Santa Maria Sun / Art
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 23
Get outside!San Francisco's Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival celebrates best in food, spirits and song
BY JEREMY THOMAS
All weekend long, the trademark San Francisco fog bank rolling in off the sea rarely lifted from Golden Gate Park, but no one was complaining.
For the fifth time, the Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, a celebration of wine, cuisine, and of course, music, laid down stakes in the Bay Area’s most famous urban woodland Aug. 10 to 12. Each year, the festival grows larger, and with varied acts like Neil Young, Stevie Wonder, and Metallica topping the bill, I had to make a return trip.
After a nightmarish experience trying to find parking near the festival last year, I was determined to only use public transportation this time around. The first night, my daughter Teva and I checked into our cheap motel in South San Francisco, conveniently located within a 10-minute walk from the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station.
Once you get the hang of the routes, the BART is a pretty inexpensive and efficient way to get around. Our closest stop was the heart of The City by the Bay—the Civic Center and its domed, gold-trimmed City Hall.
During daytime hours, the Civic Center Plaza is home to gourmet Vietnamese, Japanese, and Mexican food trucks and street musicians. On this particular weekend, locals relaxed on lawn chairs to watch the Olympics on a giant screen, and picked produce at the Sunday farmers market.
The BART was the easy part; getting to the park from the station was a challenge. The event’s chartered shuttles were sold out, and public Muni trolleybuses were hard to come by. One by one, with passengers packed in like sardines, the buses kept passing us by. Eventually, we made it to Fulton and 24th, picked up our wristbands and headed to the polo grounds’ Lands End stage.
I can hardly imagine a more inviting setting for a music festival than the serene, earthly environs of Golden Gate Park. Many music legends have played here in the past: The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin, to name a few. And if you tire of the crowds and noise, it doesn’t take much effort to visit the nearby Japanese Tea Garden, Spreckels Lake, and the Conservatory of Flowers.
Throughout the festival, the media tent was our home base and sanctuary, not just from the perpetual chilly mist, but also from the throngs of festival-goers—around 50,000 each day. As one attendee summed it up best, “Outside Lands is Coachella minus the heat and with better food.” Food is one of the festival’s main attractions, as a sampling of menus attests: Malaysian nachos, falafel-on-a stick, Gilroy garlic mac and cheese, Spanish beef empanadas, and fire-baked vegan pizza.
On one end of the festival, the Barbary circus tent hosted Nerdist Channel comedy and the “Beer Lands” microbrew garden. On the other, folk and electronica drifted from one of the venue’s four smaller stages.
On Day One, while the Foo Fighters took the main stage by storm, my highlight was seeing Neil Young perform with his longtime bandmates, Crazy Horse. After rocking out on a few new jams, they got to the classics; “Cinnamon Girl,” “My My, Hey Hey,” and the Buffalo Springfield epic “Mr. Soul.”
As I sat soaking in the tunes, Teva rushed over to my seat, prodding me.
“It’s the guy from Arrested Development,” she said excitedly, speaking of the short-lived, but uproarious Fox sitcom.
I was dubious, but turned around, and sure enough David Cross was hanging out right behind me. I had a moment of meta-sublimity watching one of my favorite comedians watch Young play a stirring rendition of “The Needle and the Damage Done.” Teva begged me to snap a photo with him, which I did. It was the only thing she talked about the rest of the night.
Saturday arrived, and after sets by Australian psych-rockers Tame Impala, indie artists Portugal, The Man, the heavy, melodic Explosions in the Sky, and post-punk outfit The Kills, the masses poised for a homecoming by the Bay Area’s own Metallica.
Taking my daughter to see the Boys in Black felt like passing a torch. Metallica was my first real concert as a teen, and I grew up obsessed with the band. Despite recently marking their 30th anniversary together (has it been that long?), the metal icons didn’t disappoint, jumping right in with older songs from albums “Kill ‘Em All,” “Ride the Lightning” and “Master of Puppets,” mixing in a few recent hits.
Sunday found us waking bright and early for my daughter’s favorite band Fun., whose song “We Are Young” became a No.1 hit among the young and the not-so-young. She’d waited all summer for this moment, and while we got close to the stage, she was a little too short to see over the mostly teenage girls who’d planted themselves at the front.
As the band came out to shrieks and screams, I lifted her on my shoulders until security put a stop to it, and though she couldn’t see much for the rest of the show, she was excited to the point of tears.
After it was over, she seemed disappointed the moment couldn’t last forever.
“Dad, how come Fun. only played for 45 minutes and Metallica played for two hours?” she asked.
After explaining the difference between openers and headliners, it was time for Franz Ferdinand and Regina Spektor. Regrettably, with a four-hour drive back to Santa Maria looming, I had to leave before Stevie Wonder took the stage. It was the only real disappointment of the entire odyssey.
As Teva and I traveled across the San Mateo Bridge to Oakland and south to San Jose, leaving the distinctive San Francisco skyline behind, she gently drifted off to sleep to the sound of the videos she’d recorded on her iPod.
Sometimes, the satisfied look on a child’s face is the ultimate reward.
Staff Writer Jeremy Thomas needs music like he needs air. Send him some at email@example.com.
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