The Outside Lands festival kicked off in Golden Gate Park yesterday, (as you know!) and while crowds may have looked a little thin in the early afternoon, things definitely perked up by the time we arrived for the happy hour rush. In fact, the sheer volume of people out yesterday compared to previous years was the most impressive thing we saw all evening.
We arrived a little late after 5 p.m. (because we are normal people with day jobs), but judging by the number of people already well on their way to finding their happy festival place, there's no shortage of people who either took the day or or (more likely) don't have class in the summer.
So, we missed most of the daytime acts, but we do have to give a little hat tip to Muni for actually getting us out to 30th Ave in a timely manner. The rush hour 5-Fultons were running a mere 5 minutes apart with seats to spare. For that, the Municipal Railroad should get a reprieve from terrible service jokes for a week. Or at least until we're late for something else.
Inside the festival, finding some actual music to listen to proved more difficult than we would have imagined. One of the big draws of the night: Big Boi, who was scheduled to play the Sutro Stage right by the main entrance, never quite made it out to perform. After some technical difficulties, Big Boi came out to announce he was waiting for his DJ, who never materialized. But Dave Chappelle did - the comedian popped out to say hello and play with a beach ball:
Meanwhile, over in the Polo Fields, Phish noodled their way through a perfectly inoffensive 4-hour set. We're not really the type who enjoys standing around in a field wiggling while Trey Anastasio (this generation's John Tesh) makes tantric guitarfaces, but it turns out jam bands can serve a purpose as decent background music.
On the Panhandle stage, smack in the middle of the grounds, we caught the end of Best Coast as Bethany Cosentino and company played their garage-y girl rock surprisingly loud sound for a solar-powered stage. The Panhandle Stage has the added bonus of being located directly next to the 4505 Meats stand and Ryan Farr's award winning hamburgers, so you kind of get all the senses going over there.
At the Twin Peaks stage, for B-Squad headliners The Shins, the millennial indie crowd packed Speedway Meadow a couple hundred yards deep coming off the Best Coast set and descending out of McLaren Pass - a woodsy thoroughfare added for the festival that includes "Food Truck Forest" and the desert-centric Choco Lands. The idea of seeing the Shins in a meadow surrounded by colorfully backlit foliage might sound ideal, but with the crowds packed so deep the band's intimate sound was less compelling than usual. Judging by the sing-alongs during the Shins' third album tracks, (and the relatively young crowd) this was a 2nd or 3rd generation set of Shins fans.
As we made out our way out of the festival, folks crowding the Choco Lands portapotties hummed along as the Shins delivered "New Slang" in one of those surreal moments that makes us suddenly love and hate everything about music festivals. Phish noodled on at the far end of the polo fields and Erykah Badu funked out in an equally crowded Lindley meadow.
Muni didn't get our patronage on the way home though, with an overabundance of gypsy cabs and a couple friends to split the cost, the luxury of a town car was too hard to pass up after the shoulder-to-shoulder meadows we spent the last few hours in.