For the first time since August 2019, or around 26 months ago, Golden Gate Park’s Polo Fields and adjacent areas were transformed into the annual Outside Lands Music Festival, a few months removed from its usual Summer timeslot.
This time around the festival went for a Halloween theme, taking advantage of its irregular scheduling the weekend of October 29-31st. This was due to caution from festival promoter Another Planet, who most likely wanted to avoid any type of COVID Summer spike affecting the fate of the fest. In March they announced the move, saying, “To ensure this year’s festival will be the safest possible environment for all fans, staff, artists and the world at large, we have made the decision to shift Outside Lands 2021 to October 29-31, 2021.”
It being the biggest event in San Francisco post-beginning-of-pandemic (it’s not yet “post-pandemic” unfortunately) there were many eyes on how it would work and if it would be a potential disaster – but due to the timing, the precautions and general location in one of the most vaccinated cities in the world, Outside Lands 2021 was a roaring success, with very few hiccups. It was more music, tasty food and spooky vibes, a celebratory return for the San Francisco staple.
A specter of the still ongoing pandemic was visible in the dates of the festival this year, as well as the requirements for proof of vaccination or proof of negative test, along with all the non-costume masks visible during the three days in the park.
Although the total amount of people was another big adjustment to this version of the festival, with the usual 90k average tickets per day whittled down to 70k, still enough people to give some heebie-jeebies. Regardless, measures were taken and the event seemed to go down with any major hitches, except for a few artists dropping out hours before their stage time.
Marc Rebillet, the DJ and producer known as “loop daddy” who became famous through his fascinating comedy-tinged YouTube and Twitch performances, was unable to perform to due injury. Young Thug, the rapper known for hits such as “pick up the phone” and a frequent collaborator on many top 40 artists’ songs did not give a reason as of writing.
The replacements for these two seemed to be very welcome by fans, for Rebillet it was Reggie Watts, who is currently the house musician for “The Late Late Show With James Corden”. For Young Thug’s replacement came Portland’s Aminé, a Grammy-nominated rapper who was a simple one-hour flight away in his current Los Angeles residence. [I’m assuming they have these emergency backup performers informed and on speed dial just in case, if not what an impressive turnaround]
The lineup included most of the artists that had been secured for the original 2020 lineup, such as Tame Impala, Tyler the Creator, Lizzo, J Balvin and The Strokes, with such additions as Flo Milli, Kaytranada and Glass Animals being added in 2021.
A Foodie, Boozy, Tune-filled Haunt
Onto the good stuff: the Music, the art, the weed and the food. All the things that make Outside Lands a wholly North Bay music festival
Back for its 3rd year and second as a marketplace, was Weed Lands, where people could purchase cannabis products, and even consume them there and hang out in viewing areas. Most likely those participating would eventually go catch some of the incredible food available at the festival.
Attendees had the opportunity to try some of the best of local restaurants and food trucks in the Bay Area, with highlights including Alicia’s Tamales, Curry Up Now, World Famous Hotboys and my personal favorite, a simple but effective smashburger from popular pop-up restaurant Smish Smash. It’s definitely worth the price of admission for the music alone, even more so if you’re willing to take up a food adventure throughout the three days.
Cheese Lands and Wine Lands added onto the “finer things” vibe that Outside Lands has crafted over the years, where you could grab some delicious cheese spreads and a glass of wine from many of the wineries within the wooden marketplace of the land. Speaking of craft, Beer Lands and the craft cocktails within the Cocktail Magic section of the festival provided custom drinks (including a whole Golden Girls themed cocktail bar???) and tried and true options from various breweries. One that quickly sold out when I checked on Sunday was the ACE Pumpkin cider, which makes sense given the time of the season.
And another highlight, which might be a one-off since October Lands goes back to August next year: The costumes and general Halloween vibe – which was lively and went perfectly with the chillier aura in the air during late October.
From the hilarious to the expertly crafted, to the artists who actually came and performed in costume, the vibe was perfectly spooky through the weekend. Arizona, the band, dressed up as Arizona Tea cans, while one of the main headliners for Sunday, Tame Impala, dressed up as the legendary Australian children’s entertainment group The Wiggles (Tame Impala’s sole multi-instrumentalist visionary is also Australian).
And finally, as a Latina/o/x publication, we definitely have to give a shout out to J Balvin’s explosive performance, which happened to be the first Outside Lands Latino headliner. With the charisma, music and pyrotechnics galore, he had thousands of audience members dancing until the end of this unique return for Outside Lands. Here’s to many more.
OSL 2022 is coming back to its regularly scheduled time, from August 5-7.