Exclusive Features
Anniversaries, Cover Stories, Editorials,
Interviews, Lists, and Comprehensive Rankings

Outside Lands 2014: Top 20 Moments + Photos

on August 11, 2014, 2:30pm
view all
Next

Spanning a thousand acres from Stanyan Street to the Pacific, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is seldom short on space. From the Japanese Tea Garden to Beach Chalet and the dual windmills reaching out to greet the sea, locals and tourists alike can stretch out across the park’s plethora of groves, trails, and meadows, affording a measure of peace and privacy seldom seen in America’s second-most densely populated city.  But all that serenity gets trampled one waggish weekend in August, as 200,000 music fans, hundreds of performers, and dozens of wineries storm the park for some sounds and shenanigans. It’s Outside Lands!

An impressive array of world-class talent draws fans from around the world, while the mouthwatering grub affirms SF’s reputation as an elite foodie town.

Outside Lands 2014 OSL 2014 by Joshua Mellin

Photo by Joshua Mellin

Topping the bill, the headliners delivered marquee performances. Kanye West leaned heavily on Consequence of Sound’s 2013 album-of-the-year, Yeezus, leading with “Black Skinhead” and closing with “Blood on the Leaves”. Tom Petty turned back the time during his ebullient and exuberant two-hour set. And The Killers, well, they killed it. Throw in some stellar sets from Mikal Cronin, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and HAIM, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a show.

But let’s not forget the food. From five-course bacon flights to doughnut cheeseburgers and Filipino burritos, the grub was a glutton’s wet dream. Feeling crusty? Esquire was giving away complimentary cuts and shaves. Just want to get away from it all? Camp Grounded has you covered, featuring a technology-free zone stocked with typewriters, board games, and a human-powered search engine. Outside Lands 7.0, here we go.

–Henry Hauser
Staff Writer

Best ’60s Throwback

Janis Joplin Tribute (Mary Bridget Davies, Kacey Musgraves, and Nicki Bluhm)

Janis Joplin Tribute 2 OSL 2014 by Joshua Mellin

Photo by Joshua Mellin

Fifty years ago, a feisty Texan by the name of Janis left the Lone Star State for the swinging city of San Francisco. “I just had to get away from Texas,” explained Joplin. “My head was in a much different place.” Joplin’s unique vocal style landed her with local psychedelic rock outfit Big Brother and the Holding Company, and the rest is history.

Ever since Joplin first journeyed to San Francisco back in ’63, she’s held a special place in the city’s heart. So, to honor the “Queen of Psychedelic Soul,” Outside Lands lined up a tremendous tribute. Broadway star Mary Bridget Davies teamed up with singer-songwriters Kacey Musgraves and Nicki Bluhm for an exceptional homage to Pearl, treating early arrivers to a half-dozen impeccable covers.

NickiBluhm_JanisJoplinTribute_AmandaKoellner

Photo by Amanda Koellner

Bluhm led off with “Me and Bobby McGee”, sashaying around the stage in a skintight, white lace jumpsuit and turquoise-studded belt. As the chorus came around, Bluhm’s smoky voice grew thick with conviction: “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to looo-hooo-hooo-zee!” Opting for a down-tempo ditty, Musgraves tapped “Mercedes Benz”, smacking her tambourine to the beat.

But despite strong efforts from Bluhm and Musgraves, Mary Bridget Davies stole the show. Davis, fresh off a stint playing Janis in the Broadway musical A Night with Janis Joplin, channeled the Texas singer’s quirks and flourishes to a tee.  Harkening back to Joplin’s iconic performance at the 1967 Monterrey Pop Festival, Davis shrieked and screamed until her face turned beet red on “Ball and Chain”. –Henry Hauser

Most Heartbroken Festivalgoer

#SadChrvchesFan

sadchrvchesfan Outside Lands 2014: Top 20 Moments + Photos

Photo by Jon Hadusek

Silvana Moiceanu was ready to see her favorite band. But like everybody else who made it to the main stage early on Sunday expecting to see CHVRCHES, she instead got the bad news that the band was stranded on the runway in Canada. Border-crossing/plane problems forced them to cancel, bumming out the large contingent of Chrvches fans who’d circled the set long before the schedule came out. Especially sad, Moiceanu toted this homemade sign of a squeamish Lauren Mayberry that read “#SadChrvchesFan”. “It was the one band I wanted to see this weekend,” she said. “But I know it wasn’t their fault. They’ll come back.” –Jon Hadusek

