Outside Lands: SZA bounces back from COVID to perform winning set

SZA wasn’t going to let anything stop her from performing at the 2022 Outside Lands festival.

“I had COVID like a week ago,” the R&B vocalist told the thousands of fans assembled before her in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. “And it beat my (expletive).

“I was definitely fighting for my life to be with you.”

And the fans certainly appreciated the efforts of the St. Louis native, who headlined the big Lands End Stage and capped off 10 hours of music performed by 40-plus acts across nine stages on Day One (Aug. 5) of the festival.

Other popular attractions of the day included hip-hop star Lil Uzi Vert, comedic rapper-rocker Oliver Tree, acclaimed indie-folk-pop singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers and English electronic music duo Disclosure.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Aug. 6: SZA performs on the Lands End stage during the first day of the Outside Lands music festival on Friday. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald) 

The three-day festival was set to continue on Saturday with a long-awaited headlining set from legendary Bay Area pop-punk act Green Day as well as performances by blazing hot rapper Jack Harlow, local hip-hop hero Larry June, rising alt-rock star Kenny Hoopla and many others. On Sunday, the bountiful lineup includes hip-hop star Post Malone as the main headliner plus sets from art-pop singer-songwriter Mitski, alt-rock icons Weezer, British indie-rock duo Wet Leg and dozens of others.

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“I truly think it is the most diverse and dynamic lineup that we’ve had,” says Allen Scott, president of concerts and festivals for the Berkeley-based Another Planet Presents, which co-presents Outside Lands. “There are a lot female artists on (the lineup) this year. There are a lot of different types of music on there this year.”

Day One was certainly a fine illustration of both of those points, as female artists and female-led groups were generously sprinkled throughout the 10-hour day of music — from singer-songwriter the Blssm (who was scheduled to open the comparatively intimate Panhandle Stage right at noon) and continuing through such acts as Best Coast (who closed the same stage more than eight hours later with an absolutely dynamite set).

And there was certainly a joyful mix of musical styles to be found, including the DJ dance music that drew big crowds to the festival’s newly expanded SOMA Tent as well as such flavors as Top 40-style pure pop, cool indie-pop and chart-topping hip-hop.

“We have a lot of leeway in terms of what we can book – because we’ve done a lot of different types of music,” says Scott, noting the festival’s ability to draw from many different demographics and age groups. “So, you can have an Elton John out there but you can also have a Jack Harlow — and everything in between.”

The crowds are definitely turning out in large numbers for the festival, which was once again being held in its traditional early August spot after being moved back to Halloween weekend in 2021 due to concerns over COVID-19. Organizers were expecting to draw some 225,000 over the course of the three-day run.

People certainly seemed happy to be back in Golden Gate Park, flashing big smiles and sharing plenty of hugs as they grooved to the music and enjoyed the bountiful food and drink offerings at the festival.

There was plenty vying for fans’ attention all day long, as organizers loaded up the multiple stages with numerous cool acts. Yet, the situation grew really intense during the last 2 hours, as fans had to pick between watching simultaneous headlining sets from SZA, Bridgers and Disclosure.

But why pick just one when you can divide up your time and try to see portions of all three acts? So, that’s the path we decided to take as the first day of Outside Lands drew to a close.

All had their selling points, of course, but we enjoyed what we saw and heard of SZA the most of the three acts . The moment was definitely not too big for SZA, who sounded great on the microphone and was a commanding presence on the stage.

There were no noticeable signs of the previous week’s battle with COVID, as SZA showed fans a great time as she continued to support her sole solo album, the 2017 double-platinum effort “Ctrl” as well as her many singles.

For more information, visit sfoutsidelands.com.