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Outside Lands kicks off year 15 with Kendrick Lamar, Shaq, Interpol, aespa

Outside Lands kicks off year 15 with Kendrick Lamar, Shaq, Interpol, aespa

Kendrick Lamar was looking to make up for lost time.

“It’s been a minute since we have been in San Fran,” the hip-hop star told the crowd during his headlining set at Outside Lands Friday. “We have to make this (expletive) special tonight.”

Well, mission accomplished — not just by Lamar, but by basically the whole cast of diversely appealing acts who performed on Day 1 (Aug. 11) at the festival in Golden Gate Park.

Variety was the name of the game, as a capacity crowd of some 75,000 fans enjoyed everything from the steely post-punk revival of New York’s Interpol and the joyous K-pop of aespa to the increasingly popular hip-hop stylings of J.I.D and the funked-up R&B of Janelle Monáe.

The fans even somehow managed to enjoy their time with NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, who used his seemed-like-it-might-never-end DJ set at Outside Lands to underscore why he most definitely shouldn’t give up his day job.

DJ Diesel (aka Shaquille O’Neal) performs on stage during the first day of the Outside Lands Festival at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

All in all, though, it was a pretty fine start to the three-day festival, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. The festival is set to continue through Sunday with such acts as English indie-pop band The 1975, rising hip-hop star Tobe Nwigwe, Texas dream-pop outfit Cigarettes After Sex, talented Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion and electronic music champs Odesza (which sold out two nights at Shoreline Amphitheatre at Mountain View — some 44,000 tickets — in 2022).

The festival is expected to draw 225,000 fans over the course of three days.

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Lamar, both a platinum-selling recording artist and a Pulitzer prize winner, is a top-notch booking on any night. He was an especially fitting headliner for this particular evening, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. Definitely hats off to Allen Scott — co-founder of Outside Lands and president of concerts and festivals at Another Planet Entertainment — and his team for making that happen.

A half-century after DJ Kool Herc (aka Clive Campbell) amazed his friends with his turntable work on Aug. 11, 1973 in the Bronx — an event widely recognized as the birth of hip-hop — Lamar used his approximately 100 minutes on the festival’s big Lands End stage to show how much the art form has evolved over the years as he moved about his critically acclaimed catalog.

Kendrick Lamar performs on stage during the first day of the Outside Lands Festival at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

Meanwhile, Interpol was in the home stretch of its set on the nearby Sutro stage. The band had something really special in store for fans on this night — playing its first (and still best) album, 2002’s “Turn On the Bright Lights,” in its entirety live.

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A few hours earlier in the night, aespa became the first K-pop act to perform at Outside Lands, racing through such fine-crafted dance-pop offerings as “Thirsty,” “Savage” and “Life’s Too Short” on the Twin Peaks stage. The set was filled with fun dance moves, catchy songs, fine vocal work and plenty of star power, making it easy to understand why this South Korean act has developed such a huge following in just a few years.

While aespa was still grooving with their fans, Janelle Monáe was working the large crowd at the Lands End stage with “Make Me Feel” and other soul-funk nuggets. It was Monae’s second time at the festival in six years, having made a triumphant showing at Golden Gate Park back in 2018.

The festival was scheduled to continue on Saturday with the Foo Fighters, Lana Del Rey, Maggie Rogers, Conan Gray, Alvvays and other artists.

For more information, visit sfoutsidelands.com.

Festival goers gather to listen to the music of DJ Diesel (aka Shaquille O’Neal) as he performs on stage during the first day of the Outside Lands Festival at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 
Evan Giia performs on stage during the first day of the Outside Lands Festival at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 
Becky Hill performs on stage during the first day of the Outside Lands Festival at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)