This past Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I was fortunate enough to attend San Francisco’s music festival, Outside Lands. This year’s lineup was beyond stacked!  I had the opportunity to see mind-blowing performance after mind-blowing performance over the course of the three-day festival, and I’d like to give you all a run-down of my TOP TEN sets from Outside Lands 2016.

Before I get into this list, I’d like to shoutout a few other great concerts I caught that didn’t make the top ten. DIIV, The Oh Hellos, The Knocks, Lewis Del Mar, and Whitney also put on solid shows. Due to scheduling conflicts, I didn’t get the chance to see Anderson .Paak, Beach House, Miiike Snow, Lettuce, J Cole, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Lionel Richie, Brandi Carlile, Rüfüs Du Sol, Air, and Lord Huron, so I mean no slight to these acts.

Alright, let’s do it. My ten favorite shows from the weekend.

10. Ryan Adams & The Shining RyanAdams06

Despite being drunk off his ass, veteran Southern-rocker Ryan Adams was on his A-game on Sunday. There was really nothing about Adams’ show that blew my mind, but he gave fans exactly what they came to see.  His set was chalk-full of unabashed Southern twang, glistening guitar solos, danceable grooves, and hilarious on-stage banter. And he didn’t play any Taylor Swift covers, so that was cool.

Favorite Song: “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)”

9.Chance the Rapper 9-chance-rapper.w529.h529

I’ll admit, the odds of Chance making this list were stacked against him. I’m a casual fan of his, but I’ve always had my gripes with his overly-campy sound on record. I couldn’t really see him from my spot directly behind the mixing booth. The crowd that surrounded me was a wild mob of drunken idiots. And he didn’t play my all-time fav of his, “Good Ass Intro”. But everything that I’ve admired about Chance came to life ten-fold during his Sunday set. He brought explosive energy, lovable personality, infectious melody, and feel-good vibes. The show made me realize that I may be overthinking Chance’s music; it’s not meant to be cerebral, it’s just meant to be fun.

Favorite Song: “Angels”

8.Grimes BG_1520_FADER_S07-0017_FINAL_JPGS_jbbm6c-2

Similar to my Chance experience, I was unable to snag a close seat for artpop sensation Grimes’ Friday concert due to the rough and rowdy nature of the J Cole fan swarm. Consequently, I couldn’t hear Grimes enough to really get into her set musically. But I’ve already heard her music. It was her presence that drew me. Never before have I been so captivated by a stage persona as I was by Grimes. Despite appearing tiny and childlike, she commanded my attention with sugary pop-star charm and demonic, authoritarian wailing alike.

Favorite Song: “Scream”

7.Julien BakernIRZn21h

Contrary to Grimes, twenty-year-old singer-songwriter Julien Baker had no stage presence whatsoever; she remained stationary and let her music do the talking. And hell, did it talk. Baker brought her audience intensely moving, tearjerking folk rock with just an electric guitar and a loop pedal. Highly recommend checking her music out if you love cry-in-your-car somber jams.

Favorite Song: “Good News”

6.The Claypool Lennon Deliriumsean-lennon-and-les-claypool-primus-are-the-claypool-lenno

Although I’d already spun Monolith of Phobos (2016) a few times prior to Outside Lands, I didn’t truly experience The Claypool Lennon Delirium (supergroup consisting of the Primus frontman/bassist Les Claypool and The Ghost of a Sabertooth Tiger frontman Sean Lennon) until I saw their live set. The duo put on a mind-bending fifty minute show of funky, progressive psych rock magic, and the union truly proved to be a marriage made in heaven.

Favorite Song: cover of King Crimson’s “In the Court of the Crimson King”

5.Sufjan Stevens IMG_0644_460

I’ll admit when mentally prepping myself for Sufjan Stevens, I was expecting an intimate, guitar-in-hand singer-songwriter set. But when an angel-wing-clad Sufjan, adorned in fantastical colors, smashed his banjo after the opening song, “Seven Swans”, I knew all bets were off. The forty-one-year-old folk singer then proceeded to reinterpret his rather-depressing studio material into a joyous spectacle of electropop goodness and whimsical choreography. Perhaps the most mind-boggling moment was the transformation of the rather morbid “We’re all gonna die” outro from “Fourth of July” into an optimistic celebration of the equalizing human condition of mortality. Absolutely brilliant.

Favorite Song: “Fourth of July”

4.LCD Soundsystemscreen-shot-2016-01-05-at-12-09-33-pm

I was a bit skeptical when my favorite dance-punk act decided to reunite after a five-year breakup, especially after bidding fans farewell with a double live album entitled The Long Goodbye (2014). But I left Outside Lands on Friday thanking the baby Jesus that they returned. James Murphy and company sounded just as good as before they hung up the hat. Despite a few mixing issues and a lackluster performance of “Get Innocuous!”, LCD brought vigorous energy to a set of fan favorites, which was all I wanted.

Favorite Song: “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House”

3.VulfpeckReal Feels

I’d never listened to Vulfpeck, an all-white funk rock band out of LA, prior to their Friday Outside Lands performance, but I left the set fan-girling over them. Vulfpeck gave their audience a captivating set of complex funky jams, audience sing-alongs, silly on-stage banter, and possibly the best bass guitar playing I’ve ever seen.

Favorite Song: “Back Pocket” or “Fugue State”

2.Radiohead 73715694109bea2f690beb19a23e45f4.350x350x1

I was so far away from the stage that I couldn’t really see my favorite art-rock band, but Radiohead was so good that I still had an absolutely spiritual experience. Despite their pretentious, holier-than-thou reputation, Thom Yorke and company were exceedingly playful and appeared to be having a blast at Outside Lands. And I danced my ass off, which is something I didn’t know you could do to Radiohead tunes until last Saturday night. I love this fucking band.

Favorite Song: “Nude” or “Karma Police”

1.Kamasi Washington IMG_5211

For some inexplicable reason, I just knew that the only act of the weekend that had the potential to top Radiohead was neo-jazz saxophonist and bandleader Kamasi Washington. And I was super correct. Kamasi and company delivered jazzy jams that were as technically impressive as they were emotionally provocative. That show changed me in ways I don’t quite understand. And I got to take a picture with him. Kamasi is a god. The end.

Favorite Song: The whole fucking thing


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