Mellowest Crowd

Phosphorescent

Phosphorescent6_TedMaider

From beneath a neon trucker hat and black sunglasses, Matthew Houck gave a quick, humble nod to the crowd as he shuffled onto the stage. Houck, who operates out of Brooklyn under the moniker Phosphorescent, ushered some chill, pleasant vibes, inspiring fans to tuck away their cell phones and cut back on the chatter. Psych-folk tune “New Anhedonia” had Houck singing in a strained, fragile timbre, as the Eucalyptus and Monterey Cypress fluttered in the gentle breeze. On “Terror in the Canyons (The Wounded Master)”, the frontman sang of love lost and missed opportunities, purring: “I’m not so sorry for the heart-wreckkkk/ But for each season left un-bleh-hessed.” And “Song for Zula”, featuring a fulsome, robust organ, sounded both menacing and majestic. Finishing up with a slew of songs from 2013’s Muchacho, “Ride On/Right On” was a definite highlight, with Houck humming over a funky bass, fuzzy guitar lines, and a jangly tambourine. –Henry Hauser

Classiest Act

Kacey Musgraves

KaceyMusgraves_AmandaKoellner

Photo by Amanda Koellner

Kacey Musgraves is the most promising songwriter to emerge from mainstream country since Miranda Lambert, and she projected all her talent and showmanship during a Friday evening set at the Sutro stage. Her six-piece backing band was decked in Nudie suits embroidered with flashing X-mas lights, and they didn’t miss a note, playing the entirety of Musgraves’ Grammy-winning album, Same Trailer Different Park. “I’ve been to San Francisco a few times, never seen any trailer parks,” she laughed, acknowledging how far away she was from the rural Texas towns that provide the setting for her songs. It’s true: The Bay and the people who occupy it are far removed from Musgraves’ poverty-stricken South. But the audience swooned nonetheless, and there was the sense that she made many a new fan that night. –Jon Hadusek

Best Slide Guitar

Tedeschi Trucks Band

tedeschi trucks band osl Outside Lands 2014: Top 20 Moments + Photos

Photo via Outside Lands

Hailing from Jacksonville, Florida, the Tedeschi Trucks Band has built a rock-solid reputation on the strength of its live performances. And the 12-piece ensemble that bandleaders Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi brought to SF certainly didn’t disappoint. Trucks, unleashing solo after solo of remarkably compelling Delta blues slide guitar riffs, showed fans exactly why Gregg Allman believes Trucks to be the reincarnation of his late brother, Duane. Trucks’ fluid, melodic slide guitar phrasing is a thing of beauty.

Throughout the set, Tedeschi worked hard to keep her resounding voice from getting swallowed up by the instrumental onslaught, maintaining a strong presence amongst a dozen dudes. Though each band member seemed set on outdoing his mates, no two instruments clashed. The band was perfectly in synch, tight, and transcendent.

Keeping things fresh, the band subbed in Mike Mattison on lead vocals every few tracks. Howling in defiance and dissatisfaction, Mattison blended blues and soul to evoke a sense of hopeless rage. Trucks slashed at his guitar with enthralling fervor, earning some hoots and hollers from the crowd before snapping a string during his final solo. –Henry Hauser

Youngest Band with a Greatest Hits Set

Disclosure

Disclosure_AmandaKoellner

Photo by Amanda Koellner

One year after their debut, Disclosure’s show already sounds like a greatest hits set. Last year’s Settle is the most widely loved house music records in years, and they ran through the highlights: “F for You” – featuring pre-recorded vocals by Mary J. Blige – “You & Me”, the slow burn of “Help Me Lose My Mind”, and the set-closing “Latch”, which, two years after it was released, has finally become a Billboard Top 10 hit. The Lawrence brothers may lack a strong stage presence – both are rooted on stage, Howard on the drums and Guy on a laptop – but it was no matter. People love these songs, and they’ll move their feet without stop regardless of what’s on stage. –Michael Anderson

Most Enticing Aroma

BaconLand

baconland 2 Outside Lands 2014: Top 20 Moments + Photos

Photo by Cal Bingham

The smell of sizzling bacon just may be the most mouthwatering aroma on earth. What could possibly top that? Answer: five different kinds of bacon simultaneously sizzling in an open-air tent. Enter BaconLand.

