Golden Gate Park holds endless moments of emotions, some good, and maybe some bad. Each August, people from the Bay Area and beyond grip onto three days of fun, friends and experiences within the tents and stages set up for the annual Outside Lands festival.
New attractions and vendors came forth this time around, yet the music acts still had their moments to shine. Isn’t that why we go to music festivals in the first place?
Now in its 11th year, Outside Lands garners attention for its big past headliners like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Metallica, Muse, Arcade Fire and Elton John. For 2018, organizers chose a more diverse selection of artists from all genres were chosen. Friday set up an introduction to a bigger and grander Outside Lands than previous years, even if some of the acts underwhelmed.
South of the Polo Fields containing the main Land’s End stage, an array of marijuana dispensaries, shops and farms set up tents and booths to show off products and tell attendees about their business.
At the top of a set of steep metal stairs, Green Lands, spelled with big letters made of “weed,” welcomed those who smoke or were curious about marijuana and its medical remedies.
It’s not all fun and green times when it comes to being a legit bud business, even in an era when we can call marijuana legal. Mesh Ventures explained that their cannabis manufacturing venture fund helps smaller farmers and sellers stay in business.
Grass Lands looked pretty — brightened with wooden and earthy décor yet with a modern feel — though I felt as though I should’ve seen a guy blowing smoke circles inside smoke circles, while samples of dabs and bouts of contagious ‘high’ laughter abound. It brings people together, especially those who are into it, and it was missing.
Still, the idea of having Grass Lands in a popular festival in the modern age, as shops’ mission statements go, is a step forward to having weed recognized as a legit way of medical healing.
Bill Nye & Paul Scheer – The Comedy of Science
For the first time in Outside Lands history, a speaker series called Discussions About Virtually Everything (D.A.V.E.) was held in The Barbary, where Marx Meadow lies. Every day, new speakers explain and answer question on different intellectual topics that they specialize in.
Friday’s first speaker was the one and only Bill Nye, interviewed by comedian Paul Scheer.
Before Nye took the intimate stage — his talk was also broadcast outside the room to those who couldn’t get in due to available space — fans sitting in chairs filling up the area chanted, “Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!”
Roars and lively shouts of gratitude erupted when Scheer introduced Nye as he walked on stage.
Scheer wandered around the room and through aisles, handing the microphone to attendees with a fire-burning itch to ask Nye a question.
Nye will be Nye, delivering straightforward and sometimes open-ended answers. But his calm and friendly demeanor exceeded my expectations for how this guy, who had such a powerful impact on my childhood, interacts with all kinds of people.
He said his answer for carbon reduction is “You just gotta vote. Vote,” continuing with that idea, “If we had a fee on carbon, people would be innovating.”
Leaving The Barbary, my internal compass took me to the Land’s End on the very west side of the festival to see Billie Eilish.
I had no expectations wandering through the crowd ready to listen to Eilish sing. I wasn’t an avid listener; I hadn’t even heard of her until she was recommended that I see her.
I see and hear what the buzz is surrounding Eilish.
She plays with the crowd, entertaining us with her body movements while dancing around the stage while blending long, heavy synths, like that of Tyler, the Creator, with her powerful, celestial voice, like Halsey, or Lana Del Rey.
Though she had limited movement due to a boot on her inured right foot, she busted her ass off.
“Because I can’t go that hard, you all have to go harder for me!” she exclaimed in the middle of her set.
Eilish cares about her performance, showcasing unique visuals on the huge LED screens facing the audience. That weird backwards hell scene from Twin Peaks played alongside “My Boy,” while scenes from old Betty Boop cartoons and The Little Rascals worked in sequence to “party favor.”
As some of the crowd wandered to see other acts, I advanced closer because the next act was N.E.R.D., a hip/hop and rock infused band including the talents of Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo and Shay Haley.
I caught the bug of the angry and funky hip-hop beats backed by heavy guitars and fast-paced drums starting with Rage Against The Machine. N.E.R.D. may lack a bit more of that metal side, but I can’t deny their infectious energy.
Infectious, though, was hardly the word to describe N.E.R.D. on Friday. They felt misplaced. The audience up front, full of young adult and teen faces, didn’t get as excited as Pharrell was hoping they’d get.
It was more like a roller coaster of excitement, then boredom.
Not even N.E.R.D.’s five flexible dancers could elevate the crowd’s stagnant intensity until the end, when they rocked on to their current hit “Lemon.”
Odesza takes Day 1
Sunset hit the horizon parallel to the trees around Golden Gate Park. As N.E.R.D. finished packing up and coming up next on the Land’s End stage, electronic music duo Odesza emerged, and amazed.
As I wiggled my way through the packed crowed to about 40 feet away from the stage, the ground shook. In the Bay Area, shaking ground is not considered good. However, since the cause was booming synth bass and brass, I was prepared for a good time and an act I’ve wanted to see for a long time.
Audience members behind me felt the same way, shouting “Oh, my God! Oh, my God!”
The visuals of a space station floated over what looked like Mars spread on the gigantic screen. Then, a group of snare drummers lined along the edge of the stage, playing their instruments, followed by two trumpet players and trombone players.
Odesza’s Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight took the stage finally and played a streak of ethereal songs.
I couldn’t think that I was on this planet anymore. I was taken to a place that doesn’t exist; A place that would be wonderful, forever.
In these moments, Outside Lands makes time for people to feel and enjoy music, food and drinks with others who want the same.