“I think this is the best festival we’ve played—ever,” said Marcus Mumford, frontman of the British folk/rock group Mumford and Sons. The band was headlining the first night of Outside Lands, the three-day music festival held each year at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, and Mumford and his bandmates were giving an impassioned performance to a crowd of thousands. Their show was an exciting culmination of sonic energy that had been building all day, thanks to the killer offerings by musicians that included Robert DeLong, Lindsey Stirling, and St. Vincent, among others.
Outside Lands as a whole emits an infectious exuberance—it’s a whimsical, sonic heaven for music lovers. The lineup is impressive and varied and attracts big named groups, such as Elton John, Sam Smith, Kendrick Lamar, Wilco, the Black Keys, Nate Ruess, and the aforementioned Mumford and Sons, to name a few. The wonder of the festival isn’t just in getting to hear the spot-on performances of the popular bands, but in the discovery of the lesser-known musicians who get a chance to play on the smaller stages to eager listeners. While many of the musicians sets pricked up my ears, I was particularly enamored with The Revivalists, a seven-piece hailing from New Orleans. The band stirred up the crowd with its contagious genre-blending brew of rock, funk, soul, and roots tunes.
In addition to top-of-the-line musical offerings, there were tents filled with handmade boutique items for purchase; beer, wine, and cocktails to imbibe; and scads of delightful foods to be tried. One particularly unusual edible was the Ringmaster, a bacon cheeseburger with glazed donuts for buns. It was strange looking, but folks were gobbling them up in droves, so I joined in. It was quite nice but to my palate it wasn’t a mind-blowing, have-to-have-it-again culinary experience. Still, it was worth trying if only to say I ate glazed donuts and a bacon cheeseburger at the same time. The Vietnamese sandwich from Freshroll, on the other hand, with its grilled chicken (you could also choose lemongrass pork, crispy tofu, garlic shrimp, or steak), pickled veggies, cilantro, and special house NamNam sauce was right up my alley.
The musical merriment began each day at 12 noon and continued until 10 p.m. It was impossible to see the entire days lineup, as sets on the various stages overlapped: Tame Impala or Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, for example; Hot Chip or Odesza. Tough choices had to be made. And then there was the comedy tent, which had members of the Daily Show news team slated on Saturday. It’s a wonderful thing to be so rich with fantastic choices. Which is exactly what Outside Lands offers: great food, wine, entertainment, scenery, and, of course, music.
Check out the photo gallery above for a peek of the festival.