Photos by Alex Familian
Outside Lands is on its way to being one of the best festivals in the country. With a stunning location and one of the best lineups of the summer, the festival delivers the kind of amazing, singular experience that lacks in most festivals. It’s the kind of weekend that stays with you for a while — even when Radiohead and LCD aren’t playing, because of the positive vibes that radiate through out the grounds. With another incredible year under its belt, Outside Lands is quickly becoming our absolute favorite festival.
Mostly arriving by Uber, festival goers began pouring into Golden Gate Park in the early afternoon. Security was slow as dozens of staff members herded the anxious crowd like cattle into the festival grounds. I made it inside at about 2:30pm. I grabbed a $10 beer and a $7 spicy pie and sat down on the grass while lightly listening to Wet at the Sutro Stage, which sits beautifully amongst the trees.
After the set ended, I finished up my pizza and beer to get close for the British band Foals. With only 5 minutes left before their set started I managed to easily walk up to the front of the stage. The band came out loud to Snake Oil, before jumping into Olympic Airwaves, their mathrock hit from 2008 that first got them into the public eye. Front man Yannis Philippakis, known for his fearless antics on stage, showed no holding back as he jumped into the crowd during Knife in the Ocean. With fans holding him up, he stood on his knees, still clinging to his microphone as he sang repeatedly “When I see a man, I see a liar!”. Between songs Philippakis yelled out “We love this city!” while drummer Jack Bevan, sporting an In-N-Out Burger tanktop, sipped a beer. They left the stage with the audience wanting more.
From Foals I walked over the hill into the rest of the festival grounds. Walking past college kids, rave junkies, and three different people wearing the same “#saveHarambe” shirt, I managed to find myself in Beerlands, a beer garden filled with dozens of local craft beers. I ordered a wonderfully refreshing Hefeweizen and made my way over to the next musical act.
Heading over to see Tokimonsta at the Panhandle Stage with a beer in my hand, I remembered just how nice it is to be able to walk around with alcohol– other festivals like Coachella don’t let you bring your alcohol outside of specified areas and this allowed for a much more chill festival time. Tokimonsta’s crowd was bigger than I expected but her music played more like background music than a full blown dance set (which I’ve seen her do before).
Holly “Lapsley” Fletcher, a 20 year old singer / songwriter from the UK, took the stage after Tokimonsta was all wrapped up. Unfamiliar with her music, I decided to stick around and head up to the front to the photo pit to snap some shots of her. As Lapsley sang and played a keyboard in the middle of the stage, I noticed a fan in the front row holding a slice of pizza. He was yelling to get her attention– to give her the pizza. I found it to be a great opportunity for me to facilitate this fan / musician connection. I looked over at the fan and nodded my head. He smiled and gave me the slice of pizza. I took it and placed it on stage just in front of Lapsley as she was finishing her song. She smiled and exclaimed into the microphone, “Is that a piece of pizza!?” Unfortunately she didn’t devour the slice on stage as I (and I’m sure the fan, too) had hoped.
Once Lapsley wrapped up the temperature began to drop so naturally I journeyed with some friends to get a hot chocolate from Chocolands, a chocolate filled food area filled with dozens of chocolate dishes and drinks. On my way back, I spotted Big Boi on the staircase leading back to the stage. He was in the middle of shooting a commercial and a few stressed out crew members were quick to divert the crowd away from stopping and taking selfies with the Outkast member (which one young girl managed to do before being pulled away by staff).
Enjoying my hot chocolate on the grass while listening to Lapsley in the background, I noticed a drunk college-aged student in front of me. He was lying on his side, with his privates out, urinating on the ground. He had a grin on his face ear-to-ear and made sure to make eye contact with everyone who saw him do this dirty-deed in the middle of the festival. Oh, music festivals….
Next up was Haitus Kaiyote, a soul-jazz infused band from Melbourne, whose music Anderson .Paak had sampled in his latest album “Malibu”. Lead singer, Naomi Saalfield aka Nai Palm came out dressed in an outfit that felt like it was from the future and at the same time from the past (see pictures for reference). Her band kept it jazzy while she belted her heart out, giving one of the most honest performances I would see all weekend.
I ended my day with LCD Soundsystem at the main stage, Land’s End. It was fairly crowded & my friends and I found a nice open spot towards the middle of the crowd, right in front of a speaker (sound quality can make a break a set at these festivals). Infusing hit after hit with gratuitous guitar and keyboard solos, LCD managed to bring the funk to Outside Lands. James Murphy passionately called out lyrics while his band jammed hard on each song. The crowd danced the night away.
On the Uber Pool Ride over to the festival, my pooling passengers informed me that they didn’t feel the same passion that I had during LCD Soundsystem. “They were so boring last night. What kind of headliner doesn’t have any cool lasers or anything. It was so lame!”. I politely disagreed with them, trying to remember that these festivals bring all sorts of different music fans.
