It was truly strange and, at times, exhilarating Friday for those of us who haven't partaken in many concerts or festivals since they began happening again a few months back to be thrown back into a sea of humanity at Outside Lands. The at-capacity crowd was enormous by any measure — and clearly everyone who had tickets was clamoring to be there for Day 1.
While it was a pretty balmy week leading up to the festival, Friday afternoon brought in a thick bank of fog over Golden Gate Park that settled inside the festivital grounds around 3:30 p.m. and didn't let up. That made for a typically moody Friday night as darkness fell and all the trees were uplit as they usually are for Outside Lands. Thankfully, the ground conditions weren't that muddy despite last weekend's bomb-cyclone-meets-atmospheric-river weather event. (However, best believe the patches of grass outside the Porta-Potties off Lands End had seen better, greener days)
But Friday’s subjectively dull weather conditions weren't enough to deter the kids from wearing skimpy festival gear and running around the park between stages en masse — the pathways were, at times, thronging with people and there was little choice but to go with the flow.
The newly added SOMA Tent, which is set up like a dark nightclub inside with lots of lasers and where house music DJs are playing all weekend long, was a popular destination in Marx Meadow — festival organizers added it this year due to demand, seen in the often long lines to get into the small House by Heineken tent, which this year is actually an outdoor dance area with its own small stage.
The festival's "Health Check Fast Pass" wristbands, however, are not sufficient to get one into the tent, and they're doing an extra vaccination check here, leading to very long lines. The reason is that organizers apparently didn't distinguish, bracelet-wise, between those who show proof of full vaccination at the gates and those who show a recent negative COVID-19 test, and full vaccination is required under San Francisco ordinance to be inside the SOMA tent.
The afternoon was capped off by a stellar set by Sharon Van Etten, who pulled friend — and scheduled Saturday performer — Angel Olson on stage to do their duet "Like I Used To" as a closing number.
The second-smallest outdoor stage, the Sutro Stage in Lindley Meadow, had a positively massive crowd turn out for genre-mixing duo DRAMA, whose cathartic single "You've Done Enough" had the crowd bouncing and dancing. Similarly for their five-year-old single "Hopes Up" from their Gallows EP. This is a band who only put out their first full-length album in February 2020, but they were already on Another Planet's radar and were included in last year's Inside Lands broadcast too.
Glass Animals put on a good show to a very excited crowd after the sun went down.
Tyler, the Creator's headlining set on the Twin Peaks Stage, opposite The Strokes on the Land's End Stage, was the destination for many — and Julian Casablancas being notably shitty about San Francisco and its COVID-19 policies, complaining onstage about being asked twice to show his proof of vaccination, and then doing a lackluster set, didn't help keep the crowds engaged.
The Strokes performance tonight at Outside Lands was the hands down worst I've seen by any band at a major festival, let alone a headliner. Not sure how Julian Casablancas could possibly thinks he's the shit when he so plainly sucks.— FactoryOfGladness (@factoryofglad) October 30, 2021
@Casablancas_J not sure why you dissed San Francisco during your Outside Lands set. If you are so down on it, you didn’t have to play there.— Cindi🌹🏳️🌈🦀🥑🍣🥃🥂⚾️ (@CindiLewis9) October 30, 2021
Tyler's set, meanwhile, was full of energy and bonding with the crowd — he gave a shoutout to all the Black people at the festival, saying his festival audiences are usually majority white, and adding "I feel safe." He also complimented the venue, saying the trees and the fog were "gorgeous" to look out on and the whole thing was "kinda cute."
He brought the crowd to a frenzy with songs like "See You Again" and "LUMBERJACK," and he brought his usual showmanship — singing from atop a rocking vintage Chris-Craft wooden speedboat with pastoral scenes projected behind him. Also, his opening song, "Corso," brought with it some intense pyrotechnics.
In summation: Day 1 of Outside Lands felt like a true return to form, and a welcomed window back into a pre-pandemic San Francisco. Between bumping into esteemed colleagues, paying an inordinate amount of money for sustenance — yes, there really is a $50 bowl of ramen available at OSL this year — and seeing electrifying live sets, the first day of OSL's first IRL festival since 2019 was a sight to behold. Let's just hope we see Lizzo don her Baby Yoda Halloween costume at some point tonight before she takes the stage at Lands End.
Check back for our Day 2 coverage of this year's OLS tomorrow.
*SFist editors Jay Barmann and Matt Charnock both contributed to this piece