The Inside Scoop on Outside Lands: A review of the Outside Lands experience

Three days. Seven stages. Eighty-seven artists. Sixty-six thousand people.

The music, food, beer, wine and art festival called Outside Lands overtook the vast area of Golden Gate Park’s polo fields and beyond last weekend, with performances starting Friday and running through Sunday evening.


Only the few, most dedicated festival-goers made it to Friday’s opening acts, and those who attended Irishman Foy Vance’s 12 P.M. acoustic jam session kicked the weekend off in a slow but satisfying fashion. Others spent the first few hours simply wandering the expanse of the festival, a mini city sporting classic San Franciscan food, seemingly endless rows of booths dedicated to beer and wine, a neighborhood of environmentally friendly storefronts and even a fully stocked convenience store. For the first few hours, the seventy-two vendors lining the walkways garnered the attention of the mostly young, flower-adorned crowd.

Eventually the wandering herd found its way to the crowd-pleasing Midi Matilda, a local indie pop group styling blue hair and big smiles. The music was fresh and the dance moves embarrassingly silly — and with that, Midi Matilda’s enticing early show opened the gate to a flood of memorable (and some not-so memorable) performances Friday, culminating in Paul McCartney’s unforgettable finale.

Flowery headbands and quirky glasses were must-have accessories at Outside Lands 2013 (Photo by Matt Miller)
Flowery headbands and quirky glasses were must-have accessories at Outside Lands 2013 (Photo by Matt Miller)


One of the less impressive sets of the afternoon came from the hip and actually quite talented alternative rock group Band of Horses, who gave a half-hearted and generic on-stage performance. While their recorded music is exceptional and often times profound, their passionless show did little to please the crowd. Underwhelmed fans from the humdrum Band of Horses set found themselves able to let loose amongst the sea of bouncing bodies at Zedd. The electronic music megastar’s dramatic look complimented his body-rocking beats, making his set one heck of a package performance.

“He was cool, there was a lot of energy,” USF freshman Cassidy Caruso said.

While Friday’s early shows were good, it was the evening’s headliner who set the bar almost impossibly high for the rest of the weekend. Paul McCartney was beautiful, shockingly variable, powerful. His nearly three hour long set induced laughter, chills and even tears from an audience who showed him nothing but the appreciation he was due.

His first “last” song of the evening, a stunning rendition of “Hey Jude,” had the audience singing the chorus repeatedly — an activity that would continue late into the night as departing fans made their way through the North Tunnel and out to John F. Kennedy Drive. McCartney brought out all the tricks in an intricately designed show that got more wondrous with each passing song. Pyrotechnics lit up the stage and the night, illuminating the slight drizzle that fell almost unnoticed amongst the enraptured crowd.


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A fan goes crowdsurfing at Outside Lands. (Photo by Matt Miller)

From a fan crowd surfing while in his wheelchair during Young the Giant, to the absolutely thundering bass of Jurassic 5 and the glimmering get-up on Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, day two of Outside Lands was an increase in insanity. Outfits got weirder, crowds were bigger and undeniably wilder. Performances lived up to the heightened expectation, with crowd-pleasers occurring one after another throughout the day. Artists got people fired up with themes of freedom and love, initiated by Jurassic 5’s call to “hold on to your freedom for real” in respect for Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant and others lost to senseless violence. Karen O preached everlasting love with so much passion she nearly swallowed the microphone, and Emeli Sandé’s Sunday afternoon performance echoed both the vibes of love and freedom. Phoenix and Nine Inch Nails rocked the night shows, both with an energy and enthusiasm that left audiences eager for more.


The final day of San Francisco’s biggest music festival was filled to the brim with some of the weekend’s best talent. With everyone settled in to the festival’s communal atmosphere, audiences focused more closely on the heart of the reason they were there: the music itself. Tough decisions were

Outside Lands Fashion: almost as entertaining as the acts themselves. (Photo by Matt Miller)
Outside Lands Fashion: almost as entertaining as the acts themselves. (Photo by Matt Miller)

made on Sunday, with forced choices to be had between Foals and Emeli Sandé, Dawes and Vampire Weekend, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kaskade. While you couldn’t see everything, what you did see was never a letdown. Everyone came through on the final day, with the weekend reaching an epic crescendo during Red Hot Chili Pepper’s dynamic finale. Teasingly long intros and spirited bass solos peppered the set — a set by a group so successful and so ingenious that every song they played seemed to be exactly what the crowd wanted to hear. As the Chili Peppers wrapped up the final song and the house music indicated it was truly time for Outside Lands to end, former USF student Matt MacDonald summed up the feeling in a few words: “It’s like when Christmas ends.”

Let the anticipation for next year’s festivities begin.


One thought on “The Inside Scoop on Outside Lands: A review of the Outside Lands experience

  1. I randomly decided to google “Outside Lands fashion” and stumbled upon a picture of my friend and I wearing our Indian chief headdresses! It led me here. thanks for capturing the moment, and writing this great article about the amazing weekend.

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