Featuring $10 bacon flights and bacon-laced grilled cheese, the trippy neon booth drew a steady stream of foodies throughout the day. According to the chirpy brunette taking orders, a few folks even came back for second helpings. One man allegedly had thirds. Paging the paramedics… –Henry Hauser

Earliest Birds

Nocona

Nocona2_TedMaider

Photo by Ted Maider

If the early bird gets the warm, then what’s the early band get? Noon may have seemed like a pretty ambitious tee time following long Friday night sets by Kanye and Arctic Monkeys, but Mexicali blues band Nocona was up to the task and then some. They literally couldn’t wait to get started. Though it’s hard believe, the Los Angeles-based five-piece actually jumped the gun on the noon kickoff, starting their set at 11:57 AM. Frontman and lead vocalist Chris Isom was fired up on “Whites of Your Eyes”, as he rattled off lyrics atop a stand-up bass and Elan Glasser’s peeling harmonica. Navigating some tricky time signature shifts, the band was sharp and precise. “Hated”, a bizarre folk song that plays like a one-star album review, had Isom whining: “You can’t play guitar/ And your lines insipid, bay-bay!” But don’t fret, Nocona. After hearing your Saturday set performance at the Panhandle stage, we’ll think twice before writing anything nasty. –Henry Hauser

Best Grab-n-Go Meal Between Sets

Big Chef Tom’s Pork Belly Burger

JonHBurgerOnGo_TedMaider

Photo by Ted Maider

Big Chef Tom’s pork belly burger is a petite sandwich that’s hearty enough to soak up the booze and easy to carry one-handed while you text your friends to find out where to meet up for the next set. Rosemary mayonnaise, apples, cheddar cheese, and a juicy (but not greasy) half-pound patty create an unexpected combination of flavors between a toasted bun. It tastes a bit like a sausage egg McMuffin and sustains you for hours, so you’re not reaching for your wallet for an additional tide-over meal or stuck in the long food lines that form late in the night. –Allison Pelfini

Most Rawking Pop Band

HAIM

HAIM2_Koellner

Photo by Amanda Koellner

“When you hear this song, it makes your body shake its ass,” yelled Danielle Haim. She and her sisters then played “My Song 5”, which, live, had a more visceral, primal bounce. And so, with each thrash of the guitar, the crowd sprang up and down. HAIM, on record, are a fun indie-pop band. Live, their songs lost their smooth sheen, and HAIM became a rock band. Ten months ago, when the band performed at San Francisco’s Treasure Island Music Festival, these three sisters put on a great performance, but they were more cute than deadly. Their stage banter was intimate and goofy – the sound of three sisters trying to make friends at one of the biggest parties in the city. At Outside Lands, after months of touring, and after becoming one of the Big-Font Bands on your festival lineup, they grew into something much more fierce. –Michael Anderson

20 Feet from Stardom Award (Best Backup Singers)

Christopher Owens

Chris Owens OSL 2014 by Joshua Mellin

Photo by Joshua Mellin

You wouldn’t expect a guy that’s done fashion campaigns for Saint Laurent Paris to come out on stage wearing faded blue jeans, but that’s just how former Girls singer-songwriter Christopher Owens rolls. Owens, one of several SF residents playing Outside Lands this year, remarked on the pleasures of performing in a park he walks through “like all the time” before serenading fans with a set of covers, Girls songs, and solo material.

Covering Boston R&B singer Jesse Dee’s “Reap What You Sow”, Owens squeezed his eyes shut as he berated a manipulative ex-lover: “I’ve had enough, your game is up/ And I don’t want to play anymore.” Chants of “We love you, Chris!” led the blonde singer-songwriter to cock his head to the side, stare down the crowd, and mutter: “You better.”  Testing out some new material from his forthcoming sophomore album, A New Testament, Owens turned to saccharine pop tune “Nothing More Than Everything to Me”. It sounded swell.

