There were a few moments at Outside Lands – while I was grooving to Collie Buddz, ecstatically fist-pumping with Major Lazer, rocking out hysterically with Muse, and bouncing off the wall to Deadmau5 – that I looked up, realized where I was (outside, under a full moon, among crazy tall trees, in the middle of the prettiest, greenest park around), and broke out into a ridiculously wide grin. Life is good at Outside Lands. Actually, it’s not just good, it’s grand, and once again, in its fourth incarnation, the music and arts celebration proved it deserves the honor as one of the best festivals in the world.
Day one was foggy and cool, but within the crowd, the heat and dancing were on and the shirts were off. Collie Buddz’s super sexy voice, cool shades, and light stubble made the girls swoon (including me, wow!). Phantogram was dreamy and crowded, but I thought Foster the People felt a little lackluster live compared to their album (obviously if I wasn’t standing 75 rows deep, my opinion might be different). MGMT got the crowd jumping up and down with Electric Feel. I waited 45 minutes for Big Boi and missed Phish’s first set because of whatever technical drama he had. The rest of Phish was solid, the light show – spectacular, and the Shins were their usual mellow selves (I’m ready for new material though).
I saw lots of teens on Friday, probably because most people were still at work, and their puking began around 5 p.m., which is really early, I mean, c’mon. Four teenage Sacramento boys offered me a cigarette. I don’t smoke but it was a really cute effort. By the end of the night, all of the Sac and SoCal attendees were lamenting about the cold. I told them to have faith, the sun could come.
The second day, I immediately cut to the left towards the Mission, Choco Lands and the Food Truck Forest, an area I hadn’t ventured to on the first day. Whimsical chilled-out spaces, parachutes and shade structures (amid the already shady eucalyptus branches), exaggerated wind chimes, and a tree house decorated McLaren Pass. It was a serene playground among the festival madness. Food trucks and a margarita stand formed a random border.
The sun came out in the middle of OK Go, and it got HOT and super sunny, a perfect summer day in August (see?! It happens in San Francisco!). OK Go rocked four colored suits as well as the crowd. Midway, I ran across the Polo Field to catch Starfucker, where all of Speedway Meadow was bouncing and singing and exploding upon Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want to Have Fun cover (random). The band kind of looked like a bunch of dorks on stage from afar, but those dorks could really jam, they were fantastic.
The line outside of the Heineken dome far exceeded its capacity for the second day in a row. Not getting inside, I was bummed! I was getting texts “Come in and dance!” and I would’ve if I could’ve but I couldn’t because of the damn line. Oh well. Good thing there were a couple dozen other things to do, see, and explore.
Land’s End (the Polo Field stage) became a zoo as the massive sea of people infiltrated the grounds. But there were so many other cool and mellow places to hang out. And the food, ah the food! I fasted each day before Outside Lands so I could sample all of the delicacies that waited. The Mission Mini mint chocolate chip cupcake in Choco Lands was divine. I sampled Salumeria’s porchetta sandwich, limeade and spicy mac and cheese from Homeroom, yellow watermelon from Full Belly Farms, Namu’s Korean tacos, Samosas from New Ganges and Kasa, Azalina’s tofu tacos, Asqew’s portabello plate…and that was somewhere in between a quick Ximena Sarinana in the Barcade, a Roots dance party, and the Black Keys jamming. The night culminated with Muse, who completely blew me away with their mesmerizingly dramatic show.
Sunday was sunny and hot! For my liking, it was all about Twin Peaks and Sutro up until Arcade Fire, who was phenomenal, but the crowd that surrounded my crew gave sort of bad vibes. First, they were pissed we stepped on their blanket (along with the 20,000 other concert-goers). Then, we got shushed. Then they wouldn’t shut the bleep up! “It’s Rococo I say!” they argued. Arcade Fire got into a few slower songs, and then jazzed it up with The Suburbs, but we split for Deadmau5, which was a great decision because the entire meadow was going off! Wow.
For future reference, the bike valet was amazing. Ride down on two wheels faster than a bus will take you, and valet park (for free!) or park it yourself. There was space galore and fewer bikes locked upside down in trees (a la Hardly Strictly). For places to stay, a couple informed me they rented a room in an apartment nearby on Airbnb (good plan!). I heard that the prepaid shuttles to downtown were pretty good. Public transit – yikes. Many others trudged to and fro. Despite the distance, one of the most tranquil parts of the event is the walk back through a darkened, peaceful Golden Gate Park, “because when do you ever get to do this?” a friend commented. It’s true, the crowds thin out quickly and before you know it, the entire place is yours, along with a few bikers and other walking pals. Who knows, you might just stumble upon a magic yellow school bus (we did).
Photo courtesy of Outside Lands/Facebook
All other photos courtesy of the author