OSL 2015: who I liked, disliked, and would see again

Outside Lands (OSL) in San Francisco — and music festivals of its kind — are an ideal place to discover up-and-coming artists and to see bands you’ve been meaning to see for years. You can also bet one of your old school heroes will appear on the bill. Here are my thoughts about some of the artists I saw at OSL a couple of weeks ago in lovely Golden Gate Park:

My boyfriend, Nick, and I rushed to the park to see Broods around noon on Friday. We were both intrigued by catchy pop tunes off their debut album, Evergreen, like “Mother & Father” and “Everytime”; but Broods were incredibly disappointing. Maybe the lead singer, Georgia Nott, was just having an off day, but her voice sounded hoarse, strained, and just plain bad; and she didn’t sound at all like she does on the album.

Lake Street Dive — the R&B quartet who’s responsible for “Bad Self Portraits” — killed it! They have a captivating stage presence; I found their lead singer, Rachael Price, particularly fun to watch. I definitely recommend checking them out.

Leon Bridges did not disappoint as he played through his debut album, Coming Home. Bridges makes old-timey soul music. As I sat in the sun listening to his set, I kept thinking his sound would come through even better in an indoor venue; and then promptly started to regret not picking up tickets to his night show at The Independent. I’m jealous of y’all who were able to make it out to that show!

Lindsey Stirling was a day-of recommendation from my friend Erika, and I’m so glad I checked her out! Stirling creates “classical EDM”; i.e., she plays the violin like a badass over electronic music while performing tightly choreographed dance moves. She was probably the most unique artist at OSL, and I’d love to see her again!

Glass Animals

Glass Animals put on a great show at Coachella in April. So did St. Vincent. Unfortunately, their sets conflicted at OSL. We chose to see Glass Animals (because their show at Coachella was more fun), and I really enjoyed seeing them again. Their sound is funky and unique, and their set was high-energy and danceable. Zaba, their debut release, is one of my favorite albums of 2014. I’d highly recommend seeing them live! (They’re touring the U.S. this fall.)

Even though I think their new album consists of boring, uninspired rock songs, I decided to see Mumford & Sons because Sigh No More, their inaugural album, was my favorite album of 2010. I interpreted Sigh No More as a genuine search for truth and meaning, and I personally identified with several of the songs on the album, especially “The Cave” and “Awake My Soul”. Sigh No More came out around the same time I graduated from college; a period in my life when I was digging very deep, searching for truth and meaning for my own life. I also just really dig the banjo! As I expected, I really enjoyed when they played their older songs, and their new songs felt lackluster.

Tame Impala-edited

Tame Impala was one of my favorite shows of the weekend. They make lush psychedelic pop, and I think their new album, Currents, is their best one yet. Each song flowed seamlessly into the next, and their set feel like a groovy, sunbaked trip.

The Black Keys are probably about as cool as rock gets these days. They sounded great, and I’m planning on seeing them next time they’re in town.

Unexpectedly, Hot Chip was one of my favorite shows of the weekend. I actually wasn’t even planning on seeing them; I wanted to go to Odesza, because I keep hearing such good things but, after dancing our faces off to a Classixx/STRFKR DJ set at the Mezzanine the night before (so incredibly fun!), Nick wasn’t really in the mood to listen to a DJ, and he really wanted to catch Hot Chip; so I stayed with him, and I’m so glad I did! They put on an incredible show. It was so fun and dancey, and they did a good job alternating new songs and old hits. I saw them back in 2010 when they opened up for LCD Soundsystem at the Hollywood Bowl and remember really enjoying their set. For those of you who love electronic music but also really appreciate when artists play real instruments: Hot Chip is the best of both worlds.

I’m glad we were able to catch some of Caribou. Their set was very uncrowded — presumably because everyone was over at the main stage watching Sam Smith and/or waiting for Elton John — so we were able to get up very close to the stage. I liked what I heard and will definitely prioritize seeing them next time they’re in town; we had to leave their set early to get a good spot for Elton John!

Elton John was one of my favorite — if not my favorite favorite — show of the festival. His voice is still impeccable, and he still plays a seriously mean piano. I was never obsessed with Elton John, but I know his songs well and have always really enjoyed them. He played most of his hits at OSL, including Levon, Tiny Dancer, Rocket Man, and Benny and the Jets. Seeing Elton John live deepened my respect for him as an artist; I think I’d now consider him one of my old school music heroes, alongside Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, etc. If you ever get a chance to see Elton John, go for it! I promise you he’ll be FANTASTIC! And, most likely, he’ll be wearing sequins.

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