All photos by Erik Anderson Imagery and Caitlin Donohue
I’m just going to go ahead and say it because I’ve had a few days to think about it: that was the best year of Outside Lands yet. Not just because of the weather — even though my singed epidermis is ample proof that the sun was out and about in Speedway Meadows this weekend — but because after four years of hype, the sold-out festival is finally justified in its claim that it’s among the top five biggest and best in the country.
So who cares if Big Boi didn’t show up (at least we got beach ball humor from Dave Chappelle, who seems to be showing his face more around these parts lately) — a bonus appearance from M.I.A. during Deadmau5 evens it all out in the cosmic sense of things. And who could be mad at Sir Lucious when Bay hip-hop repped as hard as it did with K. Flay and Latryx featuring Jazz Mafia? Not to mention local turns by show-stoppers tUnE-yArDs, who are not rappers but proved on Sunday afternoon that the group might have enough swagger to qualify. Oh — and yeah, the headliners. Arcade Fire, you really did deserve all the buzz.
Like I’ve said in the past, some of the best parts of this festival took place off of any stage (and I’m not talking about the Loyd Family Players’ impromptu shows in the transition areas of the fest). The half-moon of Eco Lands stalls gave the three-day affair a little purpose beyond entertainment — everyone from Wavy Gravy’s Seva Foundation to the Wigg Party was there, the latter doling out chalkboard necklaces so that fest attendees could have a forum to share their thoughts with the guy standing behind them at Beirut. (“Free hugs” was a common refrain.)
The trippy little path from the main entrance out to the Twin Peaks Stage provided a welcome respite from the crowds, a nice improvement on the at-times-gridlocked inter-set migrations of past years. Plus, festival organizers stuffed it with sideshows — a dessert food court, a lackluster Mexican food court regrettably dubbed “the Mission,” and a phenomenal art installation by Monica Canilao and other local creatives: a fabric-parachute hinterland that fluttered soothingly in the breezes that whipped in from park’s edge Ocean Beach (bummer that a lot of it got ripped down by last-day rowdies). Coupled with a windchime swing and a wacky, remant-built castle, the OL consciousness-expanders finally had a place to breathe deep and reflect.
Anyway, good job everyone on staying hydrated. See ya next year.