Inside Scoop on Outside Lands

09/01/2009


Many photos and brief reviews have been written about the performance at Outside Lands, but that doesn’t answer the big question: Should you see Outside Lands next year? This article takes a look at the critiques, paying attention to the planning, layout and execution of the event.

Complaints
In its second year, San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival has received many warranted and unwarranted criticisms. Before the festival began, the replacement of Sunday’s headliner Beastie Boys (Adam Yauch was diagnosed with cancer) with Tenacious D, left many fans who had already purchased their tickets feeling cheated. As Jim Harrington of the Oakland Tribune stated, “substituting Tenacious D for the Beasties is kind of like loaning a guy a Hyundai while his Mercedes is in the shop.”There is no need for explanation, the festival’s organizers had no control over this event. Similarly, many complaints were pointed towards the terrible MUNI transportation system that made fans wait forever, before transporting them like sardines. For those tourists unfamiliar with MUNI, San Francisco’s public transportation has always been awful.

While the promoters could not control the outcome of certain issues, there were some warranted complaints that hopefully they’ll address next year. As Kata Rokkar mentioned, the main stage was fortified by blankets, and lawn chairs, which made it frustratingly difficult to maneuver closely to the stage.

The security and staff were poorly informed. On different occasions I was given conflicting information by staff concerning entrances and paths to stages and back stage areas. There was also a lack of staff directing and helping guide people into the event area from the streets surrounding the park, which made it difficult even for a San Francisco native like myself to get into the grounds in time for the scheduled performances.

Though the official website deterred guests from driving, stating that parking would be difficult, in actuality there was an abundance. For those unfamiliar with San Francisco, the two neighborhoods bordering Golden Gate Park (Richmond district and Sunset district) are the easiest places to find parking in all of San Francisco. Granted, had all of the expected 100,000 people driven, the parking wouldn’t have been so abundant.

Compliments
There has been far too much unsubstantiated criticism, which has omitted many the of positive aspects of the festival. With an emphasis on green and local, staying true to the general Bay Area’s environmental position, Outside Lands offered reasonably priced food ($2 BBQ oysters, $1 organic peaches, etc), local wineries tastings, and had several areas for recycling and compost. Admittedly, there was some confusion and problems concerning Outside Lands’ policy on bringing in water, and recycling and reducing plastic bottles consumption.

While it was true that the large festival grounds, approximately twenty blocks, made it difficult to go from one stage to the next, the abundance of maps at the entrance made it easy to locate stages, which were also clearly marked with large signs announcing the upcoming performer.

Though I’ve read complaints about the lines for bathrooms, I never saw more than four people in line for a port-o-potty. The bathrooms were spread evenly throughout the grounds and were kept rather clean (never was there a wafting stench, as can be the case at festivals).

When I first entered the festival grounds, I was concerned that some of the pathways between stages were narrow and would prove difficult to traverse as the crowds swelled. I was also informed that this had been a problem in the previous year. This was not the case this year, which may also be a result of the smaller than expected crowds.

Summary
Outside Lands began with a bang last year with its lineup (Radiohead, Tom Petty, Jack Johnson, Beck, Manu Chao etc.), and it was difficult to meet this year’s expectations. On Friday night as Pearl Jam took the stage, while the sun set, and the sky faded to a hazy blue with streaks of red, it became apparent to me that there is so much beauty and promise with an annual festival at Golden Gate Park. It may not be Woodstock, yet.

If you enjoyed this post, check out these:

Live Review: La Roux at Cafe Du Nord

Top 5: Political Moments In 20th Century Music

Bay Area Slang