There are three topics we will inevitably bring up in every review of Outside Lands. The quality of the music, the cultural significance of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco’s art history, and how in one way or another, the fog always finds a way to impact the ambiance of the festival. With this year’s fog having an even bigger presence than in years past, we thought to search for a meteorologist to explain this phenomenon. Much to our chagrin, we could not in fact find any musicians on the lineup who were also qualified to interpret a hygrometer and explain it as well as a member of an evening news team. Thankfully, we were able to find the next best thing as local celebrity and anchor at ABC 7 Dan Ashley opened day two of the festival on the Panhandle stage with his local band.
The performance proved to be more than the delightful Dad Rock many might have expected from their set. While their set may have featured some covers of classic throwbacks including Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ‘69,” it also showcased many of the band’s original pieces, covering a variety of topics with lyrical depth that highlighted Ashley’s decades of looking for meaning and nuance in his reporting. “It’s nice to be back together” he said at one point to introduce their song “We Stayed Home” with the lyrics “We stayed home, but no one was alone. No six feet ever gonna keep us apart” reflecting on the love he found for his community in a time where many might have felt isolated. Another one of Ashley’s original songs reflected on his career in journalism, “What Really Matters,” sharing a name with his weekly segment reflecting on positive news. The lyrics reflected his deep belief, highlighting the words “what really matters is love.”
This positive and uplifting trend continued on the Lands End stage as UK indie band Lovejoy kept the mood elevated with their upbeat and cheerful set, more than living up to the image cultivated by their name. Barely two years old as a project, the band played a full bill of songs that gave the crowd a mid-day pick me up including “Call Me What You Like,” “One Day,” and “Perfume.” Unable to go through their whole set without some dry British whit, they announced “this next song is about Borris Johnson” before playing “Model Busses,” a title that reflected on a rather embarrassing interview given by the politician. Lead singer Wilbur Scoot paused a few times to tie his shoe, and eventually kicked them off after a while, adding to the general silliness of their performance. Overall their set felt pure and in line with what music should be. In a world of projects that prove to be little more than over-produced hype seekers, Lovejoy’s performance was just plain fun.
Continuing the theme of feel-good music, later on the same stage, Maggie Rogers took the stage to elevate the mood even higher. Her energy was luminous from the beginning, kicking her legs in the air and skipping around the stage as she began her set with “Overdrive.” She took a moment to show her respect for the festival by boasting “I got to play this festival in 2017 and it’s still my top five festivals I’ve ever played.” From there the show was continuously elating with Rogers playing hits including “Give a Little,” “Fallingwater,” and “Anywhere With You.” As she picked up an acoustic guitar, she asked of the audience “Is anyone in love?” before playing “Love You for a Long Time.” Her set ended on a high note as fans lit up their phones and jumped along to “Light On” before Rogers eventually ended her performance with “That’s Where I Am.”
Closing out the night, rock legends The Foo Fighters took the stage for one of the most rousing sets in recent Outside Lands memory. In arguably the classiest move an artist can bestow upon their audience, the band started their set 15 minutes early and started with their 2002 throwback hit “All My Life.” After the song, Frontman Dave Grohl poured a red Solo cup of water over his head and promised the audience “We’re going to get the most out of this two-hour set as possible” before the band kept the tempo high and played their 2007 hit “The Pretender” followed by “No Son of Mine” with riffs from Enter Sandman spliced in. “Who’s never seen the Foo Fighters before?” Grohl asked, prompting a loud cheer. He rebutted with “What the fuck? Where the fuck have you been?” The set only took off from there as the band played singles new and old including “Walk,” “Learn to Fly,” and “Times Like These.” Halfway through the set, Grohl introduced the band. After making his way through the members, he noted a recent change in the lineup. Acknowledging the loss of their drummer, Taylor Hawkins, early last year, he praised the accomplishments of their newest member, the legendary Josh Freese. Grohl prompted the band to play along to songs Freese had drummed on over his career, including “Whip It” celebrating his decades in “Devo,” and “March of Pigs,” remembering his contributions to “Nine Inch Nails.” He then proceeded to make Outside Lands history with arguably one of the greatest cameos in the festival’s history. The band began to play the song “Haven’t Met You Yet” as Grohl asked if anyone in the audience knew the song, eventually picking a member of the crowd up to sing the words. This person turned out to be none other than Michael Bublé, who finished the song with the band.
Grohl punctuated the unprecedented cameo emotionally by covering “My Hero” as soon as Bublé left the stage. From then on, the set took on a more collaborative and communal feel. After playing another string of hits including “This is a Call” and “The Sky is a Neighborhood,” the band brought up another surprise guest, Dave Grohl stated “I’ve had the pleasure of playing with some of the greatest musicians alive, and believe me, it is not lost on me” before inviting his daughter, Violet Grohl, to join the band in singing “Shame Shame,” “Show Me How,” and “The Teacher.” Grohl got a little more emotional, dedicating the song “Aurora” to the late Taylor Hawkins, telling the audience that it was his was Hawkins’ favorite piece by the band. After a moment of reverence, he shouted “Alright, we got exactly four fucking minutes. Let’s make this the best four minutes of the night” and ended the show with “Everlong.” After the last note, Grohl ran to the side of the stage, grabbed the clock, and held it up triumphantly to show they had finished at 10:00 on the dot. The rock legends had given the audience everything they could have possibly hoped for, but hopefully, the crowd still had more gas in the tank for one last day ahead of them.