Arts and Entertainment Editor
This year’s Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, situated as usual in the serene and unusually chilly Golden Gate Park, again attracted its usual blend of indie rock sweethearts, prominent rappers and aging rock (not to mention disco) stars for its attention-grabbing headliners. However, the headliners’ presence isn’t the sole reason Outside Lands exists. The festival also curates a large number of relatively unknown or niche bands, providing them exposure to a larger audience while providing their current fans a close-to-the-stage viewing with very little effort. It’s easy to forget that well-known acts like Cage the Elephant in 2009, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis in 2011, were playing to smaller, yet eerily buzzed, crowds in the early afternoon. In that spirit, here are some musical acts you may have missed, but deserve more attention nonetheless, from Outside Lands 2016.
The Claypool Lennon Delirium
Combining the talents of Les Claypool, the venerable bassist of Bay Area funk metal legends Primus, and guitarist Sean Lennon, the Claypool Lennon Delirium rewound the clock to the late 1960s when their psychedelic prog rock sound was one of San Francisco’s hallmarks. Their throwback to Golden Gate Park’s past sounded anything but dated, with Claypool’s occasional heavy metal chugging grounding the music in modernity. All the musicians’ persistent virtuosity added an intense carefree attitude similar to a jam band, but a little more badass.
While thousands of festival-goers were split between the live performances of LCD Soundsystem and Beach House, as well as jockeying for position in the crowd for J. Cole, the audience surrounding Hiatus Kaiyote was comparably small and intimate. The quartet’s pulsating, threadbare sound has been dubbed “future soul,” a further development from “neo,” though it often sounds like jazz musicians playing neo-soul or R&B. Nai Palm’s vocals added a powerful melodic edge to Perrin Moss’s grooving, technical drums and Paul Bender’s skillful bass playing that is often lost in their recordings, all over the cosmic blanket of Simon Mavin’s keyboards.
Parisian duo Ibeyi consists of sisters Lisa-Kaindé Diaz on lead vocals and keyboards, and Naomi Diaz on percussion, mainly cajón and batá drums. “Ibeyi” means “twins” in Yoruba, their father’s culture, who moved them from Havana, Cuba to Paris when they were two years old. Twins hold a special place within Yoruba culture, and the Diaz sisters view their sisterhood with pride. As they played their music, they looped their live vocals, keys, and percussion over each other to recreate the layered electronic soul they mold in studio. The Diaz sisters sang in a mixture of English and Yoruba, at one point stepping away from their instruments to harmonize on a Yoruba folk song, reinforcing music’s quality as a universal language where different styles and cultures can communicate and unite.
Kamasi Washington and the West Coast Get Down
One of the most fan-friendly performances of the weekend happened Sunday morning at noon, right when music was permitted to start, with LA saxophonist Kamasi Washington and his backing band, the West Coast Get Down. The group played only three songs, “Change of the Guard,” “Re Run” and “The Rhythm Changes,” but they were so jam-packed with improvising from every musician that they filled up the whole 45-minute time slot. Their live set was funkier than their recordings, accentuated by Brandon Coleman rocking a keytar in addition to the two keyboards he had onstage, and the transcendent, sometimes drone-like, playing of bassist Miles Mosley. During “The Rhythm Changes,” Washington brought a special guest onstage: his father, Rickey Washington, who taught all the members of the West Coast Get Down how to play together when they were still children, to play soprano sax alongside them. After the set, Washington and the band stood next to the stage to sell vinyl versions of their double album, The Epic, sign autographs, talk and take pictures with their fans.
By Sunday night, most festivalgoers were exhausted by the physical effort of standing and walking around for hours at a time. The two most logical courses of action seemed to be sitting down for the rest of the festival, or dancing until the pain in your legs disappeared. For the latter option, Boston funk band Lettuce were an excellent groove-heavy energy booster. Scheduled alongside Lionel Richie and Lana Del Rey, Lettuce made for another comparably intimate show, though that isn’t to imply it was remotely quiet. The musicians played in a boisterous, syncopated style that hit an undeniably danceable nerve, even on quieter song like “Phyllis” off their most recent album, Crush. coupled with virtuosic soloing from guitarist Eric Krasno and keyboardist Neal Evans, both also members of jazz-funk trio Soulive, that made for a gratifying, wild time.