Photos by Film Magic
Beautiful sunny weather was the majestic vibe at San Francisco’s golden gate park as the 12th annual Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival kicked off on Friday, August 9. You could feel the energy in the air as the massive annual festival was underway. Thousands of festival-goers on foot, by bus, uber, bike and by any other means possible made their way to golden gate park to catch some of the World’s biggest music stars over three days. 60 + artists spread out over 6 stages which included Paul Simon, Twenty One Pilots, Childish Gambino, The Lumineers, Flume, Lil Wayne, The Counting Crows, Hozier and Blink 182.
Access seemed improved, as did the security, which seemed extremely exuberant and welcoming at the entrances. The additional security was embraced and fans didn’t seem to mind the additional bag search times and policies to ensure their safety. With everything going on in the World from crazy mass shootings to hate and bigotry at a high point, music festivals are such a warm welcome. They usher in the good vibes as people of all colours, walks of lives, young and old come together from all over the world in harmony and for a weekend of like-minded focused positive energy. It’s about the music, the unity, the community, the experience, the memories and OSL has been ushering in all of the above and more for over a decade now. It was a phenomenal weekend with many memorable experiences and performances.
WHAT WE SAW – WHAT WE EXPLORED – WHAT WE HEARD
FRIDAY MUSIC HIGHLIGHTS:
Opening day musical highlights kicked off with American rockers The Neighborhood performing on the Land Ends stage. They brought their indie rock vibe that really fired up the afternoon crowd. Lead singer Jesse Rutherford was a very charismatic frontman that engaged with the audience in between tunes like, “Sweater Weather” and “Afraid”.
On the Sutro stage just a hop and skip away, especially for VIPs as organizers opened new gateways for high-end ballers to have easy access, Oakland musician and internet sensation Still Woozy warmed up the crowd with a nice set. His music was a cool mixture of acoustic and electronic instruments combined to make a funky, abstract sound. Although he’s been playing for more than a decade he sites the internet for kickstarting his notoriety with popular songs like, “Goodie Bag” and “Cooks”.
At the far end of the beautiful park, the adorable Aurora captivated a smaller crowd with her majestic sound and entrancing voice. The Norwegian singer-songwriter was like watching a modern-day fairytale dancing, spinning and smiling at fans on the Twin Peaks stage. She looked like she was having the time of her life as fans sang and swayed along.
As we decided to make our way back to the Lands End stage to catch Weezy, we passed the Panhandle stage and were blown away by The Maria’s. Hailing from Los Angeles they were fantastic with a blend of funky guitars, synth-pop and airy vocals by lead singer Maria. The band was dressed to a T and in fashionable harmony with white turtlenecks and shades to match. Nothing like festivals to discover new music and The Maria’s are definitely one act to keep your eyes on.
On the Land Ends stage, Lil Wayne with help from his young money crew took the stage with a kickass band mixing hip-hop, rock and knocking beats. Weezy ripped through tracks including, “Lollipop, “Don’t Cry” and “6 Foot 7 Foot. His guitar player was absolutely on point busting out heavy rock riffs that the whole crowd was headbanging too. Weezy’s DJ declared him the Worlds best rapper alive and although I’m sure many would argue differently, he did his best to entertain a sea of fans that stretched across the field (the biggest of the afternoon) while flames erupted from the enormous LED screens.
On Twin Peaks stage Adam Duritz and the legendary Counting Crows were one the nights best as they opened with their classic anthem, “Round Here”. Their music has always been sing-along friendly and with Adam’s emotive vocals, cool hair and body gesture it’s hard not to get lost in the music and classics like, “Mr. Jones” and ”Long December” never seem to get old.
EDM superstar San Holo was also impressive on the Sutro stage. The Dutch DJ, producer and musician got the crowd into a dance rave frenzy with his cool blend of the trap house. He played tracks from his debut album as well as many popular remixes. In a World of DJ’s, he stands apart mixing in live instruments and occasional running out from behind the decks to shred solos on guitar. Definitely one of the afternoon’s best sets.
TWENTY ONE PILOTS
The sun was slowly fading as San Francisco’s thick fog started to roll in bringing on the chilly weather. Organizers notably prepared, lined the beautiful trees with coloured lights that shined through the foggy eve creating a magical setting. Fans bundled up and made their way to the Lands End stage for headliners Twenty One Pilots as they hit the stage with an epic intro that included the torching of a Cadillac on stage. The masked duo of singer Tyler Joseph and Drummer Josh Dun turned the field into a giant dance party with non-stop stage antics and explosive renditions of “Heathens”, “Hype” and their breakout track, “Stressed Out”. They showed off their multiple talents and even included a cool cover of House Of Pains, “Jump Around” as well as a perfect backflip from Dun.