Owens put forth a solid effort, but his two gospel backup singers were the real highlight. Their honeyed harmonies escalated “Love Like a River” to the verge of rapture, drawing the sparse crowd right up to the stage. And on the very next song, they held a note for what seemed like five minutes. The audience responded with a flurry of emphatic applause, as the singers showed us their pearly-white smiles and threw their arms in the air. These ladies deserve an award, if not a cash bonus. –Henry Hauser

Heaviest Guitar Shredding

Mikal Cronin

MikalCronin_AmandaKoellner

Photo by Amanda Koellner

With dance pop dominating the Friday lineup, local rocker Mikal Cronin was a welcome reprieve on the tiny Panhandle stage. Long-haired and shabby, his band sarcastically announced itself as SNAKES! (“All caps with an exclamation mark,” Cronin clarified) and ran through all the highlights from the singer-songwriter’s two solo albums. Clean and tempered on record, songs like “Apathy” and “Weight” took on a heavier form live — power pop with an emphasis on the power — as the band sped up the tempo and tossed in some shred solos for an extra metallic edge. Then, to the chagrin of the event staff, a mosh broke out for the latter half of the set. The kids were hitting joints between songs and hitting one another during, stopping at the chorus to sing along before bashing it out some more. An extended version of “Gone” closed the set and went past the allotted time, with Cronin down on his knees, torturing feedback out of his electric 12-string. –Jon Hadusek

Most Polarizing Band

The Flaming Lips

FlamingLips10_AmandaKoellner

Photo by Amanda Koellner

The Flaming Lips have gone off the deep end. At past shows, their sound was as bright as it is on record. Confetti poured over the crowd. On Sunday, even as their actors and backup dancers dressed as 10-foot-tall green aliens, giant red mushrooms, or the Sun, their songs became a little more severe. “Do You Realize??” is normally up-tempo and buoyed by a bright, cheery guitar, but in Golden Gate Park, during its first half, the song was more spare, and Wayne Coyne held onto each syllable: “Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die,” he sang. Earlier, the band played last year’s “Look… the Sun Is Rising” – chaos epitomized: the percussion clangs and clamors, the guitars scream, and a blast of white noise repeats itself throughout. For most of the crowd, the song was abrasive. For some, it was a rally to embrace the chaos and find rhythm in the harshest of noise. –Michael Anderson

Most Authentic San Francisco Eat

Rosumunde Nuernberger Bratwurst

JonHBestHotDog_TedMaider

Photo by Ted Maider

This sausage restaurant has a San Francisco cult following and has been an Outside Lands staple for years, with a solid reputation for quick service and authentic German fare. Their locations in the Mission and Lower Haight Districts often have lines out the door because of their great vibe and variety of obscure meats on the menu, like the duck with fig and wild boar. The Nuernberger sausage isn’t as daring as some of those in-house options but doesn’t disappoint. The generous portion of messy toppings such as sweet peppers, onions, sauerkraut, jalapenos, along with the quirky condiments, make the meal totally customizable to create the perfect wiener. –Allison Pelfini

Best Pipes

Ray LaMontagne

Ray Lamontagne OSL 2014 by Joshua Mellin

Photo by Joshua Mellin

Hearing Ray LaMontagne perform live is a poignant and magical experience. Singing right from his gut, LaMontagne’s gravely voice packs his phrases full of struggle, resilience, and redemption, sometimes all at once. After pulling on your heartstrings, his raspy vocals will reach right on through to your soul.

Trippy dream pop songs off the singer’s fifth studio-LP, Supernova, dominated the first half of his set. “She’s the One” sported some rich four-part harmonies, while the cascading guitars of “Pick Up a Gun” paired gorgeously with Ray’s sparse lyrics. Still, obscuring Ray’s voice behind a wall of psychedelic effects seems like a sin. The Supernova songs sounded strong, LaMontagne’s fans were hungry to hear the classics.

“Play something ROMANTIC,” yelled a young lady in a flower-print maxi-dress. But LaMontagne had other plans, growling and snarling in righteous rage on “Repo Man”, a bristly blues rock number with just a hint of funk. Not to be discouraged, the girl called out once again, “Then play something SEXY.” This time LaMontagne was happy to oblige, putting aside his electric guitar and dismissing most of his backup band.

