Dancing in the sunlight: reflections on the first day of Outside Lands

When the gates opened on the first day of Outside Lands 2022, the sky was clear. Food vendors set up their stands, staff members drove golf carts through gated areas, and festival goers slowly dripped into the wide open spaces and slender passageways of Golden Gate Park.

Geese flew low, seagulls flew seemingly directionless, and around noon I entered the festival with my editor-in-chief, unaware that I would soon be marked red by an unexpected sun.

On the Sutro stage – the one closest to the main entrance – American pop artist Spellling made his ethereal presence known earlier in the day, playing a magical set with his backing band made up of songs from his most recent album. , “The Turning Wheel.”

The singer danced on stage in a fluttering skirt, turned around with a streamer-covered tambourine and dazzled the crowd with her dynamic Broadway voice.


Band members were adorned in various shades of black and green, and fed through an eclectic array of rock, folk, pop, dance, R&B, songwriters and dark synths, despite several sound engineering mistakes and some sound bleeding. from the main stage.

As a Spellling fan, the show was everything I wanted and more. Aside from familiarity with the source material, the singer and her band brought their A-game and christened the Sutro stage with their own lineup. Like many other festivals, they ended with their most popular song, “Little Deer”.

The first artist at The Music Den, THE BLSSM, also kicked off the entire weekend with a midday on the Panhandle stage. The non-binary indie rock artist got some of the crowd at the hilltop club up with his three-piece band. Dozens of spectators also remained seated, not out of disrespect, but due to the relaxed nature of the stage. He reminded me of the kind of shows you see at a farmer’s market.

The next artist, Paw Paw Rod, was the biggest surprise of the festival so far. The Hawaii-born and Oklahoma-raised musician spent his set singing, dancing, rapping, laughing and working in crowds as an industry pro for 50 years.

Rod joked with the audience, reminded everyone to drink water, compliment the attendees, smoked a joint during his song “Lemonhaze” and sang his praises to the crowd during a set that saw him. playing all six songs he has released, including his debut track and the biggest hit “HIT EM WHERE IT HURTS”, as well as some previously unreleased cuts.

After Rod, the next artist to play on the Panhandle stage was Lido Pimienta, a Colombian Canadian Afro-Indigenous artist who combines traditional South American genres with electronics. His powerful voice and magnetic dancing – and a guttural metal scream of yore – captivated the audience, along with the sonic textures he created by looping his voice and weaving them together with his band’s percussion section.

After the Lido Pimienta set, Zambian-born Australian-based rapper Sampa the Great took the stage in a puffy jumpsuit, sleek shades, and knee-length braided hair. Her band played a combination of hard rock and jazz fusion, a smooth ferocity that Sampa paired with a gritty and soulful voice on the first song of the set, “Energy”.

We decided to take a break from music by heading to Grass Lands, where Outside Lands attendees aged 21 and over can legally purchase and consume cannabis products. Edibles, joints, vaporizers, drinks and flowers are available. There, the recreation areas feature cornholes, DJ performances, a community mural. Food stalls offer grilled cheese, waffles, and drinks.

Despite the Outside Lands FAQ stating that the festival this year is cashless and that there are no ATMs on the ground, Grass Lands requires customers to pay in cash and you’ll have to shell out $ 5 in fees to use their ATMs. We whipped out some cash, ordered a $ 5 joint and half-smoked in the Arts District before heading to the main entrance to eat.

We walked out of Grass Lands and were immediately greeted by a main stage show by experimental satirist Oliver Tree, whose over-the-top character quickly became tiring as we made our way into Polo Field. The artist’s blend of rock, rap, pop and country aesthetics is obviously intended as performance art, but it’s more like an endurance sport for anyone who doesn’t “get it”, if there is something to be achieved.

What Oliver Tree understands, along with musicians like Hobo Johnson and comedians like Nathan Fielder, is that the power to shiver is one of the last things that can really make audiences uncomfortable. Gone are the days when Eminem and Marilyn Manson can shock the nation with the lyrics of a song; nowadays, you’re bound to hear more lewd things from mainstream politicians and podcasters. While I think Oliver Tree’s execution is lacking, I can appreciate that the man knows what he is doing. Guy.

As we headed towards dinner, we passed the beautiful graffiti murals scattered around the festival and saw colorful and creative clothes; dresses, capes, corsets, bodysuits, flared jeans and at least one eye patch.

Rapper Lil Uzi Vert, who recently changed their pronouns on Instagram to them / them, performed on the main stage afterwards. They arrived after a short delay, but their DJ entertained the crowd with snippets of popular songs from other artists, such as “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1.”

The young attendees showed up in force for the Lil Uzi Vert set, occasionally leaving me surrounded by a sea of ​​Gen Z singing along with lyrics like “Turn to a wild, pocket fat, she calls me dad”.

After another trip to Grass Lands to wrap up our purchase and use the less crowded bathroom set, we captured the beginning of Phoebe Bridgers’ set. She came out – dressed in a white dress – for Disturbed’s “Down with the Sickness,” a song that embodies teenage angst in the same way that Bridgers’ music encapsulates the despair of young adulthood.

As blue and pink lights stained the stage, the indie superstar sang sad songs as adoring fans screamed in support of his every move. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an artist in Outside Lands with a more passionate crowd in front of them. As she conducted what was essentially a group therapy session, her voice was her emotional focal point, conveying every feeling she put into her music of hers.

After a few songs on the set, she paused to reflect on the reversal of Roe v. Wade, called the US a “fucking shit hole” and shouted at the Mariposa Fund, which helps provide abortion assistance for undocumented people.

At that time, a light drizzle began to fall. At first it could only be seen when illuminated by spotlights, but when the wind picked up, light rain could be seen writhing in the sky.

The SZA headliner was the last show of the night, starting from the main stage at Land’s End 10 minutes after Phoebe Bridgers started. SZA’s set included 2017’s “Ctrl” hits like “Garden (Say It Like Dat)” and songs where SZA appeared as Doja Cat’s “Kiss Me More”. His audience didn’t seem to care about light rain at all.

We exited the festival the same way we entered, trudging along dirt paths and getting as far away from the other attendees as possible. With sunburn on my arms, a bit of dirt in my eyes and rain and fog covering my glasses, I looked across the sea of ​​people and thought to myself, “Can I do this for another two days?”