This past weekend, Golden Gate Park was once again transformed into an epic showcase of music, art, food and drink as tens of thousands of festival-goers descended onto Outside Lands. If you were one of the lucky fans who was able to snag a ticket to this sold-out festival, you were treated to a jam-packed lineup of artists, ranging from established names (Zedd, Radiohead) to newer arrivals (Oh Wonder, Con Brio). Outside Lands had more than anyone could hope to see in a weekend; the toughest choices were deciding who to see and, by extension, who to miss. That said, here’s a small glimpse on what the festival had to offer.
On Friday we rolled into the park, joined by the fog and over 70,000 fans, ready to be drowned in great music, delicious food and cold beer. After spending the crowded bus ride surrounded by Pokemon Go trainers, navigating through checkpoints and seemingly endless lines, we finally entered the festival grounds.
Our first order of business was to find something to eat; we weren’t disappointed. Food vendors from all corners of San Francisco were stationed throughout the park, offering an overwhelming range of selections from fresh oysters to donut cheeseburgers
(which I wasn’t brave enough to try). We eventually zeroed in on Bacon Bacon, whose name tells you all you need to know.
After our quick refuel, we meandered our way across the park trying to find our first performance. We found it at the Heineken House, a giant white bubble tent that resembled two conjoined igloos shaking from the pounding of house music bass. We decided to give it a shot, because who doesn’t want to go clubbing at three in the afternoon?
Again, we weren’t disappointed. After squeezing past a bar with overpriced beer (you guessed it: Heineken), we were spit out onto the center of a dance floor being DJ’ed by FDVM, a French DJ duo who blend music from around the globe in their sets.
After an hour of dancing under the illuminated dome roof and the excruciatingly loud fog machines, we needed a drink. And there’s certainly no shortage of booze at Outside Lands. We made our way to the aptly-named Beer Lands, where dozens of local breweries had countless offerings of beer on tap. For beer aficionados, this oasis was an opportunity to find unique beers and enjoy them outside in the company of friends and live music.
Unfortunately, I am not a beer aficionado and find IPAs kind of gross. (I know — a very unpopular opinion in NorCal). A saison is about as interesting as I get. So I ordered the Outside Lands Saison, an exclusive brew for the festival made by Sierra Nevada.
Beer in hand, we made our way to the Barbary, the festival’s improv and stand-up comedy club, to see one of my favorite comedians: John Mulaney. Unfortunately, upon arriving, we found out that everyone else had the same idea and found ourselves standing in a line three times the capacity of the venue. For reasons still a mystery for me, we waited in this line, somehow hoping the 500 people in front of us would simultaneously realize they had somewhere else to be. They didn’t. We later learned you could reserve tickets in advance, which we’ll definitely do next year.
As the day waned, the crowds grew and grew. Going to the headliners was a skill in weaving through crowds, with a few prone less to weaving than to bulldozing. Since I’m blessed with height, I could still see the stage from my faraway vantage point. Alas, my shorter friends weren’t as lucky. They enjoyed a view of Camelbaks, bucket hats and the occasional elbow. But as the scene progressed, this mattered less and less; the stage’s light shows began to shine over the crowd, aided by the mix of fog and smoke from machine and crowd. LCD Soundsystem took full advantage of this, illuminating a stage-sized disco ball which shone like a miniature sun as the band rocked into the night.
* * *
On Saturday, we staked out a spot to watch the Wombats. This Liverpool rock group’s energetic performance was infectious —
just what we needed to prepare us for another event-packed day. After working up an appetite, we once again explored the vast array of mouthwatering food found throughout the park. This time, I landed at 4505 Meats’ stand. This NoPa restaurant is famous for its burgers and ribs and was even featured in Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown.” I tried their “Best Damn Grass Fed Cheeseburger” and can confirm it was pretty damn good.
Later that day we visited the StubHub Soundstage. An intimate venue, we joined a ’90s dance party here and, later, were treated to a DJ set by Jauz. Jauz’s set transformed this lowly tent into a Vegas nightclub. Hundreds of dancing bodies packed into it, losing themselves in the unique genre-blending music that defines Jauz’s performances. By the time his set concluded, we were exhausted and our ears were ringing from being so close to the stage.
After stepping out of the tent back into open air, we caught our breath and hurried over to our final show of the night: Zedd. We weaved our way through the ever-growing crowd to get as close as we could. After a seemingly endless slideshow of test screens on the stage’s TVs, the lights went out and Zedd appeared on his elevated platform. What really set Zedd apart from other artists was his production values: putting as much attention into his visuals as his music. His perfectly synchronized visuals — a crafty combination of fireworks-lasers-flamethrowers (yeah, flamethrowers) — were enthralling to watch. They made for a spectacular end to the night.
* * *
By Sunday, we were exhausted but pressed on to see some of our favorite artists perform. The afternoon started with Kamasi Washington, a jazz saxophonist who collaborated with Kendrick Lamar on his 2015 opus “To Pimp a Butterfly.” (Washington’s solo album, “The Epic,” also received immense critical acclaim.) Washington was joined onstage by Miles Mosley, Patrice Quinn and his father, among others. These jazz virtuosos fed off of each other’s energy, seeming to converse on stage as they traded solos back and forth.
Following their performance was Oh Wonder, a London duo whose heartfelt lyrics and joyful sound has propelled their meteoric rise this past year. The positive vibes from their performance were infectious, even helping to bring out the sun.
The sun was a welcome addition to the festival, and we set out our blankets and listened to Jack Garratt perform his one-man show. As we chowed down on our chicken curry burritos from Curry Up Now and chicharrones from Bacon Bacon, Jack Garratt took multitasking to a whole different level — playing every instrument on stage, showcasing his incredible range as a musician.
After enjoying our sun-soaked picnic, we made our way back to the main stage (along with seemingly everyone else) to see Chance the Rapper. Chance put on a crowd-pleasing performance, playing a lot of his recent releases along with songs from his Acid Rap days. Our only complaint was that he didn’t play for longer!
Following Chance’s departure, Major Lazer took the stage. Their high-octane performance turned the entire park into a giant dance party. Led by their on-stage dancers, thousands of fans were jumping in unison, getting down and, to our dismay, even attempting to run, despite being packed like sardines. Maybe it was Diplo crowdsurfing in a human-sized hamster ball or the choreographed dancers, but Major Lazer transported us on this sunny Sunday afternoon to a party to rival any in Vegas. After an hour of dancing nonstop, we realized just how exhausted we were from a weekend of endless entertainment.
In the meantime, here are some Outside Lands artists worth checking out:
Criticize Ned Danyliw for his unimaginative taste in beer at [email protected].