There are three topics we will inevitably bring up in every review of Outside Lands. The quality of the music, the cultural significance of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco’s art history, and how in one way or another, the fog always finds a way to impact the ambiance of the festival. With this year’s fog having an even bigger presence than in years past, we thought to search for a meteorologist to explain this phenomenon.
Outside Lands once again closed out the summer for the Bay Area, showcasing possibly its most eclectic lineup to date. The 15th year of the festival more than lived up to the hype, as it consistently does. By the numbers, for one weekend, about one-tenth of the population of the city concentrates in Golden Gate Park to share in this experience with about 80,000 fans in attendance out of the 800,000 residents of the city. With so many expectations built up, day one proved to deliver on all it had promised.
Day three of Outside Lands brought along with it a familiar bittersweet feeling. The artists spanned such an eclectic genre, it felt hard to pinpoint a coherent theme of the artists of the day, but in a way, that felt entirely symbolic of everything the city of San Francisco should stand for. The day brought music from every imaginable genre from hip hop, to hard rock, artists whose music has almost been dwarfed by their political movements, and even a well-welcomed Grateful Dead cover in Golden Gate Park.
Day two of Outside Lands brought the biggest crowd of the weekend, and with that it gave a platform to a heavier genre, once thought to be a fad of the early 2000’s. From top to bottom, the day’s bill was packed with pop-punk artists new, old, and some bridging the gap in between, proving once and for all, pop punk’s not dead.
While the distance between this and the last Outside Lands was the shortest in the history of the festival, last year’s dates were moved from August to October due to the pandemic, anticipation from the fans was not lacking as crowds showed up early and enthusiastically to Golden Gate Park Friday morning. The return of San Francisco’s end of Summer classic brought a sense of unity to the city as everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief that the community and the world was returning to a more comfortable pace.
After more than two years of waiting for Outside Lands to return, day three felt bittersweet. The end of this grand return was looming and after such a long hiatus from marathons of constant stimulation, generally, many felt strange to notice that their labido for revelry had atrophied. Thankfully the final day started with a low-profile and built energy throughout the day encouraging fans to warm up with the lineup.
Outside Lands is finally back. The crown jewel in the Bay Area’s yearly live music experience finally returned to Golden Gate Park. Three days of music, food, and escape for everyone from hippies to tech bros. Unable to return during their typical early-August dates due to pandemic-related restrictions, the festival was slated for a unique space on the calendar. Halloween, the unofficial landmark holiday of San Francisco, collided with the last day of Outside Lands 2021.