Day Three of Outside Lands Featured Powerful Performances By Powerful Women Stand Out Performances By Janet Jackson, Tash Sultana & LP Highlight Final Day
SAN FRANCISCO, CA- When I planned my festival schedule for Day 3, I made a conscious effort to to include on my list a bunch of performances by acts that I wanted to see perform live. It just so happened that a majority of the acts on my list featured strong, female recording artists. From legends like Janet Jackson to rising upstart Kailee Morgue, each woman that I got to see take the stage on Day 3 offered their own distinctive perspective of female experience, and truly made for a fabulous day of music.
The first act that I got to see on Day 3 was the Berklee College of Music band ANJA. Every year, the university selects a handful of acts to perform at various music festival throughout the country. ANJA was the band that was selected to represent the university at Outside Lands.
The band, comprising of wholly of students, was founded by their lead vocalist Felipe Maldonado, and consists of members from around the world. The ethnic and cultural diversity of the bandmates clearly informed the overall sonics of the band, which is an eclectic amalgam of indie rock, psychedelia and new wave synth. The six piece band’s sound was polished, crisp and dreamy, and for an early afternoon performance was absolutely delightful.
With only one EP under their belts, their performance was relatively short, but it was enough to stir the inquisitive juices in my head. Where does this band go after they all graduate? How will they evolve their sound? Click the image above to get some answers in the interview we conducted with them after their performance!
As Blurred Culture’s music editor, I’d like to think that I have a pretty good sense of the hot, new up and coming artists on the horizon. When my peers started tossing the name “Kailee Morgue” around, I was at a loss. I didn’t know who she was. Obviously, you should never assume you know everything. Lesson learned.
This young (she’s either 19 or 20 as of the date of this post) singer songwriter initially made a name for herself as a Youtube video blogger, which she was able to parlay into a record deal with Republic Records. Her debut EP, Medusa, was released earlier this year, and its four songs of generally downtempo, pop bliss. Kailee’s delicate, soprano vocals is the perfect compliment to her darkwave instrumentals.
Kailee’s popularity at Outside Lands was clearly noticeable as a sizable crowd arrived at the festival early to catch her set. Her vocal performance was spot-on, sounding very much like the tracks she has recorded, however, I personally felt that her youth was evident during her performance. Yes, the music is generally moody, but I felt that it could have benefitted from a little more stage presence to give the performance a little extra “umph”. Maybe a darker setting (i.e. a tent/indoor stage or an evening time slot), could have really given her music a bit more atmosphere?
Minute criticisms aside, it was still a solid performance. I think it’s just a matter of time before she puts it all together, and with her being so young, she’s got plenty of time to perfect and polish her act.
Hot Flash Heat Wave has been a band I’ve been dying to see live since the beginning of this year. They were on my list of acts to catch at SXSW this year, but for reasons beyond my control, I was unable to make it to the performance I had intended to attend. I rectified the omission at Outside Lands.
This would be a pretty special performance for Hot Flash Heat Wave as it would be a hometown performance at a festival they all admired. Consisting of guitarists Adam Abildgaard and Nathanial Blüm, bassist Ted Davis, and drummer Nick Duffy, these longtime friends took the stage with glee and treated it like home. The performance was casual, entertaining and filled with the kind of raucous energy that only a hometown could imbue.
What was really evident on stage was the bond that these guys shared on stage. As cheesy as it sounds, you could tell that these dudes were best buds, playing off each other with a casual ease that’s totally enviable. I got the chance to speak with the fellas after their gig, and the impression I got of them manifest itself in person. Click the link in the image above to check it out.
I last caught the band play a tiny show at Milk Bar in the Haight a couple years back and it’s incredible to see how far these guys have come. Give them a couple more years and who knows where they’ll be. But one thing is for sure: their egos, no matter how big or small they may be, will never get in the way of their music and live show. These childhood friends are so close that no matter what may happen in the near future, Hot Flash Heat Wave’s quirky humor and tight musicianship will never let anything get in the way of their fun and danceable live show.
When I saw Aquilo set to perform at Outside Lands, I circled them immediately. I first caught wind of this English band a couple years ago at SXSW, and I was pretty blown away by their performance. They performed in a small room and their atmospheric, downtempo pop songs were drenched in emotion and sounded absolutely stunning in the intimate setting. A great speaker system in a small room can do wonders.
Since that experience in Austin, I was have been waiting to catch in a larger setting to see and hear whether their sonic translated well to a huge, open air setting. Aquilo did not disappoint.
If you were in the mood to get moody, Aquilo would have put you in your weepy sacred spot. These guy’s sonics are dreamy, but its the emotions layered throughout the lyrics of their compositions that really tug at all your heartstrings. Their lead singer uses his falsetto for most of the groups songs ala Bon Iver, and that tender tone only adds to the emotional depth of their compositions.
They played a healthy selection of songs from their 2018 album ii (their performance of “Thin” sent a little shiver down my spine), but it was the performance of “Silhouette” that really, the title track off their debut album, that really got me feeling all the feels. I can only imagine all of the tears that would have fallen had they performed “Sorry”.
