Festival Fever
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Outside Lands’ 2017 Lineup: Two Days Later

on April 06, 2017, 5:01pm
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In its 10th year, Outside Lands can boast that it remains the largest independent music festival in the country. As more and more fests are bought up by Live Nation and AEG, OSL gets to march to its own drumbeat. But if you listened to fans on social media, that indie status isn’t without its price. Literally. The fest’s increasing admission cost is now roughly the same as Coachella, which rubbed some long-time attendees the wrong way, given that Coachella runs three hours longer on a nightly basis. At Outside Lands, each of the main stages only features one headliner performing after dark and a strict curfew of 10 p.m.

But then the lineup was revealed, and the admission price made sense. For its 10th anniversary party, Outside Lands went and curated one of, if not the, best American festival bill of the year. Now, there aren’t hard-and-fast rules to a great lineup; you just know them when you see them. And OSL doesn’t tick all the boxes that we hope for. But one of the biggest factors that the SF gathering has going for it is that it doesn’t seem like a retread of the lineups that have already been released. Sure, it has some of the usual faces (Future Islands, Solange, Lorde), but the majority of the top three lines are populated by acts that we haven’t been seeing on many festivals so far. Maybe that’s the advantage of releasing a lineup later in the year — that you can actually draw artists with new material for 2017 that haven’t been on the road for 12 months already. Where its competitors here often felt uninspired in their big reveals, OSL’s bookings are stacked with original and inspired choices.

osl 17 Outside Lands 2017 Lineup: Two Days Later

As mentioned, though, it isn’t perfect. OSL has long struggled to put female artists at the top of their bill, and though the last couple years have offered a woman headliner (Lana Del Rey last year, Lorde this year), it’s still an area that could use more work. You never know who a festival went for and who said no, but particularly with the diverse lineup that FYF Fest was able to put together this year, all festivals have been put on notice of what is possible and should have noticed how well it will be received when diversity is achieved.

And while the lineup takes risks (a turn away from EDM, three big headliners that appeal primarily to an older audience), the overall sense of looking at Outside Lands is that it is a festival that, 10 years in, knows what it is. It’s not the late-night party of Coachella or the radio-ready commercial spectacle of Lollapalooza. Outside Lands is something a bit more mature, an event where wine and food and cool weather and grassy fields provide an atmosphere that strives to be a shade nicer than its peers. It’s consistently one of the best weekends of the year, and with 2017 boasting one of its strongest lineups to date, that’s not likely to change.

–Philip Cosores
Executive Editor

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Highlights

Gorillaz

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Photo by Philip Cosores

Two weeks ago, I told Executive Editor Philip Cosores — you know, the guy whose introduction you just read — that any festival who books the Gorillaz is an immediate contender for Festival of the Year. Those are some fighting words, alright, but words I’ll still stand by, mostly because they’re arguably the most exciting act to book right now. With a new album on the way in Humanz and four singles that this writer can’t stop jamming to, the Gorillaz clearly haven’t skipped a beat, and given that their stomp has always been louder than their steps, be prepared to be blown away come August. Frontman Damon Albarn seemingly saves the best for this “side-project” of his, and the best is what you’re going to get. –Michael Roffman

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A Tribe Called Quest

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When 2017 festivals began announcing, A Tribe Called Quest was conspicuously absent from events like Coachella and Governors Ball. Though the rap group had promised to tour this year, some became concerned that this might not happen. Turns out that Tribe would be hitting the fests; they just wanted to wait until summer was in full swing. Still, the group is being selective enough that their lineup appearances feel like huge gets. And rightfully so, as they are a legendary troupe enjoying a renewed sense of interest. That makes for what is likely to be a blockbuster string of sets once their festival season gets swinging. –Philip Cosores

