San Francisco – Back at Golden Gate Park this Saturday, for Outside Lands Music Festival, we saw an emergence of faux fur and festivalgoers shawled with knit blankets, as temperatures rose only to the high-50s and the clouds stubbornly refused to be chased out of the neighborhood. Among the many legacy bands being presented at Outside Lands on Saturday—everything from The Wombats to Rogue Wave to Radiohead—the event was also jam-packed with a selection of new bands that did their best to warm our achy bones.
Lewis Del Mar
Newcomers Lewis Del Mar, consisting of singer/guitarist Danny Miller and drummer/producer Max Harwood (and filled out with a backing touring band), were the first act of the day to play the festival’s main stage Land’s End. The Queens natives put their entire soul into this set, as each song was bursting with power and passion. “We know we’re playing songs you’ve never heard before,” Miller confessed about halfway through, “but hopefully one day they will be some of your favorites.” The band’s namesakes are the fathers of the two key members (both of which happen to be named Lewis), and the mixture of folk and Latin and Caribbean sounds were enhanced by Miller’s creative vocal stylings, often sounding like he was underwater. Lewis Del Mar’s set included songs from the band’s debut EP, including “Memories” and “Malt Liquor,” plus several new songs including one dedicated to Miller’s Latin American heritage, “Cabezas Nicaragüense.” One of the final songs featured a thrilling shred session with Miller on electric guitar, finishing with a simple, “That was fun.” Yes, yes it was.
“We make music to celebrate the ones we love… who are gone, to celebrate them with joy, with you.” Twins Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Diaz make vocally driven jazz-folk music, heavily influenced by their Cuban and Yoruba roots, often singing in the Yoruba language. Coming from a percussionist father and a mother who is a French-Venezuelan singer, they have music encoded in their DNA, and they use this genetic connection to call on loved ones who have departed (“Think of You”) as well as Yoruba folklore, shown through performances of “Oya” (goddess of the underworld), “Chains,” which is about the Yoruba orisha Ochosi, and “Oduduwa,” an emperor of the Yoruba Kingdom, who stopped the ritual murder of twins. The two sisters performed the latter a capella, and led the audience in collective song for “I’m On My Way” and “River,” and they breathed new life into a surprising cover of Jay Electronica’s “Better in Tune with the Infinite.” Ibeyi’s performance was a spectacle to behold, as it is clear the two sisters are so in tune with themselves, each other, and their audience.
Years & Years
Years & Years, the UK dance-pop outfit made up of vocalist and keyboard player Olly Alexander, bassist Mikey Goldsworthy, and keyboardist Emre Türkmen, were joined by a veritable orchestra of backup musicians and singers for an early afternoon set on the Land’s End Stage. Songs from the trio’s one album Communion (as well as a few non-album tracks like “Gold”) were translated beautifully to the stage through the use of these musicians and the baffling talent of the three key members. Olly Alexander emanated a beautiful androgyny, portraying a sort of modern-day hybrid of Annie Lennox and David Bowie as he sang expressively to the large crowd. Most songs were up-tempo and energetic, including “Real,” “Desire,” “King,” and “Border,” but they slowed it down for “Eyes Shut,” as Alexander asked the audience to “touch yourselves, touch your friends in this chill moment.” Their songs are filled with messages of redemption, of self-sufficiency, and of hope. Though this wasn’t necessarily church, some seemed to worship the trio’s vast sound. We all took our Communion happily.
New York dark psych-electronic duo Phantogram recently teamed up with rapper Big Boi (of OutKast fame) to form Big Grams, delivering a slew of new material in the form of an eponymous EP last fall. The trio performed its very first show at the Treasure Island Music Festival in October 2015, and after making the rounds at several festivals around the country this summer, Big Grams made a triumphant return to the Bay Area on the Land’s End Stage on Saturday. The newly founded trio of musicians drew the largest crowd of the day to the main stage area—aside from Radiohead’s headlining set, and that is still debatable—and though a majority of the crowd were young twenty-somethings noisily chatting to one another, Big Grams would often grab the elusive attention of the contemporary youth for a few minutes and entice them to dance with the band’s clever blend of rap and song. Aside from Big Gram’s own original material as a newly founded band—including bangers like “Lights On” and “Fell In The Sun”—the members of Big Grams toyed with some of their individual talents, affixing songs like Phantogram’s “Black Out Days” with newly penned rap lyrics floating between those delivered by Sarah Barthel. The most winning reactions from the crowd were during the band’s two performed mash-ups, the first being a combination of Phantogram’s “Mouthful of Diamonds” with OutKast’s “Ms. Jackson,” and the second, an amalgamation of “The Way You Move” and “Don’t Move.” As the majority of the audience performed a mass exodus upon the set’s completion, almost every individual could be heard singing or humming facets of the set’s selections as they trudged away.
The final day of Outside Lands 2016 is upon us, and we will be wrapping up our coverage soon, so stay tuned to Best New Bands! Follow Best New Bands on Facebook and Twitter.
Words and photos by Corey Bell for Best New Bands.