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Outside Lands Music Festival

This feature was originally published in Synthesis Weekly, August 2014


Well kids, it’s come and gone again, that special weekend in August when (mainly) the west coast converges in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park for Outside Lands Music Festival. This year’s headliners included Kanye West, Arctic Monkeys, The Killers, Death Cab For Cutie, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Flaming Lips, and Spoon, to name a few. This year marked the seventh year of this bay area event, which has grown at a steady rate to host over 180,000 festival-goers. And now, for a brief recap.

Day One:

The highlights of day one included Chromeo, Typhoon, an acoustic performance by Phosphorescent, and of course, Kanye West. Only about three photographers were approved to shoot West, and none were allowed in the photo pit. Rather, they were only allowed to be in the sound booth, which was a startlingly long distance away from the stage. Definitely not one to disappoint those expecting outbursts between songs, West treated us all to some strong opinions about the media, and how depressed he gets when he gets Google alerts about someone saying mean stuff about him online. (He must get bummed out a lot). I have to say though, despite the eyebrow raise-inducing rambling between songs, the man is a musical genius. A powerhouse of a performer who filled the giant stage with his ego, sure, but he’s certainly got the musical talent to back it up.

Day Two:

I was really hoping I wouldn’t see anyone wearing a Native American headdress, but unfortunately I saw two on Saturday. Two out of thousands of people isn’t bad, but still, c’mon you guys, we can do better. Highlights of day two included Local Natives and The Kooks, but the real surprise of the day was the band Haim. This female-fronted band of sisters demanded the attention of the massive crowd with infectious energy and songs that felt refreshingly new, yet still possessed a comfortingly familiar flavor of classic soft/pop rock of decades past. Death Cab For Cutie took the stage and while it seemed they were having some technical problems (Gibbard especially looked frustrated), the fans didn’t seem to notice. After the weekend the band released the news that Chris Walla, member of the band for the past 17 years, was making his exit. The band played “Crooked Teeth,” and “I Will Follow You Into The Dark,” however the band halted their set ten minutes short and skipped fan favorite, “Transatlanticism.” I caught some of Tom Petty’s set, then headed to the opposite field to catch Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, as we’d been alerted that there would be an onstage proposal before their rendition of “Same Love.” (She said yes, obviously).

Day Three:

I admit, by day three I was exhausted. If I can give one bit of advice to those considering ponying up for tickets next year: do so, by all means; but pick one or two days tops to attend. After two full days spent wading through the thick crowd, waving away clouds of heavy dust and smoke, I was spent. Highlights of the last day included some of the stars of HBO’s Silicon Valley doing standup in the Barbary tent, an incredible DJ set by Flume, and the always amazing live show, The Flaming Lips. What can I say about Wayne Coyne? He’s a musical genius, a veritable explosion of sparkly rainbows and tinsel, and if given the chance, I highly recommend catching his live show. I’ve read a lot of articles about how the future of music festivals is uncertain, but if the strong attendance numbers and major headlining acts are any indication, Outside Lands is one festival that’s certain to stick around for a while.

Arielle Mullen