Outside Lands 2014: 10 Best Performances

Macklemore at the 2014 Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival
C Flanigan/WireImage

Macklemore performs during the 7th Annual Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 9, 2014 in San Francisco, California.

For three days, we strapped on our trainers to traipse seven stages laid out across the vast grounds of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, where more than 100 acts played their hearts out at the seventh annual Outside Lands.

With weekend crowd estimates hovering around 200,000, the sold-out music festival also boasted wonderful people-watching, as a wide mix of ages gathered to see headliners Kanye West, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and The Killers play alongside bands of all levels.

Since half of the tickets sell out before the lineup is even announced, evidence suggests people crave this wild, communal experience each year. San Francisco loves it, too -- Outside Lands has a guaranteed presence in the city until at least 2021.

After the dust settled, these were the 10 best performances that truly brought Outside Lands to life:

10. Kasey Musgraves

The 25-year-old country singer has a way with words, both on her debut album, Same Trailer Different Park, and when penning songs for stars like Martina McBride and Miranda Lambert. But she also made waves at Outside Lands with some kicky covers: Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" and Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds."

9. Run The Jewels

Hip-hop moments felt brief at the festival this year, but Atlanta's Killer Mike and Brooklyn's El-P made sure their time was both memorable and a tribute to the Bay Area. They dedicated "DDFH (Do Dope F*ck Hope)" to the late Oscar Grant, who was killed by transit police in 2009, and brought out world champion DJ QBert for a respectful moment of scratching. Throughout, they kept hope alive for a strong combination of insightful lyricism and thoughtful beats – which can also feel brief in hip-hop at large.

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8. Tycho

San Francisco producer Scott Hansen's languid, beautiful afternoon set of lush ambient and downtempo electronic music was the perfect time to lie down and be counted, drawing more blankets of relaxed listeners than any other performance. He paired songs from his current (and fourth) album Awake with visuals of surfers and sunsets, expressing his version of the California dream of playing to such a huge hometown audience after being on the road for so long.

7. Duck Sauce

Former teenage turntable champion (and later Kanye West DJ) A-Trak and '90s house king Armand Van Helden were unlikely collaborators when they joined forces five years ago, but it was clear from their set that they're having the time of their lives. Then again, it's probably hard to resist the appeal of making a crowd sport ridiculous plastic duckbills and then spraying them using Super Soakers. But it wasn't all novelty -- they had the beefy bass lines and undeniably big beats to back it all up. Old-school listeners even caught snippets of Van Helden classics "U Don't Know Me" and "Witch Doktor" mixed in with newer Duck Sauce jams like "Big Bad Wolf."

6. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

One of the headliners of the first Outside Lands in 2008 returned to fill the weekend's heritage act slot, but this time they came with a brand new album: Hypnotic Eye, which debuted atop the Billboard 200. Of course, they aren't true heartbreakers: They incited field-wide sing-alongs for gems like "Won't Back Down," "Free Fallin'" and "American Girl."

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5. The Flaming Lips

Wayne Coyne and crew know that they have to break out the giant bubble for people to feel like they've seen a proper Lips show, but they weren't content to rest on what's now a convention for the band. So Coyne donned a red, sinewy monster suit, slapped some tinsel on his privates and cavorted with giant mushrooms, rainbows and aliens. Naturally, they ended this psychedelic trip with a cover of the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."

4. Kanye West

Yeezus wanted to give everyone something to tell their kids about for generations to come, although he might not have achieved that in the midst of a somewhat disjointed performance that saw him order the formation of mosh pits as he dropped the beat on "Blood on the Leaves" not once but three times. But he did allow glimpses of a friendlier, more lighthearted soul behind the couture face mask as he ran through a decade of hits. And the fleeting moments of him jamming on the type of MPC sampler that he started his career with were priceless.

3. Haim

These supernatural sisters weren't headliners, and they didn't even get to play after dark, but they came to put everyone on notice that they're worthy of being stadium fillers. Countless ladies rose up on shoulders all over the main stage field, feeling the girl power. Bass faces were all in place, rocking harder than men who are decades older -- and it was done with consummate grace and ease.

2. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

The Seattle duo, once a daytime opener at Outside Lands, started their set dressed as a mariachi man and the Karate Kid. But the "Thrift Shop" novelty quickly faded as they shed the suits and got serious. Macklemore praised the Bay Area's rich Civil Rights history and brought out a lesbian couple named Jenny and Natalie for a surprise onstage marriage proposal, a deal sealed with the help of Mary Lambert and "Same Song." Even though rumors that this would happen had floated around before the show, nothing could prepare for the outpouring of love and emotion that followed. Luckily, there was no ceiling to hold us.

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1. The Killers

There were few bells and whistles for The Killers' headlining set, but that didn't stop it from being a quietly powerful festival closer. Covers of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising" and Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" reinforced the sense of place and the important lineage of live music in San Francisco, while the band's own enduring anthems like "When You Were Young" kept people clinging to the last moments of a beautiful weekend, like the fog over Golden Gate Park.