There were dozens of kinds of beers, chichi burgers, shots in marrow bones, a rock-climbing wall and roughly 70,000 partiers in attendance at Outside Lands Festival, which overtook Golden Gate Park on Friday, the first day of the 10th anniversary extravaganza.
Oh, and there was some music, too, at the pop-up city, erected by Another Planet Entertainment and numerous profit and nonprofit partners. After a decade, they’ve really got this thing, this monster, down, to the point where people buy tickets even before the lineup is announced.
That was the case with first-time OSL attendees Holland Farkas and Meghan Kaltenbach, from Los Angeles, who liked previous lineups (Radiohead) and were expecting this year’s to be just as solid. (Perhaps they were a touch disappointed, but still having fun.)
By 7 p.m., as they waited for Fleet Foxes in the packed crowd at the Sutro Stage — they’d seen folk rocker Grace Mitchell (“high energy”) at the Panhandle Stage, and noise pop combo Sleigh Bells (vocalist Alexis Krauss was in command) at the Twin Peaks stage — they had the lay of the land.
Earlier in the day, at the Sutro Stage, the relaxed but gritty and polyphonic Shovels and Ropes played organic, raw, alt country rock and roll in the sunshine.
They were followed by Scottish indie pop darlings Belle and Sebastian, fronted by Stuart Murdoch, offering long country solos and inviting fans the chance to dance up onstage.
Serious Seattle baroque pop favorites Fleet Foxes, filled with horns and with lead vocalist-guitarist Robin Pecknold (who said “this is a perfect place to play a show for sure”) closed out the evening at the Sutro Stage.
Over at Twin Peaks, Baltimore-based synth pop Future Islands exploded; at the front, Samuel T. Herring growled, sang, conversed, ranted and displayed his signature dance moves.
One second, he’d twirl near the microphone, and the next, he sped up and around the stage — squatting, hopping on one leg, bumping his chest.
“He lives it all out on the field and always sweats through his shirt,” said fan Bailey Reece.
At one point, he faltered, but laughed. Enjoying the audience support, he said, “We all fall down sometimes.”
Each song was dedicated to something or someone: to stand by the ocean and wonder about your life, or to a man looking for his wife.
While dangerously close to the clichés in inspirational quotes, the performance was saved by Herring’s emotional strain and sincerity of each movement and word.
“He pumps you up, he gets you,” said Jesse Rivas, from the audience, which had people wildly dancing along with Herring, but some still sitting on the grass.
Concertgoer Harrison Huang said that Outside Lands, unlike most festivals, offers vast spaces and a relaxed atmosphere where people can sit with friends on a blanket and enjoy good conversations and good food.
“I just feel at home here,” said another. “I will bring my daughter next year.”
English indie rockers Alt-J began their headlining Twin Peaks set with “3WW” and minimalistic vertical lights.
As their songs got louder, the lights became more chaotic, seemingly growing and more complex, interfered into the dual gamma of silver and black, then red, then green.
The band played more songs from “An Awesome Wave,” and by the end of the show, the synchronized music and lights really heightened the emotions.
“The sound was cascading down the trees,” said Max Levinson, in the crowd.
Meanwhile, Gorillaz, the English virtual band (no pictures allowed!) led by a real guy, Damon Albarn, serenaded the huge Lands End crowd on the Polo Fields with a varied headlining set of often melodic, sometimes soulful, electronic material accompanied by its signature animation.
The show included music from the group’s new album “Humanz” and a guest appearance by the real Yukimi Nagano of Little Dragon and, on the video screen, Mavis Staples, on the new tune “Let Me Out.”
Still, perhaps more fun happened earlier in the day at the Gastro Magic stage, where mere dozens of fans (smiling throughout) enjoyed snacks with lighter music: the inimitable Big Freedia and Brenda’s served up “Beignets and Bounce,” along with twerking with OSL mascot Ranger Dave, and cheesy 1970s cover band Mustache Harbor and Woodhouse Fish Co. appeared in “How To Make Your Yacht Rock,” complete with oysters, tunes by Styx, Toto, Orleans and Hall and Oates, and happy dancing sharks.