Why should seeing the (living) Grateful Dead in Golden Gate Park preclude you from sampling rare vintages from dozens of local wineries or a “Korean taco” wrapped in nori from one of San Francisco’s hottest restaurants? The Outside Lands festival reflects its host city’s love affair with food and wine by inviting local purveyors to take concert cuisine to the next level, and with marijuana legalization on the California ballot this November, it’s not too hard to imagine next year’s incarnation adding cannabis vendors to the already existing wine tent.
For this weekend, however, it was a strictly a bring your own event, with a classic San Francisco fog enveloping not just a monster headlining set by Further (featuring Phil Lesh and Bob Weir), but also high energy performances by Nas and Damian Marley, Slightly Stoopid, and dozens of other acts spread over two days and four stages.
Highlights included a hits heavy set from My Morning Jacket, the timeless craft of Al Green, the surging French power pop of Paris’ Phoenix, a daytime dance party with Pretty Lights, an old-time dance party with The Band’s Levon Helm, the gypsy fueled mayhem of Gogol Bordello and the indie pop stylings of Australia’s Temper Trap. Along with the non-stop line-up of music and high-end refreshments, Outside Lands also featured a focus on environmental sustainability, including compostable cups, plates and silverware, a solar-powered stage and an education center with classes and information on greening your life once you leave the festival grounds.
As always, though, in the end, it was all about the music. And nothing symbolized Outside Lands eclectic musical palette better than Saturday night’s headlining slot, which saw simultaneous sets from Further and the Strokes, about as East Coast and West Coast as it gets, not to mention hippie vs. hipster, concise vs. expansive, and all the rest. For most attendees, it seemed like an easy either/or decision, but for those of us with a foot in each camp, it was also possible to catch “Cassidy,” “Loser,” “Let it Grow,” and even a Dead-inflected cover of Pink Floyd’s “Time” before hightailing it to the other end of the grounds to catch the lion’s share of the Strokes abbreviated greatest hits set, and still make it back in time to catch the Dead close it out with “Morning Dew” and “I Know Your Rider.”
And oh yeah, grab a jambalaya and a couple of local oysters along the way!