Our journey through day three of Outside Lands began with a heartfelt performance on the main stage from the original queen of soul and gospel music, Mavis Staples. Her set was packed with so many songs that have helped her career take flight throughout the years such as “Build A Bridge,” “Change,” and “We Get By” but her performance was about so much more than just hearing her hits, the ambiance of her performance was electrifying and the 80-year-old Staples simply put on a clinic on how music keeps us all young. The history of her story could be felt throughout the polo field and set the tone for the rest of the day that was to come.
On the other side of Golden Gate Park, Nahko and Medicine for the People gave an upbeat and lyrically aware set of alternative world music on the Twin Peaks stage. Fronted by a champion of Native American culture, Nahko Bear, the band put on quite the show in the early morning (well, 2:00 PM.) The set began on a warm note as Nahko first walked onstage, greeting the crowd with a loud “Aloha” and proceeded to open with one of the staples of their sets, “Nyepi.” An authoritative figure with a body canvassed in tribal tattoos, Nahko’s presence came off as dominant as his voice as his set did not disappoint, playing so many of the band’s popular pieces from “Aloha Ke Akua” to “Love Letters to God.”
Judah and the Lion gave an afternoon set that proved to be the highlight of Sunday’s mid-day. Opening with their new hit “Pep Talks” Judah Akers and company quickly won the fans over as they started with an excited demeanor and did not lose this focus as their set progressed. The band, clearly inspired by their unforgettable set a few days earlier, paid tribute to one of the greatest performances of the weekend as they covered blink-182’s “All the Small Things” with great respect for the enthusiasm blink puts into every note. The band ended their set in a way that all Judah and the Lion fans have come to know and love very dearly. After the lyrics were done, lead singer Judah Akers put his guitar down, jumped off the stage, and ran through the front and side stage pits, high fiving every member of the audience that he could as he went along as his own way of thanking the fans for the enthusiasm they bring that inspires every performance.
Seattle based solo project of Brian Fennell, SYML, gave one of the calmest and low-key performances of the weekend to take place on the Panhandle stage. The mostly acoustic set was a welcome break from the otherwise over stimulating lineup of the rest of the day. A sizable crowd flocked to the festival’s smallest stage to see the simple act created by just a piano, an acoustic guitar, and a guy in a black t-shirt, who’s debut album dropped just earlier this year clearly had an impact on his audience. The performance was by no means low energy, but the easy listening nature of the set proved recharging and a welcome change of pace moving forward in the day.
Bebe Rexha drew an understandably large crowd to the Twin Peaks stage for her set that justified the hype. Her set began with a trilogy of covers as she opened with “My, Myself, and I,” a song she originally collaborated with Bay Area Rapper G-Eazy on a few summers ago, then Eminem’s “The Monster” before finally giving the audience her take on Post Malone’s “Better Now.” Her first entirely original song of her set “F.F.F.” which featured choreography that did not spare on use of the middle finger, afterward stating to all the parents in the audience that she would understand if they unfollowed her on Instagram. She soon after excited fans by premiering her new song “Heaven Sent” which drew a big reaction from the crowd.
Outside Lands, a festival that has always committed to celebrating the history and culture of music across generations featured Paul Simon closing out the festival on Sunday night. A performance that competed with powerhouses Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals and Kygo who performed during the same time, the crowd was understandably older but as enthusiastic as ever to take in Simon’s show. However, the Audience could hardly be contained as Simon came onstage to start his set with “Late in the Evening.” The set blended acoustic and full orchestra of sounds as Simon switched his instruments constantly in between songs and the assembly of musicians accompanying him was vast at minimum. With an exciting and circuslike rendition of debatably his biggest hit “You Can Call Me Al” he ended the first act of his set before walking off to walk back on to begin his long encore with another hit “Graceland.” The performance could not end, of course, without some tie into San Francisco and the Bay Area. Simon took the microphone to tell a quick story of the early days of his career, stating when he was set to play the Monterey Pop festival more than 50 years ago, he was sent to a house to prepare, when he arrived he claimed “Bob Weir opened the door, and we’ve been friends ever since.” The legend all Deadheads know well suddenly showed up onstage, picked up an acoustic guitar, did a quick soundcheck, then joined in for an emotional cover of Simon’s classic “The Boxer.”
As Simon prepared to end his set, his band cleared the stage, leaving just him as he picked up his acoustic guitar. The last song on the main stage of Outside Lands 2019 was a solo performance of Simon’s immortal classic “Sound of Silence” as the audience of tens of thousands appropriately remained quiet in reverence of the piece. Simon then took his guitar in one hand, extended his arms, and bowed to the audience. The roaring applause was the sendoff the living legend deserved as he not only brought the festival to an end but symbolically closed the book on another summer in San Francisco.