Photos: Outside Lands Day 1 Highlights – Remi Wolf, Sharon Van Etten, Bartees Strange, Khruangbin and more
As everyone begins to weave their way into the new world of “almost” post-pandemic, it’s worth noting that nothing is “like ever” (sorry David Byrne). And while the big music festivals got their feet wet, Outside Lands was noticeably different from previous years. Do what you want with it, but for Outside Lands 2021 the lineup is much more suited to a younger demographic and more than once I’ve heard of an independent festival. Gone are the big names in legacy and the number of traditional rock acts has given way to more edm, electronica, hip hop and more. We can only speculate on what motivated this movement, which leaves me wondering if this is the future of this festival or if it is temporary. Either way, ticket sales and fan response indicate they could go both ways. One thing that stands out after three days is that the variety presented was exceptional. There were plenty of offers for everyone and an opportunity for fans to sample artists in genres and styles they don’t usually follow.
The first day of the three-day event offered a plate with samples from across the musical spectrum. Some highlights of the day were the breathtaking sets by Sharon Van Etten and Remi Wolf. Also excellent sets from Panamanian Sofia Valdés, Bartees Strange, independent Puerto Rican duo Buscabulla, Khruangbin and The Strokes which were one of the two closest.
Sharon Van Etten’s set was an elegant and dramatic tour de force. The spell comes to mind.
And then there was Rémi Wolf! A brilliant set from her that came out flamboyant the very moment she entered the scene. Opening with “Rufufus”, followed by “Liquor Store”, she immediately locked the crowd. Remi had a set very early in the day, but she had this packed meadow and with her all the way, which says a lot about her power of attraction. . I’ve heard it from fans a lot: “She’ll be headlining soon. She’s a phenomenal talent and so much fun.
Khruangbin represented a radical and unique change in programming. A fully instrumental set that had a lot of surf sounds in the mix via reverb washes that also included a cover of “Miserlou” by Dick Dale. The pop music influence of 60s Southeast Asian pop music was also felt. Visually, they are interesting not only for the way they present themselves on stage, but also for the way they interact; moving almost in slow motion as guitarist Rick Speer periodically strikes a pose; a kind of tongue in the cheek guitar macho God kind of pose. So weird, fun and interesting.
A morning set to start the day with Sofia Valdes was a great start to the day. Having already found success in her native Panama, she is now making her way here in the United States. His songs are well-written stories and feelings that we all know; all expressed in a rich, evocative and inviting voice.
Bartees Strange had a solid start to the set and it was easy to see why the artist gained such popularity. It’s a powerful indie live!
Buscabulla also had a beautiful ensemble of rich grooves and synth swells in support of singer Raquel Barrios who was mesmerizing with her voice, fit and overall freshness.
To close the day, The Strokes started their set with a dark and brooding vibe, but slowly turned it into a solid rock performance. However, it was not a set without controversy as singer Julian Casablancas expressed his frustration with both the Laws of Sound and San Francisco. Some disapproval was expressed by the crowd. It was also a set that started twenty minutes late and ended ten minutes earlier.
Outside Lands still has a strong party vibe and it seemed a bit improved this year as the dates were pushed back to Halloween weekend. The fans were numerous and dressed in great costumes. Another element that made this weekend even better.
Words and photography: Tom Dellinger