2012 Outside Lands Festival Overview
With a positive weather forecast and a backpack full of blankets, I wandered into Golden Gate Park for my second Outside Lands Festival. This was the first year in which all tickets sold out, so the park was filled to capacity. I didn't know what it would look like, but I was ready to experience it. The first day always has a kind of anxiety to it, whether it's dealing with Muni not being able to handle the amount of passengers on the bus or deciding which band to favor during a schedule conflict. There's the desire for everything to work out really nicely, and when it does, it's perfect.
However, not everything can go in your favor. The first thing that didn't work out very well and was a constant issue throughout the festival was the less-than-ideal weather. It was often foggy, with temperatures sticking around the 50s and low 60s. Many attendees from out of town were painfully unequipped to handle the chilly weather and ever-present fog, wearing shorts and tank tops. I was cold in two layers; I couldn't imagine how people were surviving in only one. But no one can control the weather, and the music didn’t stop because of it.
Outside Lands is as much a San Francisco festival as it is a music festival. Other festivals make themselves known as a place for great summer music, but Outside Lands' other attractions are arguably as anticipated as the performers. The attractions in the festival grounds have something for every San Francisco stereotype, be it the yuppie, the hippie, the hipster, and anything in between. I challenge any music festival to have a more eclectic and delicious mix of food available from concession stands. I planned out my meals as much as I planned out which artists to see.
Being a foodie is a very common occurrence in San Francisco, and most natives would likely not settle for the usual festival fare. Instead you get Korean short-rib tacos, pork belly burgers, cornmeal-battered chicken sandwiches, and lamb poutine. It felt like the food garnered more attention than some of the half-naked people walking around.
Adding to the festivals' consumables was Wine Lands and Beer Lands. Wine Lands has been a mainstay of the festival since its inception, while Beer Lands was a new addition to the activities. Both showcased local products extensively, and they were often a great place to go to when you didn't want to see a band. Amongst enthusiasts' buzzwords such as "mouthfeel" and "good nose," there was the giddy shouting of patrons looking to get their money's worth. If there's anything that San Franciscans like, it's having quality things in excess. Wine Lands was especially popular, with its tent blocking out some of the harsh winds blowing in as the evening arrived. Concertgoers could warm up, sipping fine wines and casually talk without having to shout over loud PA systems.
In keeping with the eco-friendly bent of San Francisco, Outside Lands had an incentive-laden recycling program where they would give patrons shirts, posters, and even tickets to next year's festival if they collected enough bottles and cups people left behind. This kept the fields marginally cleaner each day, even though there was still random trash piles at the end of the day, something that’s unavoidable at festivals. Outside Lands also tried to spread the word on environmentalism with Eco Lands, an area that featured workshops, local organizations, and vendors that focused on sustainability. Reducing the festival’s carbon footprint was the Panhandle Stage, which was completely powered by solar energy. It was a small stage, but featured many lauded artists such as Dr. Dog, Father John Misty, and Wolfgang Gartner.
The lineup this year was incredibly diverse, with headliners varying from dubstep to funk to metal to Icelandic drone, drawing a wealth of fans with every kind of music taste. There were times when there wasn't a band I wanted to see, and I'm sure there were similar times for many other fans. But the festival did more than its part in keeping concertgoers entertained. I was so busy, I didn't even get a chance to try out some of the booths giving out free stuff in the Polo Field. A visitor could spend the entire weekend only taking part in all the non-music events, and they would still not have enough time to do everything.
Overall, this Outside Lands was much more hectic than last year. The crowds felt denser, the music was louder, and the choices were harder to make. But it was also a good kind of hectic. I was rushed, but I was rushing to the next cool thing the festival had to offer. The crowds were packed, but many were there to just enjoy themselves. And there might have been too many things to do in three days, but an embarrassment of riches can be quite a good thing. Outside Lands clicked this year. It survived its busiest, biggest year yet, and judging by the success, it’s primed to take on the next year with gusto.