Outside Festival Music Recap: Our 6 Favorite Sets

This past weekend saw the debut of The Outside Festival, a new kind of Denver event that combined all things outdoors with incredible music featuring both beloved local artists and internationally touring stars at Civic Center Park. It was a beautiful weekend, the sun dancing through the city as those who call it home came out in droves to boogie and be alive together. The whole thing was ultimately impressive. It’s not too often that a debuting festival sees such success from both an attendance standpoint as well as a logistical one. Sure, there were a couple minor sound issues and there could have been a few more food trucks to mitigate some pretty long waits, but all in all, these are minor issues for a fledgling event and subsequent years should only see improvement. It’s exciting that an event like this will almost certainly be returning annually and only growing over that period of time.

Be sure to check out 303 Magazine’s Lifestyle and Culture desk’s recap of the festival, but we at the Music Desk were focusing on one thing. Here are 6 of our favorite sets we saw at the inaugural Outside Festival:

READ: Q&A — Outside Inc.’s Vice President of Marketing, Chris “CJ” Jerard, Talks Upcoming The Outside Festival

Saturday:

Say She She

To put it colloquially, Say She She’s set was a blast. In attempt to sound a bit more eloquent, it was a dynamic performance that felt simultaneously comforting yet galvanizing like satin-lined combat boots. Their music is incredibly funky and psychedelic, awash with influences from eras past while maintaining a palpable vitality informed by the band’s unabashed social awareness and willingness to confront topics such as the overturning of Roe V. Wade. Their music also happens to be incredibly sexy, the three frontwomen — Piya Malik, Sabrina Mileo Cunningham and Nya Gazelle Brown — seducing the crowd as they grooved like some bygone disco group torn from time and placed on that beautiful little stage. It bears noting how much love they gave their band, letting them take extended solos and show off, each member shining the hot Colorado afternoon. It was a really great set that solidified a funky foundation for the rest of the night.

Lettuce

Local Denver legends Lettuce proved why they’ve reisen to funk-royalty status over the course of their career. Their set was one for the books, a boot-stomping funk masterclass that had everyone in the crowd moving to the grooving. There’s something comendable about a band that’s able to play a mostly instrumental set and still feel so full, so well-rounded and hard hitting. Their music can punch you in the gut in such a way that makes you feel so damn alive and this set was a full display of that. You can tell how much trust exists within the band, each member comfortably leaning on the others when necessary and taking the spotlight when called. It was a perfect penultimate set of the day, simultaneously serving to cleanse to palette as well as to twist the mind into something a little more primal, perfect for the coming night. (I would also like to give a shout out to the two sign-language interpreters who were rocking nasty air basses and horn solos throughout the set and looked like they were having a blast even though Lettuce’s music is largely bereft of lyrics.)

Thundercat

Following the psychedelic rumble of Lettuce, the funkadelic feline known as Thundercat took the spotlight under the setting sun at the first night of The Outside Festival. As far as a debuting festival’s first nights go, Thundercat’s appearance was the stamp of approval and served as a source of legitimacy behind the event in the heart of Denver. Surely the rhythm and soulful whispers could be heard and felt blocks away bouncing off the glassed skyscrapers bordering Civic Center Park. “I Love Louis Cole” “A Fan’s Mail” and “Dragonball Durag” were just a few songs from Thundercat’s setlist, but more importantly it was his flow state that the audience got to witness. Bass solos were inevitable, leaving Thundercat at the mercy of his own genius with the crowd doing their best to keep up with the unpredictable bass lines reverberating through their vertebrae. Often times its the elements that challenge us that leave us more intrigued and Thundercat’s style was no exception. With a full day still to go, attendandees could look forward to what the rest of the weekend had in store for them.

Sunday:

The Heavy Heavy

One full day of music under the sun can be draining — let alone an entire weekend — but The Heavy Heavy revitalized the wavering masses during their Saturday set. The Brightonian duo summoned a second wave of energy through their psychedelic-rock, sunshine-laden pop style — a delightful contrast to their name. Their performance brought hippie vibes to the Chaco-rocking crowd at the feet of the Capitol. Despite the heat, the dancing continued unabated. With only one full album, the crowd fully embraced songs like “Guinnevere” and “Real Love Baby” — a Father John Misty cover, who, in fact, was previously the drummer for the night’s headliners, Fleet Foxes. The performance coupled with the wholesome and relaxed environment created a leisurely mental state that overshadowed the day’s weather conditions.

Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird delivered an sublime performance following The Heavy Heavy, captivating the audience with his skillful violin playing and his cool, collected demeanor. The outdoor venue provided a stunning backdrop, enhancing the ethereal quality of his music. Bird’s setlist featured a mix of his classic hits like “Sisyphus” and new releases such as, “I Fall in Love Too Easily,” each song showcasing his unique blend of folk, rock and classical influences. As the penultimate performer of the inaugural Outside Festival, the crowd was enchanted by all the performances they’d seen so far and were realizing the event was coming to and end. With many watching the performance, there were still plenty roaming the grounds, however, the music was never out of listening range. In fact, you couldn’t have asked for better music to ready your goodbyes as vendors and canopies began disappearing from the grounds. Bird played on and attendees reveled under evening sky and enjoyed their last couple of hours of their exciting weekend.

Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes closed out the Festival with a set that perfectly aligned with the sun setting above, everything golden for just a few moments. Their music feels like a setting sun in that it feels like life itself, all the beautiful idiosyncrasies revealed by the passage of time, the early light giving way to the gentle moon and all that it holds. Many in that crowd grew up with Fleet Foxes, their early adulthood defined by the band’s haunting melodies, their lyrics that slip between the bones and live somewhere deep within. This was evidenced when, every so often, the stage display screen would cut briefly to an audience member crying in the front row, belting each lyric from the bottom of their hearts. Fleet Foxes’ music has that effect. It cuts deep and follows you through the many sunsets of your life. The set reflected that. It featured classics such as “Mykonos” and “Blue Ridge Mountains” intertwined with newer tunes like “Can I Believe You?” and “Sunblind.” The set encapsulated everything that made the weekend special, beautiful music reverberating throughout the souls of all in attendance as the sun went down and the breeze blew gently into the night. A great way to end a wonderful weekend.

All Photography Courtesy of the Artists and Kiddest Metaferia

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