On its final festival day, Outside Lands 2021 closed out with blessedly smaller crowds, which made it that much more enjoyable to see terrific sets by Brittany Howard, Sofi Tukker, and Tame Impala — with J Balvin making history at the end of the evening, becoming the first-ever Latin act to have a headlining performance at the festival.
This past weekend’s Outside Lands was a collective catharsis of sorts. For many who went, it was their first experience attending a large IRL music festival since the pandemic came down with a society-altering thud back in March 2020. Even though Sunday's lines for food vendors remained lengthy, and the vibe inside the SOMA Tent — which at one point included a 90-minute wait time to enter — proved lackluster, Outside Lands capped off its 2021 festival with maybe its best overall single-day lineup of the weekend.
Cannon's unique blend of '70s grooves and '80s electro-funk created a melodic atmosphere that emanated from Lands End Sunday afternoon. The band's just-shy-of-an-hour set included tracks from their debut EP Up All Night in 2014, as well as more recently released songs like 2020's "Fire For You." (If that tune sounded familiar, it’s because it appeared on Netflix’s Never Have I Ever.)
The rest of the afternoon included a bevy of acts that covered everything from electro-dancehall beats to garage-folk music. Without a doubt: Brittany Howard gave one of the best live sets of the day. Howard's voice – sitting somewhere in a middle placed mezzo-soprano type — has the capacity to pierce through any warm body with a functioning auditory system. The lead singer of Alabama Shakes treated the crowd to musings from Jaime, her 2019 debut solo album; listening to Howard sing through "Stay High" in person was something that not even hyperbolic superlatives would do justice.
While we were looking forward to seeing Scarypoolparty's strum a Gibson Guitar through his discography, the runner-up on the seventeenth season of American Idol would, unfortunately, not end up playing OSL this year. The festival tweeted Sunday that Scarypoolparty opted to tend to his mental health instead of playing his set; electro-DJ Green Velvet took his spot at the Panhandle stage.
Sofi Tukker — the genre-bending duo made up of Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern — showcased their musical prowess at the Sutro Stage around 7 p.m., proving how their more nuanced, global perspective on electronic music can transcend language. For example: "Drinkee" uses Portuguese lyrics adapted from the contemporary Brazilian poet Chacal, and hearing the pair play it live leaves no doubt as to why it was nominated for a Best Dance Recording Grammy circa 2017.
OSL 2021's last two performances of the night — and, thus, for the festival — were a technicolor balm to the past eighteen months that were, more or less, defined by Clubhouse dance parties and Zoomed drag shows watched behind LCD screens. Tame Impala was the draw for the majority of the Sunday attendees; multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker capped the Lands End performance with fan-favorite "New Person, Same Old Mistakes," which felt like a fitting post-pandemic anthem as society returned to normal... still repeating the same faux pas it vowed to leave back in a world that was not yet defined by COVID-19.
But across the festival grounds, J Balvin — who, while performing a pyrotechnic-rich performance, simultaneously became the first Latin act to headline the festival... ever — offered a reggaeton counter that of Tame Impala’s performance on the other side of the Golden Gate Park Polo Field. The stage, bathed in a rotating arrangement of colorful platform lighting, made for the perfect backdrop as he went through songs from his 2020 album Colores. People went crazy for Rosalia features "Con Altura'' and "Brillo."
As the crowd inevitably began putting their things back inside fanny packs and clear backpacks, before making a beeline toward the nearest exit right when the clock struck 9:55 p.m., watching the familiar sight of a tide of people flowing back out into the SF streets from Golden Gate Park felt like an appreciated piece of normalcy. Let's just hope next year's line is just as stellar as this past one — twerking medleys, reggaeton bangers, soulful ballads, and all.
Top Photo: Courtesy of Alive Coverage via Grandstand Media