“Burn” had LaMontagne quivering as he contemplated an ex-sweetheart, brimming with regret. LaMontagne sounded shaken and scarred on “Trouble”, as he recalled life’s burdens and barriers. Championing love as a means of salvation, Ray shed his hefty, emotional baggage before belting in a moment of unrestrained jubilation: “Ahhh been-ahhhhh/ SAAAAVE-duh by a WUHH-monnn!” Shrugging his shoulders, the baby boomer to my left mumbled, “Kid’s got some pipes.” Damn right. –Henry Hauser

Second Most Polarizing Performance

Kanye West

KanyeWest3_TedMaider

Photo by Ted Maider

Rocking a bedazzled gimp mask that obscured his face, Kanye West punctuated the opening night of the festival with a bizarre, chaotic performance that won’t go down as his finest effort but proved a spectacle nonetheless. Drawing mostly from Yeezus/Twisted Fantasy with the occasional old song thrown in, his set opened with 20 minutes of the former and left the audience in a state of shock. They weren’t dancing, and they weren’t singing along. When Kanye instigated the crowd to start forming mosh circles during “Blood on the Leaves”, they stood still.

The first hour was disjointed: He’d play a song and then spend a couple minutes talking, once going into a patented mini-rant about “people talking shit” and how none of that mattered because “it’s Yeezy season.” With this, the haters and non-fans began migrating toward Arctic Monkeys, who were performing on the other side of the park. West’s voice sounded blown out and weary, ostensibly worn from the past year of touring, and there was an unsettling dissonance surrounding the Land’s End stage.

KanyeWest9_TedMaider

Photo by Ted Maider

But as he began working through his back catalog (the opening of “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” received an ovation of relief and excitement), the mood lightened and people loosened up, including Kanye. “This is my baby mama’s first show since we got married,” he said in a moment of earnestness, settling into a run of hits: “Diamonds from Sierra Leone”, “Heartless”, “Jesus Walks”, and “Testify”. The once restless crowd was now waving their arms and swaying, perhaps more receptive to the songs they were familiar with. Or maybe it’s just that these songs are better suited for a feel-good Cali festival crowd like the one at Outside Lands. The acerbic, industrial Yeezus material acted like a downer by comparison. –Jon Hadusek

Most Reliable Band

Death Cab for Cutie

DeathCab2_AmandaKoellner

Photo by Amanda Koellner

Death Cab for Cutie is the most reliable band in indie rock. Since breaking big in 2004 because of heavy coverage on television shows like The O.C., they’ve put out good album after good album, and their set at Outside Lands was a testament to their enduring success. As the words percolated on Ben Gibbard’s lips – from 2011’s Alternative Songs chart-topping hit “You Are a Tourist” to 2003’s “Title and Registration” to deep cut “We Laugh Indoors” – the audience called back in response. They knew the words or the beat, no matter the year the song was released. Death Cab may no longer be the up-and-coming harbinger of the indie-rock movement, alongside Modest Mouse and the Shins, but their set proved that if any band is to be Generation Y’s Rolling Stones – sans the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll – then we should hope it’s Death Cab for Cutie. –Michael Anderson

Flower Crown Award

John Butler Trio

JohnButlerTrio3_TedMaider

Photo by Ted Maider

By the time Australian jam band The John Butler Trio plugged in for their evening set, it was abundantly clear that Saturday’s fog wasn’t going to burn off. “So this is summer, huh?” joshed guitarist and bandleader John Butler. Fans scurried in search of layers and scarves, insulating themselves against plummeting temperatures. Luckily, the damp and misty environs didn’t stop them moving and grooving to the tune of Byron Luiters’s bass guitar. Dozens of peaceniks took this opportunity to embrace their inner hippie, as a quick scan of the audience revealed a critical mass of flower crowns. Every fourth or fifth lady seemed to be following Scott McKenzie’s advice: “If you’re going to San Francisco/ Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.” Experimenting with a bit of irony, Butler promised a “more serious song” before offering up loose, jaunty roots-rocker “Hoe Down”.  Taking the old switcheroo in stride, fans flailed their arms and swung their hips. Throughout the set, nimble bass lines and Grant Gerathy’s crisp drumming provided the perfect foundation for Butler’s cascading riffs and meandering solos. –Henry Hauser

