This article first appeared on KCPR.org. The views reflected in this piece don’t necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
Just a few hours up the coast from San Luis Obispo lies San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, home to one of the largest annual music festivals in the United States: Outside Lands. Hosting more than 100 artists from a variety of genres, the festival drew in more than 200,000 people across three days.
Since its founding in 2008, the festival has brought a number of big names to San Francisco, such as Radiohead, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kanye West. This year, headliners included SZA, Green Day and Post Malone. Alongside these captains of industry was a large repertoire of bands and artists that brought memorable performances to Golden Gate Park.
Walking into the festival, attendees were greeted by a large statue of Ranger Dave on the north side of the park. This side was home to the Sutro stage, hosting a range of indie and alternative acts, including Mt. Joy, Faye Webster and Polo & Pan.
Down a path decorated with vibrance and color, the Twin Peaks and Panhandle stages hosted performances from all genres on the far east side of the park.
The Polo Field, the main area of the festival, was home to dozens of food vendors, the West Coast Craft x Outside Lands Marketplace and the Lands End main stage, where headliners performed.
There were a number of activities for attendees to partake in aside from the music. These included a 21-plus area surrounding all things cannabis, an art exhibit sponsored by Monster Energy, a house and EDM-centered tent and a culinary stage where artists and chefs collaborated on a number of recipes.
Friday brought 26 artists who performed across the four primary stages. Kicking off the day was experimental pop artist SPELLLING, who performed on the Sutro Stage. SPELLLING could also be found later in the afternoon at the Music Den by Toyota, a smaller venue set up under the trees and decorative disco balls.
Faye Webster took the stage shortly after and performed a variety of songs from across her discography, including hits “Kingston,” “Right Side of My Neck” and “Better Distractions.” Her dreamy vocals and slow guitar made for a tranquil but engrossing hour-long set.
Adjacent to the Sutro stage was the Lands End stage, where Haitus Kaioyte opened their set with “Rose Water” and moved through a performance of 10 funk and jazz-inspired songs, including a cover of David Bowie’s “Within You.”
The Marías performed in the early evening, attracting thousands of people to the Twin Peaks stage. Outfitted in a flowy white dress, Maria Zardoya led the band through a mesmerizing set in front of psychedelic visuals dominated by the band’s signature red color.
After the sun finally set behind the horizon, Phoebe Bridgers and SZA took the Twin Peaks and Lands End stages. Bridgers expressed her disappointment at not being able to see the performance happening concurrently across the park, joking that the only downside of the audience being at her set is that they were missing SZA’s.
Both performances could be heard from across the park, making it easy for fans of the two artists to experience both sets. Bridgers made her performance memorable with storybook visuals, crowd surfing and handing fans the microphone during “Scott Street.”
According to their website, with the help of on-site waste reduction organization Clean Vibes, Outside Lands diverted 86% of all waste from the landfill in 2021 and expected similar results from this year. Other sustainability efforts included refillable water bottle stations and a partnership with Proud Source water for a plastic-free festival.
Eco Lands, a sustainability-focused area where local and national non-profits educated and led conversations with the festival community, returned on Friday. This was where the festival’s efforts around keeping the park relatively unharmed and beautiful throughout the year came to life.
One of the nonprofits featured was Garden for the Environment, an educational organization that focuses on teaching people how to garden and tend to plants in the San Francisco climate.
“Many of the festivals can play into the more commercial side and can be very wasteful,” Hana Park, an education assistant at Garden for the Environment, said. “But having a sustainable focus by having us and other local vendors here helps share ideas about how we can make a change together.”
Benny Sings kicked off the second day of this festival with a fun and lively performance on the Sutro stage and was followed by jazz artist Robert Glasper.
Local Natives then made for a fantastic afternoon performance at the Lands End stage. Crowds started to flow into the park around this time, and the band attracted thousands of people to the polo fields.
“San Francisco is like a second home,” Local Natives’ lead singer Taylor Rice said between songs. “You guys are always so amazing to us.”
Rice dedicated the set’s final song, “When am I Gonna Lose You,” to his son, who was attending his first festival. Whether audience members knew the song or not, the upbeat tempo and rhythmic chorus had them dancing.
