My Excellent Outside Lands Adventure 8/23

This is the story of my first music festival. The whole story. You might be bored by it as it includes my adventures on the bus and so forth. Read at your own risk.

I thought I was going to hear music, but it turned out that the music is important, but it really is a rather small part of the whole experience.

The story:

I drove up from the south bay and parked at Union Square. I took a short walk to Market Street to catch the number 5 bus.

For a moment, I considered walking up Market Street for a while and catching the bus at the next stop, but decided against it because just then the bus pulled up right next to me. So I jumped on at the first stop.

I climb aboard, annoy the driver by dropping my change too slowly, and then take a seat.

The bus proceeds up Market to the next stop, and a giant mass of people cram onto the bus. Every seat is taken and ever inch of standing room is full of bodies pressed together. They are all going to Outside Lands. The bus is so full it feels like it is going to burst.

A couple sitting next to me introduced themselves and we start talking about the festival. They went on Friday they say. They say it is too bad that I missed Radiohead. And Black Mountain. Black Mountain was really good, they say. They also mention that after the festival let out Friday night, and thousands of people poured onto the streets of San Francisco, it was impossible to catch a bus. All the busses were packed full and they would not stop to pick anyone up. My new friends said that late Friday night they waited an hour in the cold dark at a stop as bus after bus passed. Then they started walking. As they walked, they would stop at bus stops along the way, hoping a bus would stop for them. But the busses never stopped. It was the same with the Taxi’s they said…all full, not stopping. They walked the entire way back to their hotel that night. It took them two hours.

Well, that was some good information. Right then and there I crossed Tom Petty (the last performer of the night) off my list of shows to see. I was leaving the festival while the busses would still pick me up. I was not walking for two hours in the middle of the night in San Francisco. Oh hell no.


So we arrived at Gold Gate Park and proceed to the entrance of the festival. I was very casually searched, and my backpack was very causally searched, my ticket was scanned, and I’m in at around 12:55. The first bands take the stage at 1:00. But first things first. I see a merch tent and no lines because it is so early. I stop and buy a Outside Lands t-shirt and a poster and put them in my backpack (PS: the t-shirt does not fit. Anyone want a brand new Outside Lands t-shirt? Moonshadow?) Next I see a BBQ stand. I stop and grab a sandwich and a coke for $12.

And then it is off to the Sutro stage to see Abigail Washburn & The Sparrow Quartet. By the time I get there they have already done two songs. I find a seat on the grass and get ready for some music. As soon as I sit down this hippy dude walks up and plants himself a couple of feet in front of me. The next song starts and this guy jumps to his feet and starts dancing.

How to describe his dancing…..? It was very free. It was very stream-of-consciousness. It was very entertaining and distracting.

This dude was about 60, with a long gray beard. He had on a pair of green corduroy pants that I am sure he has had since 1972, and a green shirt with a giant pot leaf on the back. Very quickly he took that shirt off so that he could be more free. His body was the rich dark brown color of a white dude who doesn’t work and spends most of his time for the last 30 years with no shirt on so that he can be more free. He had a purse with a mushroom on it. It came off at the same time as the shirt. He had his hair covered with a bandana. He had rhythm.

So I start to think how great it would be to live like that…to be so free. To not buy into all the crap our materialistic society teaches us. To not be constrained by the so-called rules that are all really just bullshit anyway. To go to the beach or the park and smoke pot everyday and enjoy the sun and the water and the air. To live at peace.

Then I snap out of it and Abigail Washburn & The Sparrow Quartet are done. All I can tell you is that the hippy really enjoyed them. How could I be so distracted by him that I missed the whole set??

Oh well, no time for regrets. Gotta live in the now. So I took off for the next show, Rupa and the April Fishes. They had already started by the time I got to their stage. Stupid festival is set up that way. Grrrrr. Sounded good. Beautiful girl, fun music. Dudes on stilts in the crowd dancing. Very entertaining. There was a booth right next to the stage giving away ‘peace’ buttons. I took a few and decorated my backpack.

Rupa and the April Fishes at Outside Lands

After the April Fishes, I head over to another stage to catch Devendra Banhart. I don’t remember that set, except that the singer said he could not wait to get off the stage so that he could run over and catch the Liars, his favorite band. I stayed for a few songs that I don’t remember, and then left early so that I could catch the start of the next band that I wanted to see.

The funny thing is, it turns out I had been at the wrong stage. The singer I saw was not Devendra Banhart. Who knows who I was listening to…I have no idea who they were, but I wish I had caught the ‘psychedelic minstrel’ Devendra Banhrt:

By now I’m sure you are wondering what the hell tandjam ingested that day so as to miss an entire set of music that was playing right in front of her and then to go to the wrong stage and listen to the wrong act and not even know it. You might even be wondering where you can get some of what tandjam ingested. Well, believe it or not I managed to be this confused and distracted while being totally sober. (Ok, maybe I had a little contact high from all the smoke, but other than that, nothing. I swear.)

So anyway, after I watched the mystery band on the unknown stage, I made a trip to the other side of the festival to the BIG Lands End stage. This was the stage that Radiohead had performed on the night before, and the stage that Tom Petty would perform on later that night. It was an amazing stage: huge, huge, HUGE.

I was at the huge stage to catch Galactic’s Crescent City Soul Krewe, featuring Cyril Neville and The Dirty Dozen Horns. This was a fun set of music, straight from NOLA. They had some problems with their sound, but I was close enough that it didn’t matter. Cyril Neville was great, the horns were great, the music was great…I really enjoyed their set. And I finally felt like I heard some music.

