The ninth annual Outside Lands festival took place in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park this weekend, and while dozens of fantastic acts — Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem, Duran Duran, Air, Lionel Richie, Miike Snow, Foals, the Wombats, Years & Years, and Miguel among them — graced the grounds’ seven stages, few of those performances were much different from what you’d see at any major musicfest this summer. What truly made OSL 2016 stand out from all the ‘Chellas, ‘Roos, and ‘Paloozas on the festival circuit were the bizarrely awesome/awesomely bizarre one-off events — many involving food, and one memorably involving felt.
These were the weekend’s weirdest, wackiest highlights…
It’s Time to Start the Music: Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem Make Their Live Festival Debut
Britain’s Last Shadow Puppets may have played Saturday, but OSL Sunday — and really the entire weekend — belonged to the actual puppets known as Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem. The psych-rockin’ Muppet Show house band finally made their historic live festival debut, in the flesh — or in the felt, as it were — four decades into their illustrious career. And it was well worth the wait. The good Doctor, Janice, Floyd, Zoot, Lips, and of course Animal thrilled the Bay Area crowd with the Mowglis’ fitting “San Francisco,” followed by the Band’s “Ophelia,” a sweet Janice/Floyd duet on Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ “Home,” and an epic, Joe Cocker-ish “With a Little Help From My Friends” with a little help from the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir. The Electric Mayhem may have declared this “the first stop on our world tour — and the only stop on our world tour,” but their set was such a success, it won’t be surprising if they end up headlining Coachella or Glastonbury next year.
A Different Sort of Police Riot
OSL is a music-loving foodie’s dream, with sophisticated menu options (raw oysters! sushi burritos! ice cream tacos! peanut tofu nachos! curated wine-and-cheese pairings!) that extend far beyond typical rock festivals’ Spicy Pie and overpriced, undercooked curly fries. OSL even has its own culinary-themed Gastromagic stage, “devoted to fantastical entertainment in the way of star personalities, food, cocktails, comedy, improv, music, and of course, sorcery,” where celebrity chefs and music combine. There on Friday afternoon, during a set billed “Everything She Does Is Gastromagic,” Top Chef darling Michelle King hacked up a whole salmon and whipped up nitro beer slushies while Brooklyn indie combo Ra Ra Riot performed as the brilliantly named Police cover band A Humiliating Kick in the Crotch. AHKITC’s Sting-inspired blond mullet wigs, auto-mechanic jumpsuits, and upper-octave vocals were on point, and King’s nitro action blanketed the tiny stage with stadium-worthy dry-ice fog. Total music/food synchronicity!
Big Freedia’s Bounce Brunch: Will Twerk for Food
Any boisterous, bootylicious set by Fuse TV reality star and New Orleans bounce icon Big Freedia is basically one endless, enthusiastic twerkathon. But Saturday on the Gastromagic stage, Freedia was serving not just booty, but also beignets from local soul food eatery Brenda’s — as hungry spectators hopped onstage and shook their cakes in exchange for cake. To borrow Freedia’s favorite catchphrase, YOU ALREADY KNOW this was a damn good time. (Video below contains strong language.)
Fred Armisen Flips His Wig With Bob Mould
Fred Armisen is one of Saturday Night Live’s coolest music-associated alums. He was once married to Sally Timms of the Mekons; he’s played drums for ‘80s Chicago punk band Trenchmouth, Grifters side-project Those Bastard Souls, and Les Savy Fav; and when he left SNL in 2014, Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis, and the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones all appeared on the show to bid him farewell. This Sunday, when Armisen performed in OSL’s packed-beyond-capacity Barbary comedy/improv tent, he was joined by yet another indie-rock legend: Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü/Sugar fame. There, the pair cranked out Hüsker’s proto-grunge classic “Flip Your Wig” and two cuts by Armisen’s Cockney-rebellious, Thatcher-era punk alter ego Ian Rubbish, “Hey Policeman” and “A Lovely Night.” (But shouldn’t Mould have played a Candy Apply Grey-themed set on the Gastromagic stage, while Sonoma sandwich shop the Farmer’s Wife served Gravenstein-apple-and-wildflower-honey melts and caramel apples? Just a suggestion for next year…)
Sunday Bloody Mary Sunday Pushes Cocktail-Drinkers to the Edge
U2 apparently couldn’t make it to OSL this year — perhaps the “Electric Co.” group was afraid of getting upstaged by the Electric Mayhem. But thankfully, “San Francisco’s ultimate U2 tribute band,” Zoo Station, was on hand for the Gastromagic stage’s Sunday Bloody Mary Sunday brunch, at which popular local bartenders bravely competed in a Mary-drinking/bacon-eating contest. In 2015, one of the less cast-iron-stomached participants ended up vomiting, so this year, SF’s Mexican eatery Padrecito kindly put “one less habanero” in the Bloodys, just to be safe. This Sunday’s competitors should just be grateful they only had to chug four, not “catorce,” red-hot cocktails — otherwise they may have suffered some “Vertigo”-like symptoms similar to the ones Zoo Station sang about.
If This Yacht’s a Rockin’, Please Come a Knockin’
There could not have been more perfect Lionel Richie preshow Sunday evening than Gastromagic’s “How to Make Your Yacht Rock” revue. There, cowbell-banging employees of the Woodhouse Fish Company — dressed like giant red lobsters, of course — passed out lobster rolls and the discerning yacht-rocker’s adult beverage of choice, piña coladas. Meanwhile, a soft-rock cover band (featuring a trio of sailor-capped, Hawaiian-shirted, mustachioed crooners who uncannily resembled Robin Thicke, Mike Love, and Tennille’s ex-hubby the Captain) played the soothing sunset sounds of Toto, Michael McDonald, and Hall & Oates. And to quote Daryl Hall himself, Outside Lands made festivalgoers’ dreams come true.