Aquilo was a wonderful mid-afternoon act to catch and I couldn’t recommend their music more if your looking for something to stir the emotions.
If I had to give an award for the sexiest performance at Outside Lands, hands down I would award it to Sabrina Claudio.
Sabrina Claudio is an R&B singer who knows how to ballad, and she does it damn well. Full stop. When she sings, it’s almost like she’s whispering love lyrics directly into your ear. It’s that intimate. Her 2018 album No Rain, No Flowers, has Sabrina’s breathy vocal stylings on full display, and she delivered the same during her performance at Outside Lands.
For music that is decidedly R&B, I was pleasantly surprised to see the huge turn out for her set. Perhaps all of the fans who came out for Ms. Jackson later in the evening knew that this performance would be a nice, and fitting, appetizer for what was to come later in the evening. Regardless, it was heartening to see so many people come out watch an R&B singer do her thing.
As I watched Sabrina perform, I was struck by how she commanded the stage without having to hardly move. I was reminded me of the time that Sade captivated me at the Hollywood Bowl, and Sade didn’t move half as much as Sabrina did. It’s the calm cool that Sabrina projected from center stage that really captivated the audience. As she purred her way through songs, every slight movement was syncopated to a beat, with each hand gesture or knee bend done in a sensually seductive way. Sabrina owned that stage and she barely had to move at all. Clearly, I was impressed.
From Sabrina Claudio’s sexy swooning, I stuck around the Sutro Stage for some powerfully affirmative singing. Singer/songwriter Laura Pergolizzi p/k/a “LP” is an illustrious songwriter who, after many years waiting in the wings, has been able to establish for herself a loyal and dedicated following with her solo material.
Her fans are pretty diehard as was evidenced by the handful of women who stood at the front of the crowd with me during her performance. They had indicated to me that they had been there since the festival gates had opened. This kind of dedication didn’t surprise me as LP’s music, sung in her uniquely powerful voice, dives deep into universally held emotions founded in heartache and the notions of being an outsider, and those emotions are stirred to a boil when she nails all of the incredibly high notes. It’s a kind of raw musicality that is rare in today music climate.
LP also goes out of her way to cater to her fans. Spotting a young woman in the audience wearing a tiara and a feather boa, LP notices that it is the young woman’s birthday. She invites the young lady up to the stage and performed her finale, to immensely popular “Lost On You”. The look of absolute joy on that young woman’s face was priceless.
2018 has been a breakthrough year for Tash Sultana. The Australian musician had already made quite a name for herself in her native country (including getting nominated for four Aria Award including Breakthrough Artist and Best Blues and Roots Album in 2017), but she’s taken the United States by storm touring relentlessly in anticipation of her highly anticipated debut album Flow State (which was released this month).
Tash Sultana is known for her unique musical style and her ability to perform as a solo artist (without a band) controlling various instruments at one time to create her sound. Tash Sultana gloriously exhibited all of her musical prowess at Outside Lands. Her music is a mixture of various styles. From indie rock to reggae, psychedelia to R&B, she kept the audience on its toes with her musical diversity. Her shredding of the axe was particularly good, and I was genuinely surprised with the masterful dexterity on guitar that she put on display.
Tash Sultana’s performance was completely in the moment, in tune with her settings amongst the tall trees surrounding the stage and the people who were there to watch her perform. She seemed to be in a meditative state throughout her performance, and that calm sense truly permeated throughout the crowd before her. She let the music guide her, and the crowd joined her for the ride.
Janet Jackson. Ms. Jackson if ya nasty.
Janet Jackson’s music had a formative impact on my life. Her album Rhythm Nation 1814 literally changed the way I perceived music. I was only 12 when the album first came out, but I vividly remember watching her Rhythm Nation 1814 short film on MTV and being blown away by its black and white aesthetic and the serious social issues it addressed (substance abuse). After listening to the single “Rhythm Nation”, I realized that music was more than just notes on a page. It was a tool that anyone could used to express an opinion an instill action to do some good in the world. It was inspiring. Opening her set with “The Knowledge”, her Outside Lands performance started with strong social and political messaging illuminated in bold fonts on the LED screens that flanked the stage. It was social consciousness at it’s best and and got me feeling those inspired feels again.
During her recent tour, Janet Jackson had been performing sets in the two hour range. While her Outside Lands was trimmed down by 30 minutes, it was still jam packed with all of her well-known hits, even if only snippets of certain songs were performed in a medley.
For anybody who doubted whether Ms. Jackson still had “it”, all the doubters hesitations could be put to rest. She absolutely slayed. Matching step for step with her limber dancers, Janet proved to be as much of a force of nature that on stage now as she had been back in the day.
Some of her loudest cheers came when she left the main stage to venture into the audience to performance a handful of ballads. Straddle atop a backwards chair, her fans longingly outstretched their arms with the hopes that perhaps she’d reach back out to the as well.
She concluded her performance the way she started, returning back to the social and political themes. In a time when there is so much discord in the world, seeing a black woman (the first woman of color to headliner Outside Lands) lead the massive crowd to sing and dance to songs like “Rhythm Nation” and “State of the World”, man that was memorable, and, in my humble opinion, the perfect way to end the weekend’s festivities.