Mark 2014 down as the year electronic dance music went supernova at the Outside Lands Music Festival.
With a lineup that included a headliner slate of reliable classic rock (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), hip-hop hubris (Kanye West) and a one-album wonder (The Killers), concertgoers flocked en masse to EDM artists.
In fact, on the Outside Lands smartphone app’s personalized schedule maker, the most-scheduled artist entering the weekend wasn’t Petty, West or The Killers, but Disclosure, a pair of British brothers who dabble in house music.
Outside Lands has shown a commitment to EDM since 2011, surrendering the festival-ending slot on the event’s second-biggest stage to an EDM performer each year. On Sunday, it was Dutch artist Tiësto, who split the crowd with Las Vegas’ Killers on the main stage.
Tiësto followed deadmau5 (2011), Skrillex (2012) and Kaskade (2013) at what has become one of the festival’s strongest traditions. Skrillex’s 2012 appearance memorably juxtaposed with main stage headliner Stevie Wonder. While Wonder encouraged fans to love each other in his dulcet voice, Skrillex shouted over his bass drops at the crowd from beneath a cloud of fog and lasers to “hold your cellphones in the air so the (expletive) aliens can see us in space.”
The tradition shows a commitment on the promoter’s part to cater to a wide swath of genres as well as the ever-growing popularity of EDM in that time.
Disclosure is proof of that ascent with one of the summer’s biggest hits in “Latch,” which features British singer/songwriter Sam Smith on vocals. As of Thursday morning, with the festival concluded, Disclosure slipped to third on the Outside Lands app out of 112 scheduleable acts at 19,087 bookings.
While taking this as proof of their popularity is shaky as it only proves that the people who were hip enough to use the app loved Disclosure, those 19,087 represent nearly one-third of Outside Lands’ paid attendance.
This year’s roster also saw Flume, a 22-year-old from Sydney, Australia, specializing in wonky and chillwave. Fans flooded the Twin Peaks Stage in Golden Gate Park’s Hellman Hollow such that it was standing-room only hundreds of feet from the stage to hear the likes of “Drop the Game” and his remix of Lorde’s “Tennis Court.”
Flume’s crowd’s size was aided in part by the unexpected, day-of cancellation by Chvrches, which would’ve helmed the main stage at the same time. A San Francisco Police Department officer mentioned in passing that she thought Flume drew a larger crowd than Saturday night’s Twin Peaks closer, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
For Chvrches part, the British synthpop trio had difficulty in transit from Canada, where they played British Columbia’s Squamish Valley Music Festival Saturday night. The group has already scheduled a makeup date Sept. 18 at Oakland’s Fox Theater.
But the bigger point remains: EDM isn’t just that fun thing to end the festival on Sunday night anymore. It’s a major player throughout the weekend, a trend representative of what’s going on in music collectively in the 2010s.
Sad but true
While EDM’s surging popularity makes it hard to ignore, Outside Lands’ commitment to a variety of genres remains appreciable but inexact.
Metal and punk are sorely underrepresented throughout the event’s history, especially at a festival that strives so strongly to promote a local vibe. While it has given over a headliner slot to an artist that was, at least in its early years, known for thrash metal – Metallica – metal and punk in their varied forms are overlooked throughout the history of Outside Lands.
The festival’s 2009 installment saw a sweaty, midafternoon appearance from Georgian progressive metal rockers Mastodon, which played “Crack the Skye” in its entirety and also got the festival’s first mosh pits going, but appearances such as this are few and far between.
The Bay Area has a strong pedigree in both metal and punk, from Metallica to Green Day, from the upstarts playing 924 Gilman Street to Deafheaven. Given how strong a presence both have in the region, it feels like an oversight from an event that tries so hard to represent the Bay.
But if the massive crowds for EDM were any indication, people playing guitars feels played out to many concertgoers right now.
To read more of Nick DeCicco’s blogs, visit http://dailyrepublic.typepad.com/forthoseabouttorock. Follow him on Twitter @ndeciccodr.