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Lorde

02 lorde with disclosure cosores Outside Lands 2017 Lineup: Two Days Later

Photo by Philip Cosores

Fun fact: Lorde is primed to own the summer. Her new single “Green Light” has not only conquered our roster of critics but the radio waves, and it’s, what, April? By August, her sophomore album, Melodrama, will be two months old, which is more than enough time for her fans to learn every single word, every single beat, and every single erratic dance of hers. Speaking of erratic dancing, Golden Gate Park is only 400 miles away from Los Angeles’ own McArthur Park, where she filmed her fabulous video for “Green Light”, and if that’s not a useless enough fact, here’s another one: At the age of 20, Lorde will sadly be unable to enjoy the festival’s trademark Wine Lands. Now, that’s what I call melodrama. –Michael Roffman

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Fleet Foxes

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Someone in America had to be the first major music festival (not counting the more niche Newport Folk Fest) to get Fleet Foxes on board, and Outside Lands won that prize. The band is five years removed from regular festival appearances, which will make their set all the more intriguing. But maybe most exciting is the environment that will greet them. As we saw last year with artists like Jason Isbell, Ryan Adams, and Sufjan Stevens, OSL’s smaller Sutro stage provides something of a safe haven for calmer music, far away from the hustle of the rest of the fest. In this sort of setting, Fleet Foxes can thrive, making their booking look like a sure-fire home run. –Philip Cosores

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Surprises

The Who

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Photo by Nathan Dainty/VeryCreative

Whoa, who saw that one coming? “Not I,” said the bear, “and neither did we,” said Consequence of Sound. Seeing The Who at the top of this year’s lineup is another one of those “Oh, Duh!” Moments that come every so often while covering this business, making you wonder why this hasn’t happened already. One reason may be Pete Townshend’s ensuing battle with hearing loss, though another may be a simple matter of preference. The Who do well in arenas, they’re used to arenas, and they traditionally headline sprawling tours that conquer arenas in every town from London to Lancaster. Seeing how they just performed Tommy in its entirety for the first time in ages, one has to wonder what surprises they’ll have in store for Golden Gate Park. Whatever the case, we’ll gladly throw on some tight jeans, don a striped shirt, and sing our hearts out to “Baba O’Riley”. –Michael Roffman
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Queens of the Stone Age

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Photo by Philip Cosores

Things are getting busy for Queens of the Stone Age. We’re only four months into 2017 and already they’ve stamped their name on a number of key lineups across the globe, from Japan’s Fuji Rock to Australia’s Splendour in the Grass to Canada’s Montebello. With Outside Lands, Josh Homme and co. are making their proper return stateside, and they’ll likely have an arsenal of new jams in tow. If you recall, the band teased a new studio album for this year — a follow-up to 2013’s …Like Clockwork — and it wasn’t too long after that when photographic evidence confirmed longtime pal Dave Grohl’s been in the studio with them. That’s always good news for this camp, and their booking here suggests that good news will likely keep coming in the months ahead. Whatever you do, though, please don’t hound them for an autograph. It’s just tacky. –Michael Roffman
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Belle & Sebastian

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Photo by Autumn Andel

We’re gonna be two and a half years past Belle & Sebastian’s last album when they play at Outside Lands this year. That’s a long enough gap to make it surprising that they’re still popping up on lineups and also just long enough to make their scattered appearances still feel fresh. They are also a band that will fit in perfectly at the San Francisco festival. It’s a city they’ve been tied to since writing the song “Piazza, New York Catcher”, and OSL will give them a prime Sutro stage spot to play to their strengths. –Philip Cosores
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Dr. Octagon

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Photo by Philip Cosores

For those of you not in the know, Dr. Octagon is one of the personas of Kool Keith. In this case, he portrays an extraterrestrial, time-traveling gynecologist and surgeon from the planet Jupiter. The appearance is pretty left field and a relative rarity, being that the last we heard from the doctor was a guest verse on the last Yeah Yeah Yeahs album in 2013. The billing is a nod to the Bay Area’s long relationship with classic hip-hop and should please the rap-heads who also get stars like A Tribe Called Quest and ScHoolboy Q to enjoy.–Philip Cosores

