Hitting the five year mark in my tenure as a music journalist means one thing — I’ve attended my fair share of music festivals. It’s not quite hundreds, but sometimes it feels that way. And while I definitely haven’t been to every festival, there can be an alarming sameness to the events that makes them run together in my head.
It’s gotten to the point that I don’t really attend them very often, it honestly stopped feeling like it was worth my time. And there was a sadness in that concession, too, a sadness that was squashed this weekend by the full-blown, joyous hospitality of the Bay Area’s celebration of live music. The roadtrip up certainly kicked off the event right, and we arrived in San Francisco early Friday morning ready to jump right in.
With a lineup packed by artists selected by their longevity instead of flash-in-the-pan hits — Metallica, The Who, Lorde and Fleet Foxes to name a few — this festival proved to me that it’s possible to throw an enormous, successful event that actually strives to put fans and artists at the center of the show. While some fests feel like a grueling gauntlet that requires survivalist tactics, the spacious, well-kept grounds at Outside Lands were organized for maximum impact with minimum exhaustion.
Two of the three main stages are spaced as close together as good acoustics will allow, with two other smaller venues down in another meadow, creating sort of two central hubs for the music, with plenty of other activities, food, and drink interspersed between. This meant that with careful planning, there was no need for constant trudging or rushing around the massive park, an element that makes the fest accessible not just for twenty-somethings, but also for kids and veteran music-lovers.