Outside Lands is Outta This World

Events, What's New — By Mary Polizzotti on August 8, 2011 at 7:23 pm

In 2007, somebody gave me Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible album. I played it a few times, and then tossed it aside. A few months later, I gave it another good listen. Still, I didn’t understand all of the hoopla surrounding the band.

Fast forward four years. While taking tequila shots at my friend’s birthday (he’s a millennial and they do this sort of thing), my ears perked up at a distant harmony. Like a moth drawn to a flame, I wandered across the room towards the TV; Arcade Fire was performing on Saturday Night Live. Suddenly, it clicked. I was captivated by their sound. I had to see them live.

The opportunity has arrived as Arcade Fire is just one of dozens of marvelous acts set to take the four stages of Outside Lands, the music and arts festival that descends upon Golden Gate Park, August 12-14, 2011. Most people were naysayers when I told them I bought pre-sale Outside Lands tickets. “Who’s playing?” was the obvious first question. The line-up hadn’t been announced, but I was confident the weekend would be incredible. And, man oh man, the bill delivers – it’s going to be sweet!

outside-lands-san-franciscoPhoto courtesy of Outside Lands/Facebook

The fiesta is nearly sold out, and that’s no surprise. First of all, anyone who pooh-pooh’s this event is a fuddy-duddy stick-in-the-mud. A standard music extravaganza this is not. Outside Lands primarily involves frolicking from one lush, green, eucalyptus-scented park meadow to another while passing beneath lofty cypress trees.

All of the trekking around from stage to stage a hungry tummy makes. You can quench those pangs with selections from 52 local San Francisco restaurants. Determining what to eat will be as challenging a decision as figuring out which stage to patronize. Perhaps you’ll indulge in a few oysters from Woodhouse Fish Co. or Farmer Brown’s lip-smacking fried chicken. Does a plantain and black bean burrito from Little Chihuahua sound better than Kasa’s Kati roll? Should your sweet tooth be sated by Kara’s Cupcakes or Three Twins Ice Cream? Don’t forget about the Food Truck Forest. Ritual and Philz (!!!) will both be on hand offering your caffeine of choice. Along the way, you can sip a sparkler from Gloria Ferrer, swirl a sensual Bedrock Syrah, or sample a peppery Zinfandel by Tres Sabores.

outside-lands-san-franciscoPhoto courtesy of Outside Lands/Facebook

The masses will also be entertained with a salon (where you can get your hair did), a Barcade (hosting Ms. Pac-Man, Frogger, and Skee-Ball), the Prius Playground (complete with a snow cone machine and teeter-totter), and the Heineken DJ Dome (where I’ll be intermittently between stage acts – Miguel Migs, Mexican Institute of Sound, and other DJs will be spinning all day every day until 8 p.m.). Other carny perks include a bike valet and refillable water stations.

Sure, there are crowds, (hello, it’s a festival). Sure, there is fog, but it’s San Francisco! No, there’s no camping (and thank god for that; I swore-off camping in muddy, manure-filled cow fields after Sasquatch a few years back). Justifiably, Outside Lands is, hands down, the best music festival I’ve ever attended (trust me – I’ve been to enough in the world to say that). The headliners are solid (Phish vs. The Shins; Muse vs. Girl Talk; Arcade Fire vs. Deadmau5 (why make me choose?!)) but the best part of this festival is discovering all of the random bands you’ve never heard of. So who are you going to see? Need some inspiration? Here are my top picks below (“vs.” indicates they’re playing at the same time):

outside-lands-san-franciscoPhoto courtesy of Outside Lands/Facebook

Collie Buddz – I can’t think of a better way to kick start the weekend than grooving to the ragga and dancehall beats delivered by the island soul of Bahamian Mr. Buddz.

Phantogram – I’m slowly becoming addicted to the psychedelic pop vocals of this electronic rock duo.

Foster the People vs. Toro Y Moi – This is a tough call, but I’m leaning towards the intoxicating dance-oriented pop-producing trio Foster the People. But, Toro Y Moi’s dreamy, disco-influenced indie electronic will definitely not disappoint.

MGMT - Duh

Big Boi – If you were an OutKast fan, definitely don’t miss Andre 3000’s partner in crime perform his solo act.

The Shins – The indie rockers are still going strong after nine years. If you need a break from the hippie mosh pits of Phish, the Shins are the answer. Erykah Badu is obviously a strong alternative as well.

Phish – I’ve never seen them live, so gotta do it! Trey put on an amazing performance during his solo years, so I’m curious. And, for nostalgia’s sake, I served a very stoned Mike Gordon at a restaurant I worked at in college.

Ana Tijoux and Ximena Sarinana – I’m a sucker for all things Latin American, and Ximena (from Mexico City) and sexy, smooth French-Chilean Ana Tijoux are no exception. Somos los mismos, los del rebaño, nada a cambiado, ni nada es en vano…ay ay ay

OK GO vs STRFKR – Expect to see me running between stages to try to catch both acts. I’m drawn to the eccentric power pop guitar tunes of OK GO; however, I can’t stop listening to STRFKR’s synthi indie pop jams (and they allegedly put on a stellar live performance).

The Black Keys vs. The Roots vs. Warren Haynes Band – Again, it’s a tough decision between blues-rock duo The Black Keys, hip-hop stalwarts The Roots, and former Gov’t Mule and Allman Brothers member, Warren Haynes. I think the Roots may prevail.

Muse vs. Girl Talk – I may have to go half and half here. Muse plays a nearly two-hour set, but Girl Talk throws down on stage, and this is something I have yet to see.

outside-lands-san-franciscoPhoto courtesy of vonlohmann/Flickr

Junip – Moody indie folk rock, with some Zero 7-esque elements; if you like Iron & Wine, you will dig. Though I’m also intrigued by tUnE-yArDs experimental, digital patchwork of soulful vocals, ukulele, and odd percussion.

Latryx featuring Lyrics Born & Lateef – Experimental hip-hop partnership of exceptionally talented rappers, will probably blow your mind.

!!! – Love their infectious, groovy, danceable, hypnotic sound (a la LCD Soundystem).

Major Lazer – How could a rasta-loving gal like me not go to Diplo and Switch’s digital reggae/dancehall project, Major Lazer?

Little Dragon – Indie pop meets upbeat crispy electronic beats

STS9 – I have danced many times to the beautifully instrumental, dub-inspired, break beat-infused psychedelic grooves of STS9 (the Warfield Halloween shows were awesome) and this time is no exception. See them.

Arcade Fire vs. Deadmau5 – How I wish I could see both! I am a huge fan of Deadmau5’s progressive house; but, having never seen Arcade Fire live, I think they have the edge. I have a feeling their performance will rocket them to the top of my rdio.com playlist. There’s a reason why The Suburbs won best album of the year at the 2011 Grammy Awards.

The best advice I can give is plan to see less than you will actually see (obviously, from the schedule above, I need to heed my own advice). It’s a little less than a mile between the two main stages with a lot of distraction in between, so take your time and use Outside Lands handy scheduler. Also, bring layers; the fog is sure to be omnipresent. But, don’t be fooled, the sun has been known to make a special appearance for this event. See you there!


Tags: "Golden Gate Park", arcade fire, DeadMau5, live music, muse, music festival, outside lands, polo field, san francisco, san francisco events, speedway meadow, the shins


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