Outside Lands '15 Rising Acts, Day 1: The Drums, Natalie Prass, Leon Bridges & More

While Friday’s Outside Lands lineup boasted veterans like D'Angelo and Wilco and platinum-selling headliners Mumford & Sons, it also featured newer, rising artists, some playing the San Francisco festival for the first time. These were some of day one’s breakout stars:

Natalie Prass

When this former Jenny Lewis backing band member announced that she was “taking it back to 1993,” Outside Lands onlookers might’ve assumed that the Pitchfork-approved singer-songstress was about to play an old riot grrrl or Lilith Fair-era classic. Instead, Prass busted out a surprisingly sultry and swampy – and refreshingly un-ironic – cover of Janet Jackson’s “Any Time, Any Place” (the B-side to Prass’s recent “Bird of Prey” single). Prass actually took the song all the way back to 1963, infusing it with Dusty Springfieldian sweetness. The Richmond artist’s own original work, from her 2015 self-titled debut album, was impressive, but this lovely cover was probably the performance that made uninitiated concertgoers at her early-afternoon Sutro stage set take notice.

Lake Street Dive

These pop-jazz-country Bostonians have been around since 2007 and already have a cult following, but they likely earned many new fans during their frothy, fun-in-the-sun Lands End stage set, particularly when they broke out their own ‘90s-female cover song: a funky, rootsy take on Annie Lennox’s “Walking on Broken Glass.” (For more unique Lake Street Dive covers, check out their Fun Machine EP, which features remakes of tunes by George Michael, Hall & Oates, and the Jackson 5.)

First Aid Kit

And the covers kept on coming! The Swedish sister act of Johanna and Klara Söderberg, known mostly for trafficking in winsome indie-folk, positively slayed Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” during their Lands End set. Later, they played tribute to their heroes Emmylou Harris, Johnny and June Carter Cash, and Gram Parsons on their own kinder and gentler original, “Emmylou.” One thing is certain about these girls, who’ve been making music together since their teens and have grown into incredibly mature and accomplished performers: They have impeccable musical influences.

The Drums

Possibly the hardest-working band at Outside Lands 2015, these New York shoegazers/surf-rockers/post-punkers/indie-poppers were slated to play three sets at this year’s festival, two of them on Friday. Appearing first in the StubHub tent doing an early-afternoon mini-set, frontman Jonny Pierce sheepishly told the crowd that he and his bandmates were trying to “conserve our energy.” (Cheeky spectators immediately shouted, “Don’t conserve! Get drunk! Smoke weed!”) But Pierce needn’t have explained or apologized, as his band’s nervy, Haircut 100-meets-Smiths college rock anthems packed all their usual punch, even in this stripped-down setting. Later, over on the larger, open-air Panhandle stage, the Drums really let it rip, flagrantly ignoring promoters’ orders to cut one song from their setlist and playing three more songs instead. If they were fined for their disobedience, it was totally worth it.

Leon Bridges

From the looks of the massive mob that this Sam Cooke-esque, Stax-styled gospel-soul belter drew to the Sutro stage at the surprisingly early hour of 2:15 p.m., he may not even qualify as a “rising” artist at this point. The guy is simply blowing up, fast. The White Denim-championed singer, who up until recently was still washing dishes for a living, certainly looked and sounded like a star this Friday, dressed to the nines in a plaid sportscoat and rakish fedora and carrying on the soul-revivalist tradition of Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones. Judging from his fiery performance at Outside Lands, the incredibly talented Bridges won’t ever have to wash another dish again, but he’ll be cleaning up on the festival circuit for years to come.

photos: Getty Images

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