Whether you were just passing by and did a little bobbing to Robyn on your way to get a beer, or you were a young queer itching to find your people, or you were a jaded LGTBQ festival-goer delighted to find a little drag in the middle of the day, the new Dolores' stage at Outside Lands was a hit and an unbridled success.
You could blame it on the SOMA dance tent getting closed two days in a row by 5 p.m. due to a buckling floor and a crowd eager to bounce. Or you could just say that drag shows and queer life have become so mainstream at this point that an LGBTQ-themed dance area was bound to draw a crowd. But by the early evening of Saturday, Dolores' was popping off, with a drag DJ named Rubella Spreads spinning exactly what everyone wanted to hear.
There were dance mixes of Miley Cyrus's "Flowers" and Prince's "Kiss." There was Beyonce's "Cuff It," the Grammy-winning runaway hit from last year's Renaissance. There was Robyn's classic "Dancing on My Own." There was ABBA's "Gimme Gimme Gimme" segueing into Madonna's "Hung Up" — which samples the opening of "Gimme Gimme Gimme," and maybe there were some straight people who didn't even know that but quickly figured it out.
That was just one moment on Saturday, and there were plenty more moments before and after it.
Oasis brought its all-black drag show Reparations out that afternoon, and later Rupaul's Drag Race star Adore Delano came out to do the headlining Princess show.
A day earlier, on Friday, FAKE AND GAY brought performer Saturn Risin9, and DJ Sadgayboi, who as the Chronicle pointed out played to the Gen Z set with songs like Troye Sivan's "Rush" — though much of the gay community has embraced this summer banger — and a club remix of “American Teenager” by Ethel Cain, who had just been playing on the Sutro Stage shortly before.
On Sunday, it was Hard French's turn to curate the stage, with drag queen Dulce de Leche helping helm the stage along with Per Sia and Yves Saint Croissant, and DJs Alok, Chuck Gunn, Matthew Paul, and more. Hard French DJ Brown Amy, a.k.a. Oakland's Amy Martinez, closed out the day with some great house music.
The beats coming from this stage were infectious and could be heard over at Beer Lands, and all across the rear side of the Polo Field as people were running to the porta-potties.
Yes, it was clear that queer and trans festival attendees of all ages were drawn there throughout each day, but it was also clear that plenty of straight-identified people took dance breaks at Dolores' too. And that just as heartening, because here were the LGBTQ folks showing everyone else how it's done, creating their own little bumping daylight nightclub amid this mass celebration of heterogenous music.
Unlike at actual queer nightclubs, where there is a fair degree of self-segregation — though don't tell that to the bachelorette parties! — this was, day by day, a fully integrated experience for queer and straight, trans and cis alike. There was no drama, and no shade — though more than a few sheltered straight boys might have raised their eyebrows at seeing their first loud and proud queer or trans performer on a live stage.
You've likely heard that the younger generation now is more open, more tolerant, more fluid, and more open to diverse sexualities and gender expressions than any who have come before them. And while that may be true, that doesn't necessarily reflect the average music festival audience demographic — or, say, the people who were mostly just at Outside Lands to see Foo Fighters or Lil Yachty.
But in adding this LGBTQ-friendly space this year, the organizers at Another Planet and Superfly acknowledged that this piece of the local culture in SF deserved to be included in the festival. The promoters and performers who filled that stage all weekend showed the festival-goers how we do it in SF, and how maybe all those straight nightclubs are doing it all wrong.
It's about silliness and joy, about playing some dance mixes in between the more challenging stuff, and letting the dancing go on without a break in the beat, even in dark times.
Let's hope this becomes a permanent feature at next year's festival, and maybe even expands a bit. With how popular dance spaces clearly are — the SOMA dance area was once again drawing huge numbers Sunday when it went open-air — organizers should maybe give Dolores' room to grow and play a bit longer into the evenings. (Being on the Polo Field things had to wind down before the headliners each day.)