Entering the park on Day 2, I noticed that security was quick. We made our way over to see The Wombats at Land’s End. They rocked out playing a fun set list, & ended their set by bringing their pitbull on stage. From there we ventured over to see Vince Staples. The 23 year old hip-hop prodigy from Long Beach, CA ran out on stage with loads of energy. The crowd went wild, singing along to every lyric.
After Staples was wrapped we headed over to Land’s End to camp out for a good spot for Radiohead, who would be closing out Day 2 of the festival in just a few hours. While we camped out we saw Big Grams, a supergroup made up of Big Boi and Phantogram. We watched as the Outkast member pulled out some hilarious dance moves with Phantogram’s singer Sarah Barthel. The two of them looked like they were having the time of their life on stage together. Their music, which mostly consisted of mash-up style songs from both of their careers, wasn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it provided a fun atmosphere for people to dance and enjoy themselves.
After Big Grams finished up, we stood our ground as the Radiohead fans began pouring in. Taking the stage next was Air, a band I never thought I’d be lucky enough to see in my lifetime. I grew up on their original score for Sofia Coppola’s 1999 film The Virigin Suicides, along with their albums Moon Safari and Talkie Walkie. They sounded great as they jammed all of their hits, using a real drumset which electric groups often jettison for stale sounding drum machines. Coupled with a cool, yet simple stage design, the French electronic duo ended up giving a very memorable performance.
Radiohead headlined the Day 2 at Land’s End. They opened with their strings-heavy single Burn the Witch. Guitarist Johnny Greenwood came on stage, grabbed his guitar (he does not have a guitar strap), and played it like cello– with a bow. From there they played mostly older songs from 2003’s Hail to the Thief, and 1997’s OK Computer. For Bloom, which was off of 2011’s King of Limbs, they brought out Clive Deamer, the drummer for Portishead, who has been with them on their last two tours. Throughout their set, lead singer Thom Yorke only spoke to the crowd with short phrases like, “Um! Okay, yeah. Alright? Alright!!” It was weird and fantastic. Personally it was one of the greatest sets I’ve ever seen.
I got in early Sunday morning to catch Kamasi Washington, the jazz mastermind behind 2015’s The Epic, who was playing at Land’s End right at noon. Getting up close to the stage, I witnessed him and his all-star band rip into jazz jam after jam. About halfway through the show he brought out his father, Rickey Washington, who played the soprano saxophone alongside his son. After Kamasi finished his set, he signed records and humbly took photos and talked with his fans next to the stage.
Feeling like I hadn’t explored the whole festival just yet, my friends and I decided to try out Winelands and Cheeselands. Winelands, albeit pricey (roughly $20 for a 8 oz. glass of wine) was a very unique experience. Combined with a $15 cheese plate from Cheeselands, my pockets were empty but my taste buds and stomach were happy. On top of that, I shared a delicious $22 lobster sandwich with a friend. Outside Lands certainly knows how to get great food and drink into a festival environment—though it is very pricey.
After stuffing my face I caught Third Eye Blind’s set at Land’s End. Their setlist combined their hits from the 90s, which everyone sang along too, some newer tracks that no one knew the lyrics too, and a cover of David Bowie’s Heroes. It was a set full of positivity and the crowd loved every nostalgic minute of it.
Following Third Eye Blind was Chance the Rapper. The 23-year-old rapper from Chicago commands a stage presence that is incredibly impressive. His confidence shined as he asked the crowd to scream, and then after a thunderous screech exclaimed, “Yup, that sounds like 50,000 people alright.” Him and his band The Social Experiment played songs off of Chance’s mixtapes Coloring Book and Acid Rap, along with some songs by other aritsts that he’s been featured on like Kanye West’s Ultralight Beam and Action Bronson’s Baby Blue.
The, it was time to check out The Barbary, Outside Lands’ comedy venue. We fought our way through the crowds, which felt they like they had quadrupled in size since we first arrived at the festival. Finally we arrived in the air-conditioned tent known as The Barbary to see DJ Douggpound and Brent Weinbach. They were absolutely hilarious.
The festival ended with Lionel Ritchie performing a fun-filled set, one which felt like the perfect way to end the weekend.
From a logistics standpoint—Outside Lands was a bit of a mess. The festival included many different specialty areas (ie: Chocolands, Beer Lands, etc…), but unfortunately long lines, crowded walkways, and broken credit card machines made getting to and enjoying these “lands” a bit difficult over the past weekend. Perhaps Golden Gate Park, littered with dozens of narrow pathways that make large crowds impossible to control, is a bold yet problematic spot to hold a festival. However, from a music standpoint—the festival was a success. The sound quality was great and the artists gave fantastic performances. Other standouts included the food, drink, and comedy aspects of the festivals—all in which Outside Lands excels at very well.
Chance the Rapper
Third Eye Blind