Saturday is often the most attended day of the three-day Outside Lands festival, but this year broke records with a reported 90,000 attendees — and that crowd didn't come without some complications.
The spacious festival grounds felt extra packed by 5 p.m. Saturday, though mid-afternoon arrivers at the north gates (the Fulton Street side, General Admission and VIP) ran into some major human traffic when the wristband-scanning servers went down. The flow of people through the entry gates halted just before 4 p.m. as Santigold was taking the main stage, and caused a subsequent backup of festival-goers that reportedly took an hour or more to get through. (Some of those in line reported seeing several women try to force their way to the front of the line because they urgently needed a bathroom.)
Plenty of people arrived early enough to catch Santigold's lively set, however she did not start on time due to audio issues — with the sound eventually kicking on close to 4 p.m. She proceeded to bring dozens of people up on stage from the front section of the audience to dance, after doing a couple of numbers without everything working properly.
At the opposite end of the grounds, Big Wild's first-ever Outside Lands appearance was packed tight, as eager fans — many of whom just arrived — crammed in to take in Jackson Stell's hits "When I Get There” and “Afterglow," as well as a cover of Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild."
Before Childish Gambino, raunch-rapper CupcakKe put on a stellar show at the venue's smallest stage, drawing an in-the-know, eclectic crowd along with a bunch of unfamiliar passersby who stayed to hear her hilarious, empowering songs "LGBT," "Whoregasm," and "Duck Duck Goose."
But the man of the hour and of the night was Donald Glover, a.k.a. Childish Gambino, who told the assembled throngs to put away their phones and announced that "this is church." He started his set in the middle of the crowd on the polo field, behind the sound booth, ultimately making his way down a guard-railed path to the stage — shirtless, with his signature loose white drawstring pants — and then in honor of the show being so well attended (he said he was told this was the biggest day in Outside Lands history), he descended back into the crowd to take selfies with fans along the guardrails.
After some pyrotechnics — actual fireworks — he got into his hits like "Feels Like Summer," "Boogieman," "Redbone," and "This Is America." And he also managed in his charismatic onstage banter to make the evening feel special — announcing this was the second to last time he'd be performing as Childish Gambino — and to make things feel intimate. Explaining to the crowd about why he loved the Bay Area, he talked about his friendship with Black Panther director Ryan Coogler, and said that Coogler was the first person to call him after his father recently died. "The Bay makes you understand how close and separate we all are — how you can go over a bridge and everything changes," Glover said, as quoted by the Chronicle.
Friday's mood was far less kinetic, despite solid sets by Twenty One Pilots, Blink 182, and The Lumineers. Comedic drag queen Alyssa Edwards packed the Barbary tent and pleased fans with a hilarious and mostly off-the-cuff set — her opener was rising standup star and Daily Show writer Dulce Sloan, who was also terrific. And Flying Lotus put on a masterful DJ set with 3D projections (complete with 3D glasses) that clearly thrilled those in the crowd who were high or rolling.
Sunday looks to be the sunniest of the three days, and will likely skew the oldest, crowd-wise, given the draw of Paul Simon.
Stay tuned on Monday as SFist takes you inside the first-ever GrassLands that was able to sell cannabis products and host on-site consumption lounges. And as we bring you photo sets and a recap from Sunday.