Outside Lands Proves That US Festivals Are Here To Stay; But Only When Executed Correctly
Outside Lands Shaped The US Festival Landscape Over The Last Decade, This Year Was A Culmination Of The Festival’s Success Over The Years (2008-2017)
A decade ago Outside Lands debuted in Golden Gate Park. The San Francisco based music and arts festival spent the entirety of its existence within the Obama administration, until this year. Of course, the last decade was a distinctly formative period in history. Though it wasn’t just the geopolitical landscape that shifted dramatically over the last decade; the US festival market found a profitable place in American popular culture. Since then, many festivals have started and— ultimately— failed, see: Pemberton Festival, Mysteryland USA, Fyre Fest.
In their formative years (2008-2010) it certainly helped that Outside Lands was co-produced by Superfly’s Rick Farman—Superfly hosts Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee. Outside Lands producers certainly had thorough experience in large-scale music festival production before they ever started Outside Lands. As Outside Lands has grown over the years they’ve become one of the most innovative modern music festivals in America.
50 Years Of Music History Condensed Into Three Days Time
Booking a festival bill is very much akin to solving an ever-changing puzzle.
With the rise of streaming giants like Spotify and Apple music, a well-executed lineup announced in April could quite possibly become irrelevant when gates open in August. However, if you include the right blend of fresh contemporary vs nostalgic throwbacks, hit on the right genres and undiscovered sub-genres, and correctly balance the weight between headliners and undercard, you may complete the memorable puzzle in time to release the lineup and— if you’re lucky— sell out.
Outside Lands has been known to do just that and more. They’ve consequetively pushed the envelope when it comes to their musical selections. In the past, the festival’s headliners have included Radiohead, Tom Petty, The Strokes, Phish, Jack White, Paul McCartney, Kanye West, and many more. Superfly has also been known to book an eclectic undercard troupe: everything from Duran Duran to Nile Rodgers to M.I.A.
This year’s headlining five featured Metallica, The Who, Gorillaz, Lorde, and A Tribe Called Quest. Albeit, Tribe made a last minute cancellation on the festival. Much like years past, Outside Lands placed heavy value on legacy acts The Who and Metallica this year.
Outside Lands Lineup Transcends Age, Bringing Together Multiple Generations Of People; Legacy Acts Still Reign Supreme In Golden Gate Park
Outside Lands exhibits timeless curation. The festival has continually itself apart in it audience understanding over the last ten years. Outside Lands is unique in the fact that it’s the kind of festival that a parent could attend with their high school or college aged student. Of course, the kid might opt to see Empire of the Sun with friends rather than catch Metallica with mom or dad, but that’s the point, you have options at Outside Lands. However, if you were lucky enough to catch Metallica at the Land’s End stage on Saturday, you might have witnessed history.
The band blazed through a setlist full of tunes from their newest album, Hardwired To Self Destruct, along with hits like “Nothing Else Matters,” “Master of Puppets,” and “Enter Sandman.” The group also included a few deep cuts from their back catalog to end with a bang. As Kirk Hammett opened into “Battery” the crowd was ablaze, singing along to nearly every lyric, or at least doing their best to mouth something of the sort.
“Whenever they play Outside Lands, it feels like the hometown gig that it is for them,” said Superfly producer Rick Farman. “I think they love doing it too, so there’s a special bond between the band and the festival.”
Metallica is a booking that, even if unfamiliar to a large portion of the music festival demographic, can still act as the highlight of the weekend for nearly every attendee. Their performance just goes to show that the legacy act still holds a valuable place in modern music festivals.
- Atlas, Rise!
- For Whom the Bell Tolls
- The Unforgiven
- Now That We’re Dead
- Moth Into Flame
- Harvester of Sorrow
- Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
- Sad but True
- Master of Puppets
- Fade to Black
- Seek & Destroy
- Nothing Else Matters
- Enter Sandman
The Who’s performance on Sunday proved to be the much more accessible antithesis to Metallica’s legendary performance on Saturday. While the performance may have lacked the tattooed, thrash metal fervor that makes a Metallica show so special, there’s no denying that everyone in attendance witnessed one of the greatest bands to ever live to take the stage.
The Who proved to be one of the most buzzed-about sets of the entire weekend. By the time that the third set rolled along on Sunday at Land’s End, the entire front section of the crowd was packed to the brim. “I’m just waiting to die,” said Pete Townshend as they finished their first tune. Hearing songs that echo youthful rebellion is odd when it’s coming from 70 something-year-olds, but it’s certainly a treat for those that haven’t yet had the chance to catch them rock. Complete with mic twirls from Daltry and sweeping guitar windmills from Townshend, the set had a palpable energy the entire way through.