On the far side of the park, The Lumineers played to a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd and as a singer-songwriter, “Wesley Shultz” stated was one of their biggest shows to date. They played an impressive closing set, which we only caught the tail end of but from what we saw, they clearly kept fans entertained throughout. The guitarist even showed off his impressive climbing skills by scaling up the scaffolding and still playing guitar, damn! It was an amazing way to close out the first day and night of OSL and the perfect time to head out as the chill started to become a bit unbearable.
SATURDAY MUSIC HIGHLIGHTS
The weather was a little more SF chilly vibe with the sun trying to sneak in now and then. The crowd was double the size early on. Music highlights kickstarted with the colourful and eclectic New York-based artist Santigold on the Lands Ends stage. She started the set to a few technical difficulties but worked through the challenges like a veteran during her first few songs. Her bright yellow amazing outfit could be a scene from all parts of the park as she strutted across the stage. The fusion of Reggae Dance Hall meets Hip Hop and alt-rock musical style was perfect to bring the good afternoon vibes. She even got fans involved for a close upbringing up 100s onstage to get their groove on.
Another surprising highlight came from the smaller Panhandle stage as rapper CupcaKKE got fans attention with a shock value set reminiscent of Bad Boy’s Lil Kim. Explicit tracks like, “Vagina” and “Duck Duck Goose” perked up some ears and some frowns, definitely not what your mom ordered, but still entertaining! If she came to be remembered, it was mission accomplished as you could hear the gossip all around about her unforgettable set.
Another highlight was Aussie DJ, producer Edward Harley Streten known to fans as Flume who played the sundown set on the Land Ends stage. Nothing like some great dance music as the sun sets to really get the party started. Fans danced nonstop to his signature future bass sounds. Flume has been selling out shows non-stop as one of the hottest EMD artists today and by the size of the crowd, it was clear he had loads of fans in attendance to catch a peek of the superstar.
On the Sutro stage, another highly anticipated act the Irish singer-songwriter Hozier packed in thousands of fans, deep, very deep. The tall bluesy artist and his fantastic band, took young and old viewers through hits from both his albums including crowd-pleasers, “Nina Cried Power’, “To Be Alone” and the fantastic “Nobody.” At one point, the tall Irishman got a bit nostalgic as the fog rolled in saying, “This Reminds Me Of Home. I haven’t felt clean air like this in a long time.” Hozier first broke out onto the scene with his iconic hit, “Take Me To Church”, which has since hit 306 million views on youtube.
It was a chilly Saturday night, but with Childish Gambino set to hit the Lands End stage, things warmed up pretty quick. The multitalented hip hop artist, actor and producer made an epic entrance as a futuristic stage arose high from midfield masked in a cloud of fog and lights. Childish Gambino stood shirtless on the platform like an angelic black Moses hovering over the crowd. Fans screamed so loud, there’s no doubt the nearby neighbours put in overtime on complaints. It was more than a show, it was an event, as the Lion King star proved to be one of the most successful headliners that Outside Lands has ever booked breaking the all-time attendance record on a single day topping 90,000 tickets sold.
Clearly impressed with the news, he made the announcement to fans and took selfies to document this monumental feat. He went on to perform an electrifying 90- minute set, mesmerizing fans, most of which stayed until the very end. This, of course, created bottlenecks and long waits, as thousands headed for the exits at the same time, but no one seemed to complain and the night ended on another epic note.
SUNDAY MUSIC HIGHLIGHTS:
JUDAH THE LION
The final day of Outside Lands kicked off with a nice slow vibe, as fans seemed to take their time, which set the mood for the final day of the festival. Weather was perfect, sun shining and beautiful blue skies above. Music highlights kicked off with a fun great set by Nashville’s rockers Judah The Lion. They brought their good-time music and humour for a great afternoon starter on the Lands End stage. Lead singer Judah Atkins even showed off his punk skills by crowd surfing and also doing a Blink 182 cover.
On the Sutro stage, DJ Koze had an impressive set and a good, sized early crowd. The eccentric German stars mixture of deep house, trip-hop and R &B was the perfect blend to get the blood flowing. He’s noted for being a real DJ amongst those in the know, winning multiple awards in Germany as a turntablist and also a top producer. His brilliant new album “Knock Knock” has gotten rave reviews across the board and from the cheers from fans, it was clear that he made left his mark on OSL.
A big crowd later gathered in excitement for the beautiful country fusion singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves on the Land Ends stage. Her sultry vocals and smooth chill-out music was just what the Universe ordered to soothe the soul as fans closed their eyes and drifted along. She really set the mood for an amazing last day at Golden Gate Park and even delighted fans with a great cover of Gloria Gaynor’s disco classic, “I Will Survive”.
Some fans camped out at the Land Ends stage while others boogied over to catch the tale end of Bob Moses on the Sutro stage. Unfortunately being a hot act, if you didn’t arrive early you were stuck all the way in back behind a sea of Moses fans. The Canadian duo consisting of Jimmie Vallance and Tom Howie rocked fans with their electro jams. Hipsters grooved along as they just killed it, definitely a highlight of the weekend.
