Outside Lands puts fresh spin on festival scene
Shamelessly saturated with clichés — here’s looking at you, flower crowns and fist pumps — it seems like it’s all been said and done when it comes to music festivals.
But in true San Francisco nature, Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, taking place in Golden Gate Park Friday through Sunday, is putting a fresh new spin on the seemingly-sated festival scene with a healthy mix of music, wine, beer, cuisine and comedy, all with an eco-friendly twist.
This is a festival expanding as fast as The City that holds it — so much so that we’ve highlighted anticipated acts, notable attractions, and prime selections to eat and drink for first-timers and Outside Lands veterans alike.
Happy listening, viewing and eating!
Hype Band: Mumford & Sons
This British folk-rock foursome has garnered six Grammies for their upbeat bluegrass sound. No strangers to the festival scene (they headlined the UK fest Glastonbury in 2013), they’ll bring their banjo-heavy ballads to the Land’s End Stage at 7:55 p.m.
Wild Card: Iration
The sunshine reggae-rock band got their big break playing roots reggae covers in Southern California. Their mellow, tropical sound might seem slightly out of place reverberating through the foggy knolls of Golden Gate Park, but you can catch them at the Panhandle Stage at 7:50 p.m.
Under the Radar: Broods
This electropop duo from New Zealand found their humble beginnings in an ABBA tribute band. Though they’ve only been playing under the Broods moniker for two years, their punchy tunes are sure to get the crowd grooving at the Twin Peaks stage at 12:45 p.m.
Hype Bands: Kendrick Lamar, The Black Keys
Saturday poses the ultimate rap vs. rock showdown pitting Kendrick Lamar vs. The Black Keys. Though this year’s lineup seems lacking in the rap arena compared to previous years, Lamar’s edgy, yet accessible sound is enough to fit the bill. The young rapper’s latest album, To Pimp a Butterfly, is an opus of oppression and a soulful homage to his childhood in Compton, which put him on the map as one of rap’s most dynamic raconteurs. Meanwhile, rock duo The Black Keys are Billboard chart toppers and have been churning out classic indie anthems for more than a decade. The sonic Sophie’s Choice starts at 8:25 p.m. when The Black Keys take over the Land’s End Stage and Kendrick owns Twin Peaks at 8:40 p.m.
Wild Card: Billy Idol
Idol’s success in the industry is indisputable, though his presence on the bill seems somewhat random, if only because he ranks seemingly low on the lineup totem pole. Nonchalantly wedged between Ben Harper and G-Eazy on the third line of the official lineup, his ’80s punk vibe might be lost on a young festival crowd. Catch him at Land’s End at 5:00 p.m.
Under the Radar: Twin Peaks
It is uncertain if this Chicago-based quintet is named after the cult classic ’90s show or the mountains, but their feel-good garage rock is aptly taking place on the namesake Twin Peaks Stage at 12:40 p.m.
Hype Band: Elton John
Outside Lands is known for seamlessly blending edgy up-and-comers while keeping it real with the classics, and Elton John is no exception. Check out his set at 7:35 p.m. at Land’s End, which will serve as the festival’s grand finale.
Wild Card: Slightly Stoopid
This funk-rock-reggae fusion band is popular in the festival circuit, but their chilled out stage presence and laidback surfer sound might be a bit too “So-Cal” for this SF festival. Check out their set at the Sutro Stage at 7:15 p.m.
Under the Radar: SZA
The neo soul songstress collides genres to create a sound that could be heard emanating from a smoky jazz bar in downtown Brooklyn. See if her intimate R&B repertoire translates well to a large festival stage at 12:40 p.m. at Twin Peaks.
The Back Wine-Mini Golf Course: This year’s Outside Lands is offering its very first three-hole Bay Area themed mini golf course. What could possibly be better (albeit more random) than being rewarded for a hole-in-one than a glass of local wine? Each hole is accompanied with a wine tasting courtesy of Sonoma County’s Cannonball Wine Company.
Live Art Installations: Muralists and painters from around the world will be live painting daily, accompanied by musical theater performances. Installations from years past will also be set up around the park so you can walk down memory lane on your way to the next set.
Digital Detox: Camp Grounded brings back one of Outside Land’s more serene sections with a unique way to “disconnect to reconnect.” The technology-free zone boasts incense, tea, a chalkboard and typewriters to turn off and tune in.
The Barbary: Outside Land’s resident comedy and variety tent is teaming up with San Francisco’s sensational comedy festival SF Sketchfest this year to present what sounds like a microcosm of SF itself. The Outside Lands website describes it as a fusion of “comedy, storytelling, music, improv and general weirdness.”
All You Can Eat (And Drink)
A Taste of the Bay: This year’s festival presents a mouth-watering culinary lineup with booths from Bay Area restaurants like Escape From New York Pizza, Tacolicious, Three Twins Ice Cream, Woodhouse Fish Co., Split Pea Seduction and Delfina.
Catch the Taste of the Bay booths by the Land’s End stage to try savory and sweet treats and literally everything (ramen burgers, chicken and waffles, sisig burritos, peanut tofu nachos and wild mushroom waffles) in between. It wouldn’t be a Bay Area bash without a few food trucks in the mix, so keep an eye out for local classics like Bacon Bacon and the Rib Whip.
Wine Lands: This year, 38 local wineries are part of this bustling, boozy dreamscape. Set under a high-top, circus-esque tent, each winery will have a booth set up to please wine snobs and first timers alike.
Beer Lands: Thirty-three local breweries like Lost Coast, Anchor Brewing Co. and Sierra Nevada will put other festivals’ “Beer Gardens” to shame.
Choco Lands: Across from Wine Lands, Choco Lands presents six different sweet spots (including Kara’s Cupcakes, Sharona’s Chocolate Shop and The Crème Brulee Cart) to satiate your sugar craving.
Cheese Lands: Aptly located next to Wine Lands and brought to you by Long Meadow Ranch in Napa Valley & Culture, a quarterly magazine for cheese lovers and cheese makers, Cheese Lands offers four different carefully curated cheese plates.
Gastromagic: The festival’s quirky corner where the weird and wonderful (and delicious) culminate is bigger and weirder than ever. Last year, bounce music diva Big Freedia found a way to incorporate twerking and beignets, so it might be worth a gander between sets. This year’s Gastromahic highlights include cook-offs, magicians, breakdancing and a “truffle shuffle.”