Outside Lands: This happened for the first time at the festival

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Carly Rae Jepsen smiled as she looked out at the sea of fans stretched out in front of her at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The smile was returned a thousandfold — maybe 20,000-fold — as people danced to the music on a surprisingly warm late Friday afternoon.

“What a beautiful sight!” exclaimed Jepsen. “You have no idea.

“The most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen is right here.”

That kind of joy is contagious.

And everyone seemed to have come down with it as the 11th annual Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival kicked off Aug. 10 in San Francisco.

Day One was a big success, drawing a huge crowd to see R&B superstar The Weeknd, alt-rock icon Beck, hip-hop-rock crew N.E.R.D., electronic music act Odesza, Jepsen and dozens of others perform on eight stages.

Other acts scheduled to perform at the three-day festival, which runs through Aug. 12, include Janet Jackson, Florence + the Machine, Chvrches, Bon Iver, Future, Janelle Monae, DJ Snake, Broken Social Scene and LP.

For more information, visit www.sfoutsidelands.com.

The lineup is, per usual, absolutely loaded. And that’s certainly one of the top reasons — along with the great setting, upscale food and drink offerings, etc, etc — why this festival is such a hit. The 2018 edition is expected to draw over 200,000 in attendance over the course of the three days.

This year’s festival is, among other things, a marvelous celebration of women in music. Outside Lands had never had a female artist (or female-led act) headline the main stage before, but there are two in 2018 — Florence + the Machine and Janet Jackson, scheduled for Day Two and Three respectively.

Also, all three of the 2018 headliners on the comedy stage — yes, there’s a comedy stage at Outside Lands — are female as well. Those top acts are “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Game Night” star Chelsea Peretti, “2 Dope Queens” star Phoebe Robinson and Michelle Wolf, the outspoken comedian who tore up the National White House Correspondents’ Dinner earlier this year and makes new headlines seemingly every day with her takes on Donald J. Trump, race, abortion and other hot-button issues.

Many of the highlights from Day One also came courtesy of female artists.

Indeed, the set of the day goes to Margo Price, the amazing singer-songwriter who definitely ranks among the very best artists in country music.

The old-school Nashville vocalist, blessed with a voice that recalls such legends of the genre as Loretta Lynn and Tanya Tucker, wowed a large crowd early in the day with cuts from her two records, 2016’s “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter” and last year’s “All American Made,” both of which were released on Jack White’s Third Man Records label.

Yet, Price’s best work of the afternoon were a pair of covers. She’d deliver a fierce and defiant rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” which sounded all that much cooler because it was being performed in the legendary Bay Area band’s own backyard. Price later rocked through a solid take on Tom Petty’s “Last Dance With Mary Jane.”

Kudos also go out to Billie Eilish, 16-year-old rising-star who managed to turn in a fine outing even as she gamely dealt with an injured foot that required a protective boot. She didn’t quite reach the high level that she did during her show earlier this year at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, but it was still enough to make one believe this young electropop artist could have a long career in front of her.

Then there was Jepsen, a woman who many once believed was destined to be a one-hit wonder for the smash “Call Me Maybe.” Yet, she continues to defy those predictions and carve out a very nice career for herself.

It was great to hear mainstream dance-pop — something we don’t get enough of at Outside Lands. And it was a blast to see thousands of fans sing along, at top volume, with “Call Me Maybe,” which just might be the best pop single for the decade.

The evening closed with The Weeknd, the phenomenally popular R&B crooner who the Bay Area (as well as pretty much everywhere else) seemingly just can’t get enough of. He’s performed several local shows in recent years, including a date we reviewed at the SAP Center in San Jose in 2017, but fans were definitely fired up to see him again.

For those attending Outside Lands this weekend, check our guide for what to see at the festival.

 

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