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Omissions

Spoon

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Photo by Heather Kaplan

Spoon had every reason to be on this lineup. They’ll be out West shortly before the festival, and they haven’t announced a single date in San Francisco. With Hot Thoughts burning up the charts and winning over the right critics, this would have been a key act to spice up the festival’s mid-tier section, which could use some fresh faces. –Michael Roffman
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Arcade Fire / The Weeknd

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Photo by David Brendan Hall

With the amount of surprises at the top of Outside Lands’ lineup, there’s obviously a few rumors that didn’t come to fruition. Arcade Fire and The Weeknd were two acts widely rumored to be possible headliners, but it’s hard to say that their exclusion is a bad thing. Arcade Fire have headlined OSL before and had been peppering in festivals over the past couple years, while The Weeknd has also topped his share of bills during the past couple seasons. Sure, neither act is anything to scoff at, but Outside Lands is better off with their more creative top line. –Philip Cosores
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Bruce Springsteen

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Photo by Ben Kaye

In a recent poll conducted by the Bay Area’s own Mercury News, readers voted Bruce Springsteen as the second act they’d like to see behind Kendrick Lamar. Considering K-Dot was at the festival no more than two years ago, it’s not at all surprising he wasn’t back on the lineup, even despite the new album (which, to be fair, nobody probably knew about). However, The Boss has yet to appear at Golden Gate Park, and considering Outside Lands traditionally lands a notable classic rock headliner, there was reason to believe New Jersey’s finest would bring his East Coast magic to the West Coast and satiate those hungry hearts. Instead, we got the almighty Who, leaving the door open once again for Mr. Springsteen. –Michael Roffman
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Aretha Franklin

aretha franklin 2015 Outside Lands 2017 Lineup: Two Days Later

Yes, we’re happy to see Lorde on the lineup and at least some female presence. But Outside Lands still has work to do to get their booking up to code in terms of equal representation. Maybe a pop star like Katy Perry wouldn’t make sense for their demo, but the festival could always reach back and pull some stars from years gone by. Every year, there’s a contingent shouting for Aretha Franklin, and with this being her potential final year touring, it seemed like it could have been the perfect opportunity to nab her. If not Aretha, maybe Fleetwood Mac? Or even a band like Blondie? You never know what efforts were made to address this behind the scenes, but we can still hope that next year will be better. –Philip Cosores

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Least Interesting

Empire of the Sun

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Look, “Walking on a Dream”, “We Are the People”, and “Standing on the Shore” are all exceptional singles … that were released nearly 10 years ago. Since then, Empire of the Sun have failed to reclaim that glory, stumbling big time over its sophomore album, 2013’s Ice on the Dune, and only mildly improving their status with last year’s enjoyable (though not memorable) Two Vines. It doesn’t help that they’re billed at just about every festival this summer and that their high placement is not exactly deserved, especially since their recent success on the charts is over the aforementioned glory years. Time to wake up. –Michael Roffman

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Rebelution

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Photo by Killian Young

Listen: I go to a lot of music festivals. Never have I been to a festival and heard anyone complain about a lack of reggae on the bill. Enough said. –Philip Cosores

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Young the Giant

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Photo by Killian Young

Quick: Name your favorite song by Young the Giant that was released in the last five years. I’ll wait over in the corner reading this, here, Highlights Magazine. Take your time. –Michael Roffman

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Rag’n’Bone Man

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Let’s ignore the name Rag’n’Bone Man. Wait, no, how can we ignore the name Rag’n’Bone Man? Literally, any name for your musical project would have been better than Rag’n’Bone Man. He should be disqualified from festivals just based on that name. But if you dive into his hit song “Human”, you’ll actually find an artist that … well, no, the song actually sucks, too. Nothing about Rag’n’Bone Man is good. –Philip Cosores

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