Another Texas native, the soulful crooner Leon Bridges rocked The Lands End stage and had one of biggest crowds of the late afternoon. He seemed like an old soul veteran musician as he danced around the stage belting out throwback style jams and upbeat southern bluesy tracks like, “River” and “If it feels good – it must be.” It’s always great to see someone who’s truly in their element and enjoying their time on stage as much as the fans watching.
As the closing hours approached we knew based on last year’s experience that the closing act headliner booked for the Land Ends stage would not disappoint. At 77 years young, Paul Simon had the stamina of artists half his age putting on a wonderful set that spanned his entire career and included 21 songs, close to 2 hours. “This is live music ladies and gentlemen”, he stated and schooling the newbies on how it’s done before going into a wonderful rendition of the Simon & Garfunkel classic, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Young and old new they were in the presence of musical royalty and a seasoned veteran who’s set also included, “Mother and Child Reunion”, “You Can Call Me Al”, Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard and “Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes”.
Paul Simon ended his set with an outstanding five-song encore bringing out old Grateful Dead friend Bob Weir to join him on “The Boxer” and ending with the 1965 Simon & Garfunkel hit, “The Sound Of Silence”. It was a storybook ending all the way around and what made it even more special was the fact that he donated his entire headlining fee to the environmental non-profit San Francisco Parks Alliance and Friends of the Urban Forest. Most of his shows lately have all been played to support environmental charities, making him not only a rock and roll hall of fame legend but also an American hero. What a class act and an incredible way to close out the 12th edition of Outside Lands.
Beyond the music, there were lots of other exciting attractions for fans to experience and indulge in throughout the festival. One of the most anticipated was Grass Land’s the all cannabis-friendly adult area, which debuted in 2018 and took off in a huge way this year as Outsidelands became the first major music festival to allow the purchase and consumption of pot. Long lines were continuous throughout the weekend as 21+ fans were eager to either get their buzz on or just curious. From edibles to rub-on to joints, Grass Land’s had it all and was a huge hit. With recreational marijuana now being legal in California, it was just a matter of time for a festival to highlight cannabis and fans were stoked.
Other attractions included the Barbary which featured some of today’s best comedians scheduled each day, amazing art installs, live painting, taking a selfie with ranger Dave or picking up a cool keepsake at the marketplace. There was also a stage that combined food demonstrations with comedy while festival-goers lounged around, soaked up the sun and enjoyed some great eats and drinks.
Another popular area, which seemed to have grown, was the House By Heineken. Lines were so long it was easily an hour wait to get in, but that didn’t deter fans who patiently waited to get their groove on and catch EDM sets all weekend which included dance music stars SNBRN, Wax Motif, Sante, Goldfish and many others as well as a special guest performance by Wyclef Jean.
FOOD WE LIKED:
Outsidelands was heavy on the variety of food vendors than in past years and the healthy fare, as well as plant-based options, were everywhere. Of course, there was also lots of spots for meat-eaters and those wanting to binge out on fried up comfort foods to accompany all the brews, spirits and cannabis they were indulging in. Food highlights were Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas with their handmade delicious tamales and their elite (Mexican corn on the cob) was out of this world. Berkeley based Henry’s had a selection of burgers and they offered mouthwatering vegan chilli cheese fries – side note they make most of their ingredients including the vegan cheese.
One of my favourite spots was Haight streets Rosamunde Peak sausage’s, which offered up the very popular Beyond Meat sausage on a great roll topped with kraut and an extra spiced up jalapeno salsa, just wow! Binis kitchen a great hot spot with lines nonstop for their Nepalese based dishes and prices were great as well as the portions. One very popular dessert spot was the Frozen Custard, which started out as a food truck. They offered up a variety of ice cream popsicles that could be dipped in chocolate and topped with s’ mores, nuts or other tasty sugary treats. Also, a popular spot was the Farmers Market where they had a variety of delicious fresh fruits and drinks for those looking for to have a light healthy recharge.
Another crowd favourite was Kulture Republik a new probiotic ice cream brand with a great mission and even better they offered up free ice cream all weekend that included lots of dairy-free options. Wine Lands and Beer Lands have also always been favourites where fans indulged in some of California’s best beer and wine selections.
After 12 years Outside Lands seems to be on cruise control and organizers must be thrilled to have broken attendance records and making history by pushing cannabis legality to further heights. Sure some might argue that last year’s line-ups were better, but OSL is not just about the music and no major music festival can be judged by one year alone. You have to look at all the years, all the memories forged and if things have evolved and gotten better. Our vote is OSL has stepped it up in all areas and continues to get better each year. We can only imagine what they have in store for 2020, especially with the massive success of Grasslands being just as big as any headliner. I’m sure the areas will expand, the lineup with be great and the overall experience should continue to reach new heights…
For more info on Outside Lands go to: www.sfoutsidelands.com