- I Can’t Explain
- The Seeker
- Who Are You
- I Can See for Miles
- The Kids Are Alright
- My Generation (with “Cry If You Want” snippet)
- Naked Eye
- Behind Blue Eyes
- Join Together
- You Better You Bet
- I’m One
- The Rock
- Love, Reign O’er Me
- Eminence Front
- Amazing Journey
- Pinball Wizard
- See Me, Feel Me
- Baba O’Riley
- Won’t Get Fooled Again
A Timeless Pop Spectacle, Gorillaz Satisfy Young And Old
Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn pulled out all of the stops during one of the first gigs of the Gorillaz fall 2017 tour. By inviting more than a dozen guests ranging from Little Dragon to Pharcyde to Pusha T, Albarn crafted a cohesive, upbeat dance-pop party. Gorillaz had something for everybody in their two-hour set list. Deep cuts like “Tomorrow Comes Today” and “Empire Ants” (the first time the track was played live since 2010) were played in between fervent pop ballads like “Momentz” and “Strobelite.”
The Gorillaz setlist contained enough energy to keep the crowd warm and moving during the entire set. It was if they never stopped playing. With a set list that was 26 songs deep by the time the encore finished, it’s safe to say that everyone in attendance was thoroughly satisfied. Albarn played so long that the sound even cut off during the final track “Demon Days.”
Gorillaz have proved to be an act that can dazzle fans young and old. College students are familiar with their newest release of Humanz and seasoned festival goers can look forward to hearing more than a few tracks from the groups deep back catalogue.
- M1 A1
- Last Living Souls
- Saturnz Barz
- Tomorrow Comes Today
- Rhinestone Eyes
- She’s My Collar (with Kali Uchis)
- Let Me Out (with Pusha T)
- Momentz (with De La Soul) (tour debut)
- Sleeping Powder
- 19/2000 (Started over and played a… more )
- On Melancholy Hill
- Empire Ants (with Yukimi Nagano) (First time played live since 2010.)
- Busted and Blue
- El Mañana
- Carnival (with Anthony Hamilton) (2D Special Version)
- Dirty Harry (with Bootie Brown) (tour debut)
- Strobelite (with Peven Everett)
- Interlude: Elevator Going Up
- Interlude: Penthouse
- Sex Murder Party (with Jamie Principle) (and Zebra Katz)
- Garage Palace (with Little Simz)
- We Got the Power (with Little Simz)
- Encore: Stylo (with Peven Everett) (and Bootie Brown)
- Feel Good Inc. (with De La Soul) (tour debut)
- Clint Eastwood (with Del the Funky Homosapien)
- Don’t Get Lost in Heaven
- Demon Days (Sound cut off near the end of the song due to time constraints.)
Food And Booze Are (Not Shockingly) Important Aspects Of Curating A Music Festival
Fans descended into Golden Gate Park not only for music, but for a wide selection of craft beer, food, and locally grown wine.
Outside Lands is notorious for curating its own mini wine festival dubbed “wine lands.” Inside wine lands, attendees can choose from a diverse selection of wines “from micro-sized producers like Alysian and Floodgate, to mega-sized brands like the Prisoner and Ravenswood” reports the San Francisco Chronicle. “There’s hipster wine (Idlewild, Leo Steen, Ryme) and housewife wine (Menage a Trois). There’s generous Russian River Pinot (Davis Bynum) and lean Mendocino County Pinot (Anthill Farms). There’s also brawny Zinfandel (Turley), funky red blends (Pax), even sake in a can (Bushido).”
Beer lands also impressed with a wide variety of craft beers. The mini beer festival took place at the back of the land’s end crowd, in between the two windmills; the showcase featured more than 25 craft beers. “A towering beer mug reading “Ye Ole Beer Lands,” beckons all you brew lovers into Beer Lands, returning to Outside Lands for its fifth year.” Reads Outside Lands website. “Beer Lands will gather more than 25 breweries, hailing from San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma, Half Moon Bay and Berkeley, that epitomize Northern California’s powerful craft beer culture.”
Outside Lands Continues To Push The Envelope In What It Means To Be A Modern Music Festival
Much as the same could be said for the Bay Area itself, Outside Lands has situated itself amongst an audience in tune with the great possibilities of what culturally attuned entertainment can be.
Each year, the festival capitalizes on giving back to the abundant cultural hub of San Francisco. “Our defining ethos is to take care of the audience and the artist,” said Allen Scott, of Another Planet. “It’s an attention to detail that we and our partners have on these festivals, and with Outside Lands specifically, it’s always been about a celebration of San Francisco and the Bay Area. In every single detail, that’s what we want to do.”
It’s that kind of attention to detail that turns a “music festival” into an all-encompassing modern entertainment venture.
Whether it’s music, art, food, creative programming, comedy, wine or beer— if you’re into it— Outside Lands probably has it. As the festival landscape shifts dramatically Outside Lands seems to be hitting it in stride and setting the pace for music and cultural events across the country. Above all else, Outside Lands is a celebration of life itself. Festival-goers can indulge themselves in some of San Francisco’s finest local food, laugh their ass off in Outside Lands premiere comedy tent, and witness some of the greatest festival sets in music history.
***All photos by Andrew Jorgensen and John Flynn***