Little Miss Frozen at Outside Lands must have sold her GA wristband to Little Miss Sunshine because if there was one theme on Day One, it was warmth. Afternoon acts like Spellling and Duckwrth enjoyed some honest-to-God heat, and by the time Dayglow took over the Twin Peaks stage we were treated to a genuine OSL rarity: late-afternoon California light and a sea of happy people at their most beautiful.
Resuming its rightful place in early August, SF’s pre-eminent summertime outdoor festival has not exactly picked up where 2019 left off. Obviously, it wouldn’t be possible to rewind to the before times, but changes are palpable across the board. For starters, the prices for food are nothing short of jaw-dropping, although for every decadent treat (William Tell House’s lobster tots, $33 including tax and tip) there’s a relative steal (a perfectly serviceable lamb wrap for $15).
But even more apparently, eyeliner has slipped the bounds of mere wingéd-ness into a whole new realm of drama, anyone who remembers JNCO jeans from the first time around may have an hourly heart attack—Y2K fashion is definitely back—and underwear-as-outerwear is also a thing now.
The touring sextet that forms Oakland-based Spellling opened the fest in various tones of spring green and largely outfitted in corsets. The 12:05 p.m. slot of the first (week)day of any major music festival isn’t exactly the most desirable billing, but Spellling nevertheless attracted a sizeable crowd of emo truants and other fans of their gorgeous experimentation. Oscillating between hard femme and soft bondage, lead vocalist and creative force Tia Cabral was cinched tightly in her waist trainer while belting out the emotive lyrics to “Boys at School” and other cuts from 2021’s The Turning Wheel. Now that’s a flex.
Opening with “Power Power,” Duckwrth sanded down all his roughness and political edges to channel pure party vibes—but not so pure as to tamp down the lyrics “Put your phone away / F— your Instagram.” A listless cover of Lipps Inc’s “Funkytown” marked Dayglow’s somewhat frenzied moment, with frontman Sloane Christian Struble warbling in a way that a mid-aughts Randy Jackson would dismiss as “a little pitchy, dawg.”
Rostam played a set on the Panhandle that was as chill as chill gets. You might even call it somnolent, with the former Vampire Weekender looking like what one friend called “Humboldt 2006 Morrissey.” Puncutating every other sample with a sound-of-glass-shattering effect, Lil Uzi Vert was everything Rostam was not: hyperkinetic, bombastic and full of dramatic pauses.
“That’s what you came here for, right? To rage!” he shouted at one point, his image dissolving into some superbly low-fi effects of what could be an X-ray taken under a strobe.
Hey, by the way, did you know that Guy and Howard Lawrence of Disclosure are in their 30s now? Because nearly a decade after they took the Treasure Island Music Festival and (the EDM-obsessed segment of) America by storm, their brand of British white-boy house has matured quite a bit—almost into greatest-hits territory. The Sutro stage has solidified its position as the destination for anything bass-forward, and “When a Fire Starts To Burn” is about the best use of it since Jamie xx sent an electromagnetic pulse through the joint four years ago.
Over at Lands End, fellow headliner SZA had some rough moments with her mic, but managed to recover through sheer charisma. While it may be reductive to say that she’s what Tia Cabral of Spellling hopes to be one day, that’s only because everyone should aspire to be who SZA is one day. Encircled by one of the better uses of the main stage in years—a sort of garlanded lighthouse like the 18th hole in the world’s fanciest putt-putt course—the Grammy-winning Kendrick Lamar collaborator and her high-top Converse sneakers executed precisely what was needed.
@sfstandard Ever wonder where all these people come from to attend the festival? We caught up with some groups and asked them. #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #outsidelands #music #artists #sanfrancisco #osl #osl2022 #sftok #sftiktok ♬ Canyons – Official Sound Studio
The festival’s overall culture has Coachella-fied a bit: The low-budget trellis of a windmill has been replaced by a stack of illuminated polyhedra with motorized blades attached. And—horror of horrors—the fold-out map you get upon walking through the gates no longer includes the schedule! Relying on the festival app wouldn’t be so bad if cell service were more reliable, and even if you downloaded it, you may get some push notifications for the odious, two-level “Sapphire Lounge presented by Chase.”
But the core of Outside Lands remains. Like so many institutions of American life, large and small, it has responded to the paroxyms of the last several years by diversifying across all fronts. With more people of color, more women and more LGBTQ+ acts—all of them seated higher on the bill—it’s staying true to the small-d democratic vision of a festival and seeding joy throughout.
They’re here to rage, indeed.
Peter-Astrid Kane can be reached at [email protected]