As Outside Lands celebrated its tenth birthday in Golden Gate Park, thousands cheered Sunday night as the seminal British rock band, the Who, blew out the candles.
Led by original members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, the band took the Lands End stage just after 7:30 p.m., as the San Francisco fog and mist were reaching their weekend peak. Festival-goers were still ambling over from other performances as the band launched into its set, an obvious sign that the demographic of Outside Lands doesn’t entirely cater to the Who’s typical crowd.
Being headliners, they had plenty of time to banter between songs, and Townshend and Daltrey took the opportunity to offer a little history lesson to the millennials who packed the Polo Field.
“Way back in 1967 this is kinda where we started. … We played shows in San Francisco and then we headed down to the Monterey Pop Festival to play with Jimi Hendrix.”
He went on to describe what it was like in San Francisco at the time:
“There were many Vietnam vets that had come home, running around on Haight-Ashbury messed up on smack. It was a sad time.”
There was a stark contrast in many of the people who took in the Who’s set at Outside Lands. In the minority were folks, mostly 30 and older, who would’ve sat through sleet and snow to see the band, and knew every word to every song. And then there were many of the younger generation, who came because they felt like it was something they were supposed to do.
The latter tended to chatter during the set, and comments like, “Oh, I didn’t know they were from England,” and “When are they going to play that, ‘who are you’ song?” could be heard.
The band was clearly prepared for this and took it in stride, using it as a starting point to make a connection as they reminisced about their own youths. Daltrey described being 19 years old, married with a child, and choosing to pursue the Who over family life:
“It worked out pretty well in the end.”
Townshend dedicated the band’s stunning rendition of “My Generation” to the Outside Lands audience:
“This is a song I wrote when I was 19. … I was very, very angry.”
The two remaining members of the Who still have what it takes to put on a dynamic, exciting show over 50 years into their careers, and while it may have been lost on some Outside Landers, it was certainly not lost on all.