Photos by Camila Martinez
Heading to the Bay Area the night before San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, I was presented with the dichotomy of returning home and discovering a new world altogether. A mere article summarizing the atmosphere, events, performances, and people at Outside Lands doesn’t do it justice—but here, at least, is my rendition of those glorious three days I spent in the park.
One of the distinctive qualities that sets Outside Lands apart from other festivals is its location. In my life I have often heard that the success of a business depends on three things: location, location, and location. I don’t think that Outside Lands could have been held in a better place—even though I have fleeting nostalgic moments of Coachella in Indio. Anyways, Golden Gate Park is smack in the center of the city, an oasis amidst an urban world fit with graffiti, street performers, and old men begging for change. Speaking of paradise, what better weather to have a three-day festival in? The city is known for its overcast skies and mild weather, but the weekend of Aug. 9 was blessed with a blend of sunshine, clouds, and even a little mist. Needless to say, the setting for this festival is undeniably versatile and hard to beat.
While the music dominates the main interest and, well, purpose of the festival, local food vendors delighted the taste buds of festival-goers, with food tents and areas known as “Choco Lands” and “Outside Lambs.” In addition to food that will leave your mouth watering, “Beer Lands” and “Wine Lands” appealed to the 21 and up crowd, complete with local wines from Marin and Sonoma and beers such as Lagunitas. Paired with exceptional cuisine and music of all kinds, Outside Lands, as put by one attendee, will “blow your mind.” Below are the top seven performances and cuisine that stood out this year (please note that the order of performances and food correlates with the progression of festival).
The London-based indie-folk band was formed in 2010 by lead singer Elena Tonra, guitarist Igor Haefeli, and drummer Remi Aguilella. It’s already one of my favorite bands, so I made a point to arrive early at the Pan Handler stage for their all-too-short 25-minute set. To Tonra’s surprise, a rather large gathering at the rather small stage anxiously waited for them to finish their sound check and begin their set at 4:40 on Friday, Aug. 9. Daughter’s heart-wrenching lyrics mixed with slow tempo songs captured the hearts and attention of the crowd. Hits like “Youth,” “Home,” and “Love” pulled at everyone’s heart strings, and with mist falling half way through the performance, there was no doubt Daughter provided a moment of internal reflection for their audience. “Thank you, thank you so much,” were the words of a very humbled Tonra after their set ended all too early.
2. Milo Greene
After finding my bearings at the festival, Saturday proved to be a slightly sunnier and better planned day. The Los Angeles band Milo Greene, another favorite of mine, went on at 2 p.m. at the Sutro Stage with the sun shining and the mood very much alive. I had the pleasure of seeing the band last year at Soho in Santa Barbara, and after being blown away, I made a point to make it to the festival in time for them. Band members Graham Fink, Marlana Sheetz, Robbie Arnett, and Andrew Heringer make up this talented band, often alternating lead singers and various instruments. Again, their loaded and emotional lyrics were complimented by the many instruments and changes in tempo during their songs, emulating a multitude of feelings. With only one album out—and with the intent of making another, so they say—Milo Greene played most of their debut album “Milo Greene,” with hits like “1957,” “Perfectly Aligned,” and “Cutty Love.” I should also mention they did an awesome, if not better, cover of Sufjan Steven’s “Chicago.”
3. The Head and the Heart
Later that Saturday, I trekked away from the delicious food tents back to the Sutro stage, where The Head and the Heart began their highly anticipated performance at 7:20 in the evening. Having arrived a little early, I scored a great spot by the fence of the sound technology equipment located on a hill, giving me a much better view than my normal 5-foot-4 self could provide. As the schedule of the festival implies, bigger bands tend to play later in the day—and I must say, The Head and the Heart gained quite a bit of already expected traction and fans. With light mist and fog setting in, the crowd embraced the band’s sweet and happy lyrics about love, life, and friendships. Composed of Josiah Johnson, Jonathan Russell, Charity Rose Thielen, Chris Zasche, Kenny Hensley, and Tyler Williams, the ensemble of talent uses piano, guitar, violin, bass, drums, and percussion to create the lovely sounds of “Lost in my Mind,” “Rivers and Roads,” and “Honey Come Home.” While the crowd swayed and held hands with their significant others and friends, it was no lie that the favorite was Thielen, whose talent on the violin and unbelievable vocals won everyone over.