Best Sing-Along

The Killers

Killers2_TedMaider

Photo by Ted Maider

They were cocky, but they had something to prove. Since Hot Fuss dropped 10 years ago, and since “When You Were Young” dominated rock radio two years later, The Killers haven’t found quite the same success. During lesser-known songs like “From Here on Out”, Brandon Flowers would quit singing and offer the mic to the crowd. Although many failed to oblige and sing the words, the Killers weren’t fazed. Instead, they played the part of Biggest and Best Rock Band on the Planet. Midway through their set, even after a couple of those songs didn’t land, the band had swagger, and they paused for a moment to show off their finesse. First: a drum solo. Then: a guitar solo. Finally: a gong.

The crowd howled with enthusiasm. They were eager for more, and they smiled and sang, especially when the band played a song from Hot Fuss, which, 10 years on, still hasn’t lost any of its immediacy. Each song off the album inspired a sing-along, from set opener and biggest hit “Mr. Brightside” to “Smile Like You Mean It” to “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” to “Somebody Told Me”. When the band closed the set with “When You Were Young”, drummer Ronnie Vannucci, Jr. lingered, and, just before standing up and walking off stage, he tossed his drumsticks into the crowd for a second time. And then he said: “Tell your friends.” This band knows we love them, but they still want more. –Michael Anderson

The Real Headliner

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

TomPetty7_AmandaKoellner

Photo by Amanda Koellner

Next year, Tom Petty can begin collecting Social Security checks. By conventional standards, that’ll make him a senior citizen. But nowadays, is age relevant? Sir Paul is 72, Neil (not so) Young is 68, and Bruce Springsteen will celebrate his 65th in September. Yet, according to a recent Rolling Stone poll, Macca, Shakey, The Boss, and Petty all rank amongst the top-20 “most crowd-pleasing, club-wrecking, festival-killing live acts right now.” Whether these graying rockers have dipped into the fountain of youth or simply followed Robert Johnson’s lead and struck deals with the devil, one thing is clear: age don’t mean shit.

Tom Petty has done it all. He’s sold more than 80 million records. He’s been in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for more than a decade. And the flaxen-haired songwriter could probably decorate his den with platinum and gold records. But instead of kicking back, he just keeps going and going and going. With nothing left to prove, Petty keeps touring because he’s got plenty left to give.

The man is timeless, plain and simple. Playing all the tunes we’ve known and loved for as long as we can remember, Petty delivered one of the weekend’s most energetic and exuberant sets with a medley of fan favorites from his ridiculously deep four-decade catalog: “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”, “Learning to Fly”, and “Refugee”, just to name a few.  He hit all the highlights and seemed genuinely enthused to be playing the festival’s biggest slot. What more could you ask for?

TomPetty3_AmandaKoellner

Photo by Amanda Koellner

Petty’s banter was cute and charming, like when he described “Into the Great Wide Open” as the only thing he “really remembers about 1991.” On “Won’t Back Down”, which Petty called “a song we used to do around the campfire,” the Heartbreakers launched into a fiery instrumental. As the drums and guitars threatened to drown out Petty’s lyrics, he called on the crowd for support. Happy to help, tens of thousands of voices chanted toward the stage: “You could stand me UP at the gates of hell/ But I WON’T back down!” Commemorating the anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s death, the Heartbreakers crafted an extended cover of Grateful Dead ditty “Friend of the Devil”, complete with steel pedal guitar. Trying to convince the crowd that “all of the ’80s didn’t suck,” Petty strummed the opening chords of 1989’s “Free Fallin’”, off his quintuple-platinum (!) album, Full Moon Fever. Needless to say, everyone sang along.

When it came time for an encore, the exhausted audience rallied to beg and plead for another song. Petty gave us “American Girl”, took a long, leisurely bow, and flashed a bright, sincere smile. As fans made their way to the exits, everyone sung their favorite Petty tunes while sporting big, goofy grins. A true headliner doesn’t need rely on spectacle or hype. As Petty showed us, it’s audience engagement that counts. –Henry Hauser

Gallery

Photographer(s): Amanda Koellner, Joshua Mellin, and Ted Maider

view all
Next
1 comment