The 2023 Outside Lands came to a close on Sunday, having drawn some 225,000 people to the festival grounds in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park over the weekend.
The festival, which was celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, featured such big-name acts as Odesza, Kendrick Lamar, Lana Del Rey, Foo Fighters, Megan Thee Stallion and Janelle Monáe during its three-day run, Aug. 11-13.
Here are 10 memories that will stick with me from the festival:
The pop star put on the single best show I saw at Outside Lands this year, moving through a 16-song set that touched upon at least seven studio albums and served as a nice musical summary of her impressive career on Saturday. Speaking of impressive, Del Rey’s connection with the crowd was absolutely mesmerizing, akin to the same type of unshakeable bond that one finds at a Taylor Swift concert.
No, I’m not trying to be funny here. The Canadian pop crooner — who is just about the last person one would expect to see at a festival like this — did make a surprise appearance during the Foo Fighters headlining set on Saturday. Buble joined Dave Grohl and company to sing a bit of his 2009 single, “Haven’t Met You Yet.” How did he do at the festival? “This guy is pretty good,” Grohl remarked.
The platinum-selling artist (and Pulitzer Prize winner) drew what appeared to be the largest crowd of any set over the weekend, as tens of thousands of fans showed up to see the hip-hop star headline the big Lands End stage on Friday. And Lamar did not disappoint as he rolled through material from his latest album, “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers,” and other material. The older stuff — from 2012’s “good kid, m.A.A.d city” — still sounded best to these ears.
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)
Shaq also drew a monster crowd, but then did very, very little to warrant the turnout as he performed a DJ set that went basically nowhere — but still managed to get there quickly. He did, however, say “hands up” more times than what you’ll likely find in a full library’s worth of old bank robbery movies.
It was my first experience with Cigarettes After Sex — I mean, the band, of course. And I was left wondering why it’s taken me so long to embrace this wonderful El Paso, Texas act. The trio’s ethereal dream-pop music was absolutely mesmerizing on Sunday, leading me to put both of their full-length outings — 2017’s eponymous debut and 2019’s “Cry” — high on my wish list for the next time I go shopping for vinyl.
The other act that made the amazingly strong first impression on me in the live arena was this terrific Canadian quintet, featuring vocalist-guitarist Molly Rankin, keyboardist Kerri MacLellan, guitarist Alec O’Hanley, bassist Abbey Blackwell and drummer Sheridan Riley. The group’s dreamy, yet still-driving indie-pop set on Saturday definitely connected with longtime Bettie Serveert/Sundays/Belly fan.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – August 12, Dave Grohl performs with the Foo Fighters on the second day of the Outside Lands Music Festival in San Francisco. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)
The South Korean act was the first K-pop act to perform at Outside Lands. But judging from the turnout of — and reaction from — fans to the band’s set on Friday, aespa almost certainly won’t be the last K-pop troupe to visit this festival. The group displayed a winning combination of fun dance moves, catchy songs, fine vocal work and plenty of star power, fully illustrating why aespa has grown so popular in such a relatively short period of time.
Photos: The 15th Outside Lands Music Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park
Lana Del Rey shows Taylor Swift-like connection with fans at Outside Lands
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Photos: 2023 Outside Lands music festival
This was the scheduling conflict that really annoyed/perplexed fans, as some 75,000 attendees tried to decide which headlining set to watch on Sunday night. I went with a mix of Odesza on Lands End and Kahan on Sutro, in large part because those two stages are relatively close together. EDM act Odesza’s visuals were definitely impressive, but I was less thrilled with the somewhat uninspiring EDM music. And Kahan’s indie-pop-folk thing was a little too Lumineers or Mumford for my taste, yet it was really impressive to see how well he connected with the crowd. In all, I was left feeling like I should have gone to The 1975 — but I do have the opportunity to catch the band when it performs at SAP Center next month.
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)
The New York post-punk revival act kind of sounds like a mix of Psychedelic Furs and Joy Division, which, of course, translates to me liking the band. On Friday night at the festival, Interpol treated its fans to something really cool as it performed the acclaimed 2002 debut “Turn On the Bright Lights” in its entirety.
With all the bad press the City by the Bay has gotten in recent months, San Francisco really seemed to shine brightly during this three-day weekend. Golden Gate Park was beautiful — chilly, sure, but beautiful — and music fans were overall very joyous and happy throughout the weekend. It was a strong reminder that San Francisco is, indeed, still a pretty cool place to be — especially when it wants to be. Look forward to seeing you next year, Outside Lands. Marking my calendar right now for Aug. 9-11.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – August 12, Fog covers the polo field during the second day of the Outside Lands Musice Festival in San Francisco on Saturday. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)
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)
Janelle Monáe 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)