The weekend of August 8-10, 2014 marked the return of San Francisco’s Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival. Outside Lands is personal to me. It’s a major music festival that happens to be two blocks from my house. I could listen to it through my bedroom window but it’s much more exciting to experience it in person and that’s what I usually do. I’ve gotten a three-day pass for six out of the seven years that it’s been in existence. I still went to the park and listened to it for free the one year I didn’t buy tickets. So believe me when I say that I know Outside Lands. I fucking know Outside Lands.
This year was different from most years, reflecting the growing changes in the music industry. The headliners were big established acts as they typically are. But the other bands were more obscure and less mainstream. A lot of the bands onstage only have a couple of albums or hit singles worth mentioning. Friday night’s dual headliners were Kanye West and Arctic Monkeys. Saturday night featured Macklemore & Ryan Lewis trying to compete against Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Petty won). Sunday night was either Tiësto or The Killers. I mostly main staged it, so I watched Kanye, Petty, and The Killers. Kanye’s crowd was rowdy and more physical than any other crowd I’ve experienced. Shit was getting hostile. I saw a lot of pushing, shoving, yelling, and a couple of fights. It didn’t help that Kanye was encouraging people to form circles and to start moshing. Promoting violence isn’t the best idea when people are crammed together like sardines and tempers are already flaring. Petty’s crowd was a lot more diverse. There were teenagers, there were old people, there were families, and it was a much lighter and fun experience. Petty headlined the first OSL and it was great to have him back. The Killers were a great act to close out Outside Lands and they played an extra ten minutes after they were supposed to stop. You have to appreciate that kind of showmanship.
Other bands that I saw (in order): Aer, Bleachers, Holy Ghost!, Chromeo, Disclosure, The Kooks, Local Natives, Haim, Death Cab For Cutie, Imelda May, Flume, Spoon, and The Flaming Lips. Bleachers were awesome, Haim were memorable, Death Cab killed it, and The Flaming Lips were eccentric as always. There were way too many bands to see and not enough time to see them all. You really have to pick and choose and have a definite agenda for each day or else you will be overwhelmed and see nothing.
Cell phone service was much improved this year. You could actually make phone calls and texts wouldn’t take twenty minutes to send. It got crowded earlier than previous years. It was pretty packed by 3:00 or 4:00 PM. Bathroom lines were almost always ridiculous unless you got really lucky. Food and beer lines were manageable but annoying. Security was the most strict on the first day. They actually went through my bags and made me unroll my towel and unfold my sweatshirt. They still didn’t find my booze, but they made quite an effort. They didn’t even check my bag on Saturday or Sunday. I guess I stopped looking shady.
Outside Lands is always a great time. This year didn’t have the best lineup, but that just meant I had more time to hang out with friends and meet new people. I grew increasingly sad as Sunday night came to a close and the festival ended. I woke up depressed on Monday morning and trudged off to work and back to real life. Outside Lands isn’t just a weekend festival. It’s home. And I want to go home. But I can’t for another year. At least I have something to look forward to.
Critically Rated at 15/17
Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young