4. Homeroom’s Gilroy Mac ‘n Cheese
As an East Bay local, I was thrilled to see Oakland-based macaroni and cheese restaurant Homeroom at Outside Lands, and I did not hesitate to help myself to their mac ‘n cheese. The Gilroy mac ‘n cheese is made of gouda, pecorino, and roasted garlic from none other than Gilroy. Although they charged eight bucks a plate for an eighth of their regular platter (which is quite large), it was still nonetheless pleasant to savor the garlic and gouda in this very near and dear to my heart mac ‘n cheese. If you like cheese, and if you like macaroni, you best get yourself over to Homeroom and treat yourself.
5. Matt and Kim
The Brooklyn based duo (and couple) took Twin Peaks stage by storm on Sunday evening at 6:45, gathering a truly massive crowd on the last day of the festival. Worn out by commuting, lack of sleep, and the typical exhaustion that comes from attending a weekend festival such as Outside Lands, I made my way over to see Matt and Kim. I was tired, but forced myself to see them for the first time live. Matt and Kim exploded with energy and arguably woke up many other festival-goers who felt just as worn out. With Kim Schifino and Matt Johnson mastering the drums and keyboard, they rallied with the crowd on a number of levels. Their onstage chemistry radiated out to the crowd by interacting with them—several lucky individuals were even able to crowd surf from the bottom of the hill to the top, at Schifino’s request. With bouncing beach balls, crowd surfing, and even Schifino herself dancing on the crowd, it was clear that Matt and Kim’s performance blew the audience away. Hits like “Cameras,” “Let’s Go,” and “Silver Tiles” pleased the crowd almost as much as Johnson and Schifino did. Matt and Kim’s performance at Outside Lands was no doubt a favorite for both the crowd and the band, as Schifino said, “That’s what I love about you, San Francisco. You guys are the nicest f*cking people.”
6. Triple Layered Chocolate Cake
Naturally a sweet tooth, I couldn’t keep myself away from Choco Lands, a small area next to Outside Lambs, where everything is chocolate. After hearing raving reviews from friends who tried this chocolate cake, I made a point to buy my own slice of heaven (for only four bucks!). And yes, you could definitely say I loved it like a fat kid loves cake—it was incredibly rich, smooth, and full of flavor. The chocolate frosting on top was not too heavy, just the right amount. The actual cake part was also just right—it was moist, deliciously sweet, and had the perfect texture. Instead of wolfing it down in what would normally take me two or three minutes, I forced myself to savor every bite—sparing myself a tummy ache in the process. Absolutely delicious. Thank you, Choco Lands.
7. Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Red Hot Chili Peppers closed the festival Sunday night, and to no surprise, they completely tore up the stage with Flea’s legendary bass playing skills, Chad’s unfaltering drumming, Josh’s funk-influenced guitar jams, and Anthony Keidis’ undeniably perfected vocals. Perhaps I am a die hard fan of the Chili Peppers, but it doesn’t take a devoted follower to acknowledge the band’s deft ability to still play hit songs like “Under the Bridge,” “Snow,” and “Dani California” just as well as they did the first time. After seeing them in Oakland and at Coachella, I didn’t hesitate to leave Matt and Kim’s set to get a good spot for the Chili Peppers. A band that’s been around for 30-plus years and still maintaining their sound—especially after guitarist John Frusciante parted ways with the band in 2006— the Red Hot Chili Peppers were extremely well received by generations of people. Playing songs like “Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” and “Look Around” from their 2011 album “I’m With You” did not hinder the band from playing songs from their funk days, like “She’s Only 18.” Hits like “Can’t Stop,” “Higher Ground,” “Californication,” “Around the World,” and “Give It Away” rocked the crowd and provided a versatile set list of songs both old and new. Although the set ended seven minutes early, the Red Hot Chili Peppers left the crowd wanting more, and quite honestly, could not have provided a better ending to an incredible festival.