If you weren’t able to catch them on their Hanging Gardens tour, this was essentially just as good. Playing out their massive album live, Michael David and Tyler Blake dipped into their classic Yacht remix right on time and continued through the rest until announcing they had something special: a brand new track. No title was announced, but the thumping indie groove involved plenty of exclamations of “oh, yeah,” both from the track’s main vocal and from the crowd thrilled to be hearing new music from the twosome.
7. Mustard’s Wild West Coast Hip Hop Afternoon
“Who wants to hear some West Coast hip hop?” That was a rhetorical question, obviously. As one of the first major shows of Sunday, fans worked out those weekend wears and tears with “Mustard on the beat” busting out a booming selection of local classics and new heat–a perfect start for the final day, especially for those looking to go hard through the finish line.
8. Odesza’s Sunday Afternoon Sway-Fest
Odesza’s performance was a gorgeous, flowing sonic experience that fit perfectly inside Sunday afternoon, the same slot that saw Flume throw a similarly suave soiree last year–and the enormous crowd stretched back just as far. Odesza’s swaying feels-fest included some of the act’s famous remixes like their A Color Map Of The Sun work, flips of Zhu and Beat Connection, and original hits like All We Need, which were overwhelming crowd favorites and tested out the bottom-end of the Twin Peaks system–it checked out. Believe me when I say even the vendors were dancing. Either that, or their tents were just shaking. But at around 5:45 p.m., bodies started to abandon the stage for another dance music icon.
9. When Sam Smith Made Everyone ‘Latch’ Together
British mega-star crooner Sam Smith sung his heart out on the Main Stage from 6 p.m., fulfilling a childhood dream of opening for Elton John on the Main Stage (pictured). He eventually built his Money On My Mind/Finally medley into an acoustic version of Latch, which was played live by its creators, Disclosure, in the same exact spot just a year prior. Lovers of all kinds locked arms and kept each other close as the sky darkened under the clouds over the Polo Fields to Stay With Me, the weekend’s far-and-away winner for best tearjerker moment.
“San Francisco is my favorite place to go in America, and being able to play before Elton John is a dream come true for me,” he said.
10. When Claude VonStroke and Green Velvet Got Real
The festival’s only large-scale house music acid test outside of the Heineken Dome occurred when Get Real, the superduo of San Francisco legend Claude VonStroke and Chicago-born techno legend Green Velvet, were able to definitively single out the house-heads Sunday night at the Panhandle Stage. 10 minutes before the start of the set, the grassy area surrounding the five-foot platform was peppered with little more than a few blankets on which fans lounged lazily before what they knew would be an exhausting hour of techy goodness. Right on time, Claude’s BARRUMP belted out from the speakers and bumped the crowd up to about 10 times its normal size–and in one instant, the steal of the weekend turned into the shoulder-to-shoulder rager we’d been waiting for.
Green Velvet was looking fresh with a newly dyed green mohawk, either that or it’s just growing in that way now, as he sipped a can of Coke and took the decks from his counterpart to bless us with his alter-ego Cajmere’s era-defining 1992 hit Percolator, with which the crowd showed enthusiastic familiarity. By then, the backstage population–presumably mostly friends and family of CVS’ SF institution dirtybird–had been brought onstage behind the booth to complete the true San Francisco people’s set led by a local hero.
READ MORE: Top 12 Moments Of Outside Lands 2014
Photos by Jon April.