The third and final day of Outside Lands was maybe the most star-studded of the festival, featuring major names throughout the lineup — starting with soul upstart Allen Stone and ending with meme-friendly dubstepper Skrillex. It was also a day for avoiding the onslaught of dust while traveling between stages, eating shawarma out of a cone and scoring as much many Ben & Jerry’s samples as possible. But mostly music. Here’s what got our attention on Sunday in San Francisco.
For a band that has had one of the most popular—and ubiquitous—songs of the past year, Fun played pretty early in the day (1:30 PM on the main stage). They didn’t seem bothered by that, though, with lead singer Nate Ruess appearing genuinely chuffed to be a part of the festival as they made their way through Some Nights tracks including, yes, “We Are Young.”
Fun’s characteristically ornate numbers, like the busy “At Least I’m Not as Sad (As I Used to Be)” from their 2009 debut Aim and Ignite, could easily be a mess live. But they definitely were not, with engaging, structurally sound performances throughout their brisk 45-minute set — ending with a cover of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” followed by current single “Some Nights.”
4. Bloc Party/Franz Ferdinand
Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand performed just a few hours apart from each other, proving that the spirit of NME circa 2005 is alive and well in the Bay Area (for one day, at least).
Both bands are in similar positions: A few years removed from their last new album, but with one on the way in the near future. Both relied heavily on classics — “Banquet,” “Helicopter,” “This Modern Love” for Bloc Party; “Take Me Out,” “This Fire,” “Do You Want To” for Franz Ferdinand — but also showcased some upcoming material.
Most importantly, both sounded motivated and relevant, inspired to prove that they’re very much still in the game. But only Bloc Party covered Rihanna (a section of “We Found Love” as an intro to “Flux”), so they might win this round.
3. Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder might be a couple of genres and eras removed from the typical headliner at a festival like Outside Lands, but even trying to deny the appeal of seeing songs like “Superstition” or “Isn’t She Lovely?” played live would be foolish.
It seemed like the crowd Sunday night had no interest in being fools, relishing the opportunity to see a prolific 50-year industry veteran as the final act of the three-day show. Which meant a party atmosphere and refreshingly non-ironic dancing during tunes like “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours,” leading to an inescapable good vibe led by the singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/ music legend.
(Things did get mildly awkward when it appeared that Wonder was struggling a bit to fit the two hours and 10 minute budgeted for his set— during the encore, he led the crowd in a sing-along version of “She Loves You” by the Beatles while seemingly not having the lyrics quite down himself — but he’s endearing and charismatic enough that it was still plenty of fun to watch.)
2. Regina Spektor
Regina Spektor has played to many huge crowds at this point in her career, though given her regular “aw, shucks” reactions, it hasn’t gotten old to her. (Sure, the truly cynical among us can suspect she’s faking, but that wouldn’t seem to match the abundant earnestness found in her entire body of work.)
With What We Saw from the Cheap Seats still fresh, Spektor deployed her inimitable vocals on several of the songs from that record, including zippy initial single “All the Rowboats” and “Small Town Moon.” By the time she ended things with “Fidelity” it was clear that Spektor has quietly become a superstar in the past five years or so, as quirky and as welcome of a development as any.
1. Jack White
After the White Stripes, the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather — and collaborations ranging from Loretta Lynn to the Insane Clown Posse, which sounds like a joke but is exactly true — we’re now full swing in the Jack White solo era, as made clear during his main stage solo set Sunday in Golden Gate Park.
Pretty much everything from the Jack White catalogue was up for grabs: Of course, his recently released solo record Blunderbuss, but also “I Cut Like a Buffalo” by Dead Weather and multiple White Stripes songs. White took advantage of having a full band, giving new life to familiar material like “Hotel Yorba”—an originally simple-yet-elegant ditty that helped bring the White Stripes to prominence a decade ago, reborn as a full-fledged country song. We may now be living in the best of all possible Jack White worlds.