Mac DeMarco took the Lands End stage after Local Natives, providing the perfect soundtrack for a relaxed, sunny and beautiful Saturday afternoon. Though his songs are often a slower pace, DeMarco had the audience swaying and dancing to songs from across his discography, like “Freaking Out the Neighborhood,” “Together” and “Another One.”
Kali Uchis appeared at the Gastromagic Culinary Stage in the early afternoon, where she, alongside culinary icon Nyesha Arrington, made red pepper arepas. Later, Uchis headlined at the Twin Peaks stage, bringing her sensational bilingual and psychedelic pop energy to close out the night at the west side of the park.
Meanwhile, Green Day’s performance on the park’s south side was nothing short of sensational. Originally from the East Bay Area, the band was excited to be playing a hometown festival.
Setting the tone with “American Idiot,” “Holiday” and other hits, Green Day powered through an explosive set while interacting with the crowd. Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong even invited a 10-year-old boy onto the stage to play guitar during the band’s cover of Operation Ivy’s “Knowledge.” The performance surely reminded the crowd that rock and roll is still alive and well.
Speaking of local, the West Coast Craft x Outside Lands Marketplace located in the back of the polo fields hosted around four dozen local vendors, who sold a variety of items including jewelry, home decor, wellness products and vintage clothing. Attendees could even take a break from the chaotic festival environment and take part in relaxing self-care with a CBD massage.
Moody Goose Vintage was among the many vendors that set up in the marketplace. It was the vintage collective’s first year as a vendor at Outside Lands (OSL), and founder Kristina Zhu Schagane was ecstatic to be a part of it.
“I’ve lived in a house three blocks away from OSL my entire life,” Schagane said. “Being able to contribute to the vibrance of the festival hits close to home, literally and figuratively.”
For those who love the San Francisco club scene, the SOMA tent offered more than nine hours of nonstop house music each day of the festival. Live DJs included J. Worra, Dixon and Claude VonStroke.
Cassandra Jenkins began day three with a performance at the Sutro stage, followed by Petey and Briston Maroney.
Rock duo Wet Leg took the Sutro stage following Briston Maroney for 50 minutes of pure rock and roll. The band, originally from England, said they were excited to be playing at the festival.
Wet Leg opened with hit single “Wet Dream” and closed with debut single “Chaise Longue.” Leading the audience in a cathartic scream before the performance of the unreleased song “I Want to be Abducted by a UFO,” Wet Leg’s performance was among the more memorable of the weekend.
Attendees had a variety of other things to check out on Sunday, including Grass Lands — a 21-plus curated cannabis experience. Located south of the polo fields, Grass Lands was a celebration of cannabis, including farmers market-style pop-ups and educational resources about cannabis and its effects on everyday life.
The Outsider Art exhibit presented by Monster Energy brought talented artists to the festival where they created live murals near the Twin Peaks and Panhandle stages. Attendees could watch as local San Francisco artists transformed large, blank canvases into beautiful pieces of art.
Muralist Ursula Young was one of the artists who created a mural over the weekend. With the help of her niece, Indra Whetton, Young free-handed a San Francisco-inspired piece on an 8-by-20-foot panel in seven hours.
“I wanted to create one of my quintessential San Francisco dancing flower girls,” Young said. “I wanted to capture the free spirit of the city that has always been so prevalent and has inspired my work over the years.”
This was Young’s first time painting at Outside Lands, though it had been a dream for a long time.
“It gives me a special kind of energy when I paint live in front of a crowd,” Young said. “There’s a mutual inspiration that happens and I love to meet the people who stop to chat and get moved by what I am doing.”
Around 5 p.m., 100 Gecs took the Twin Peaks stage for a short but sweet performance. Their set included an acoustic rendition of the song “gecgecgec,” a unique take on their usually electronic hyperpop style. The rest of their set included “stupid horse,” “ringtone” and “money machine,” which had the audience moshing.
Mitski closed out the night, and concurrently the festival itself, on the Sutro stage with an awe-inspiring performance. Although she said little to the crowd, her powerful vocals and expressive movement blew the audience away, particularly in her performances of “Working for the Knife” and “Washing Machine Heart.”