At 1,017 acres, it’s nearly one-and-a-half Central Parks, and in relation to the size of the city in which it resides, Golden Gate Park occupies more than seven times the percent of real estate of her city when compared with New York and Central Park. In an era in which most other festivals are held at least 30 minutes from the city for which they’re marketed, San Francisco is fortunate enough to host her flagship festie not only inside city limits, but in a park famous for both its size and its beauty.
A thick marine layer stretched itself out across the park as I made my way west down Fulton Street, into the trees and up to the box office. Dense and dark, the clouds threatened rain and delivered just before my arrival, but only in a light mist. I picked up two beers for five dollars from some of the park’s more entrepreneurial resident spirits, and called my photographer, Jon April, to meet me out front for a toast.
After a brief catching-up, Jon and I crushed the empty cans beneath our feet and made our way to the entrance to Outside Lands 2013. With pep in our step and beer on our breath, we tromped through what felt like miles of canopied woodland laced with strings of LEDs on our way to Twin Peaks stage, the locale that would likely become our home-away-from-home for the weekend. In passing the Main Stage on our right, we caught a glimpse of The National doing their thing. But we were in no mood for that. We needed hard electro.
The chorus from Spectrum swept across the thick crowd and elevated idle hands as the young German genius ignited the Twin Peaks stage with the Gregori Klosman & Tristan Garner Knights remix of his monster hit. Riding the energy of the newly awakened crowd, Zedd moved into Axwell’s In My Mind remix and continued to attract bodies to the ever-densifying mob focused on the stage. The assault of A-list hits, which even included a violent bootleg of Avicii’s Wake Me Up, continued from Zedd for a particularly heavy warm-up to the weekend. Zedd also gets extra points for dropping Skrillex in the same spot in which it was dropped by the Skrill-one himself just a year ago–all-in-all, a thump-heavy set with just enough vocals to make the girls go crazy.
On my way to take care of nature calling, I stepped in a heaping, ranch-covered plate full of organic, locally grown tater tots. Shaking them off, I maneuvered my way through the edge of the nearest cluster of bushes precisely as Zedd’s 8-bit beauty of boyhood nostalgia, The Legend Of Zelda, arrived to soundtrack my urinary adventure through the brush.
After all that, I needed a pick-me-up. So it was finally time to pay $9 for a beer. After reuniting with Jon and admiring some of the photos, we headed west, past endless peddlers of cheese plates and kombucha, to the Heineken Dome for a little sumthin’ we like to call Stanton Warriors.
Jon and I bypassed the ugly line in the name of journalism to enter the dome without delay and armed ourselves with Heinekens before squeezing our way into the dark and throbbing mass of music fanatics absolutely losing it to the UK’s veterans of breakbeat. The Warriors bestowed upon their fans a blistering set under a shining, shifting psychedelic projection on the ceiling of the tightly packed dome.
I lost about 45 minutes there, no notes… so I imagine Jon and I raged it to an impressive mix of classics and a few originals, like the seminal MPC, and took a quick 45-minute break to get a little wild with the other 300 people crammed into the stuffy dome to pop after pop of aggressive breakbeat goodness.
Around 6:30 p.m., I split with Jon once again so he could go in search of his girlfriend while I relaxed on the grass with Nile Rodgers at the Sutro stage and listened to some disco whilst waiting for Pretty Lights‘ set back at Twin Peaks. Nile looked at me as I laid staring at the sky from my spot on the grass hill, and he said, “Party time, keep it going!”
“Right on, Nile,” I said aloud by myself, as he and the rest of Chic jumped into disco hits like Freak Out and Good Times. Get Lucky saw the band clear the stage after a delightful display of downright disco, and I was back off through the strange forest in search of friendlies.
If anyone attending Outside Lands Music Festival was unsure about what kind of a city they were in before they entered, the priceless succession of “Wine Lands,” “Cheese Lands,” and about a half-dozen farmers markets certainly eliminated any confusion. Jon, my picture-taker, was long-gone by now, but I killed enough time to make it through the end of Yeasayer’s set at Twin Peaks stage and enjoy some Biggie over the soundsystem while the lights were getting pretty. Before long, however, the Heinekens had run their course and demanded liberation from my bladder, so I made my way back over to my favorite bush. Allow me to summarize my park bathroom sentiments by saying this: I’d rather spend my weekend downtown in jail than wait in line in my park every time I want to pee.
I made it back to my cohorts and our picnic table stage-left in time to catch their conversation on the agony of the familiar 30-plus-mile trek from the average music festival to civilization a la EDC Las Vegas. Taking a moment to inhale my surroundings, I was reminded of how lucky we are in the Bay Area to have our premiere music fest smack-dab in the middle of the city, geographically speaking. After a day that started off in high gear and didn’t let up, it was nice to slow down and relax to the sounds of the Notorious B.I.G. over the system until one Derek Vincent Smith assumed control.
Pretty Lights emerged at last from the smoke and laser beams criss-crossing the stage, clad in his iconic ball cap and hoodie, and his arrival incited a pungent plume of puff-puff-pass the likes of which likely hasn’t been seen in this park since before bell-bottoms first came into style. Opening with Still Night just as night fell, Smith supplied the crowd with enough bass to level the trees surrounding the modest, graffiti-themed stage from which he addressed the crowd: “San Francisco!”
For over an hour, a sea of bodies swayed in unison with the vintage, soulful vibes, courtesy of one of the most original-thinking producers out there.
“Outside Lands, I’m Feeling The Love,” he professed to the crowd.
It’s a good thing most of the city’s buildings are built on rollers for seismic safety, because Pretty Lights sent some serious shockwaves through the soil in Golden Gate Park.
I visited my faithful bush one last time on my way out, and after zipping up and turning around, the first dude in a long line of anxious dudes behind me says, “Great spot, dude.”