Northern California’s biggest music festival returned to Golden Gate Park for the 15th year with more than 60 artists, including The 1975, Lana Del Ray, Cigarettes After Sex, Maggie Rogers and Father John Misty. Outside Lands has grown to compete with its southern California rival Coachella and the sold-out festival drew in a crowd of more than 75,000 people each day. From Foo Fighters’ surprise guest singer Michael Buble to the SOMA Tent shut-down on Friday and Saturday afternoon due to structural damage, this weekend was a riot.
If you weren’t one of the lucky ones to be VIP or GA+ at San Francisco’s biggest festival of the year, you waited in line for at least an hour just to get into the festival grounds— maybe two if you had to grab a shuttle from the Civic Center Bart stop.
The line was filled with attendees downing last minute drinks and line-jumpers who used the guise of “meeting friends”, but no one seemed too stressed about the wait. If anything, security just seemed happy no one was hopping the fence.
Festivalgoers wore anything from pajama onesies to platform Demonias. With San Francisco you never know what weather you’re going to get and the majority of the weekend was cold and misty (big shocker), so most people are dressed for comfort. Outside Lands is never your influencer Olympics since the crowd is usually there for the music rather than the scene. But, either way, once you’re surrounded by thousands of people, you warm up pretty quickly.
The weekend’s most dedicated fans were found at the SOMA stage. This all hours madhouse is inspired by the underground club scene and a majority of the EDM sets were here. On night one NALA packed the house with almost two hours of head bumping collective energy joined together for the most action packed set of night one.
The tent rotated artists almost every hour, but after the stage partially collapsed as Disco Lines performed, the tent shut down for repairs on Friday and again on Saturday because of damages to the flooring inside the tent. After making the decision to move the DJ booth directly outside the tent, the music quickly returned. Soul pounding beats and hot sweaty bodies resumed raving and no one seemed to care about the hot musky smell lingering in the air.
After trekking through the psychedelic forest covered in giant mushrooms and floating colorful balls of light, over on the Twin Peaks stage there was a mix of DJ sets and rock artists. DJ Diesel, better known as former NBA-great Shaquille O’Neal (Shaq), was one of the larger daytime sets. The small pit at center stage rose like a wave and slowly the outer edges of the crowd followed. People moved in and packed the stage as Shaq chanted “Steph Curry” and “hands up” repeatedly between beats. Steph Curry didn’t show, but the sentiment wasn’t lost on this majority Bay Area crowd.
Sunday had the most anticipated lineup of the weekend. Inhaler, Cigarettes After Sex and The 1975 played the Twin Peaks stage and Megan Thee Stallion and Odeza took the Lands End stage. Complaints from festival goers unfortunately didn’t change the schedule and having to decide between The 1975 and Noah Kahn was every indie fan’s worst nightmare. Even so, every stage was packed and the energy was palpable despite the mile long hike between each set.
Unlike other festivals that have vendors from all over, Outside Lands supported the local food scene entirely. All of the 100 vendors were based in the Bay Area. After I wandered around the sea of white vendor tents set up on the Polo Field and Lindley Meadow, some personal favorites of the over 750 food options were the pulled pork fries from Astronesia and the hibiscus taco from Om Sabor. If savory wasn’t your speed, the fruity pebble ice cream sandwich from Marley’s hit the spot for a late night snack. No really — though it might have given me a toothache and a brain freeze, the ube ice cream brought me back to life.
While the music is a huge part of Outside Lands, this is still a major festival with more to look forward to than crowded pits. Over the span of three days, a total of approximately 200,000 people tasted their way around the Wine and Beer Lands, legally smoked cannabis, dove into handcrafted cocktails and got a taste of the Bay Area food scene.
The Sober Lands gave attendees the opportunity to attend sobriety meetings and just chill out from the intensity that comes with festival culture. On the opposite end of the chill spectrum, the Grass Lands had a lowkey vibe filled with fairy lights hanging from the blue gum eucalyptus trees, massive inflatable joints, a dozen local cannabis companies and mac and cheese grilled cheese sandwiches.
Premium festival goers had a whole different experience from GA attendees and while they didn’t have a wall of people to block them from the wind, the extra ticket cost gave them complementary food from Miller & Lux, Boulevard and Liholiho Yacht Club. Not to mention the Golden Gate Club’s viewing areas and comfortable seating.
Did we mention that you don’t have to drop a whole paycheck on a new wardrobe for this fest? Keep this Northern California festival on your radar.