It was around the end of this set that the weather in San Francisco became a bit chilly. Imagine that? I put on a giant sweatshirt and checked my watch. I had 20 minutes until the next show that I wanted to catch, Nellie McKay. I was hungry again (contact high munchies?), so I stopped on my way to Nellie’s stage and got a hamburger and a tea for $14. Ouch! That one hurt.

I slowly made my way over to the stage, found a spot on the grass and had a seat. I had 10 minutes to wait. I knew I was missing other music…
Lupe Fiasco, for example, who I really wanted to check out.

But Lupe Fiasco was clear on the other side of the festival and I had wanted to see Nellie McKay for several years now, so I ate my very expensive hamburger and waited on the grass patiently.

At the appointed time, Nellie did not take the stage. There was nobody checking mics, there was nothing. 5 minutes later…still nothing. 10 minutes….nothing….Now I know that I will have to choose between seeing the end of her set and getting to the next show on my list. She is messing up my schedule. Grrrrrr. 16 minutes later Nellie McKay suddenly jumps on stage in a cute little dress and I know she is freezing. San Francisco was in the 50’s with the wind blowing chilly ocean air by this time. I was bundled up. I felt bad for this skinny vegan girl in her little shift dress. Teeth chattering she sat at the piano, mumbling about Lupe Fiasco’s hit song. Was she saying she was late because she was watching Lupe Fiasco?? If so, that is fucked up. Seriously. If not, sorry for the profanity.

Nellie’s set was late and felt rushed and it felt cold. But it was really fun and very funny. Nellie McKay is hilarious. And so talented. Here is a vid of her performing “Sari” on the Late Late Show a few years ago:

She performed “Sari” at Outside Lands and yes, she gets every single of those words in there, included the ones that the Late Late Show edited out. One of these days I’ll have to do a post on Nellie…she’s an interesting artist.

So anyway, back to my story….Nellie’s set runs late, because she started late. Then I wait in line for 15 minutes to use a gross port-a-potty. Because of Nellie running late and because of the wait at the port-a-potty, I miss most of Donavon Frankenreiter…but I really, really liked what I did see. I caught about 3 songs I think. I think I’m going to pick up some of his music soon…

After Donavon, the next artist to see was Ben Harper. I took a short walk over to the BIG Lands End stage again. Steve Winwood had just finished performing on that stage, so there was already a larg crowd gathered. Now I was part of a second crowd of people coming to the stage to see Ben Harper. We streamed in and filled up all the little spaces in the first crowd and soon the lawn was packed so solid that it was difficult to move.

I snaked my way through the crowd to a pretty good center spot with a very nice view, right next to the VIP section. And the VIP section fence gave me a nice place to lean on for a rest. More and more people streamed in, pushing their way to front. And then more and more and more people came and I could not imagine how they were all fitting in up there. And then I looked back behind me to see a huge sea of people packed in behind me and suddenly I felt the enormity of the crowd. Wow.

Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals came out and they played a great set. Ben Harper was fantastic. He was fantastic. I don’t know what else to say…he just blew the doors off the place….if there had been doors… The most memorable part of the set was when some familiar notes floated across the audience and a guy in front of me said, “Oh this is a great song! This is seriously one of his best songs!”….it was “Use Me.”

Here is a partial vid of that performance that I found on youtube…you can get an idea of the crowd size and an idea of how Ben was performing…

After Ben Harper, the last band that I was going to see was Cake, and then I was going to leave the festival to beat the rush after Tom Petty. But I decided to skip Cake and leave a little sooner, just to be safe. I wanted to be sure I could catch a bus back to Union Sqare.

I took my time on the way out and checked out some tents and booths. There was some really cool stuff, especially in the “Crowd Fire” tent where you could just chill out in the dark, listen to a DJ, upload your media from the festival, watch media from the festival, surf the net, or have your picture taken and incorporated into a concert poster for your favorite band. Those personalized concert posters were pretty cool. They don’t sound cool, do they? Well, they were. I wish I had gotten one.

After the Crowd Fire tent, I checked out a few more booths full of environmentally friendly this that and the other thing. And then I made my way to the exit, wondering what great music I was missing at that moment and what great music I would be missing.

Right next to the exit, there was a stage. Primus was on the stage. The crowd was insane. Just a seething sea of people moshing and slamming and crowd surfing and pumping their fists and singing and cheering and generally rocking out. I watched for quite a while. Wow. There was a pretty big crowd on the other side of the fence, outside the festival, watching too. THis band was on fire…the energy was crazy.

Primus at Outside Lands:

Finally I dragged myself away and said goodbye to Outside Lands as I made my way out of Golden Gate Park and out to the street.

I took the number 5 bus (packed full) to market and then walked to Union Square. It was dark by now and Union Square was packed with shoppers, tourists, street musicians and demanding panhandlers. I did not hurry to my car. I soaked up the evening and the sites.

I heard some unusual but beautiful music coming from the Square and when I looked over I saw a huge Tibetan flag. I’m interested in Tibet and Tibetan culture and I have a Tibetan student, so I made my way over to the music to see what I could see. I listened to the music and participated in a “Free Tibet” demonstration.

And then I took the short walk to my car and drove home. It was a full and satisfying day.


2 Responses to “My Excellent Outside Lands Adventure 8/23”

  1. 1 moonshadow
    September 1, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    t&jam, I love your recap. After I have a few minutes to watch the vids, I’ll be back to post more. The t-shirt – is it made by American Apparel? If so, and if it’s a woman’s medium it won’t fit me either! Isnt’ that annoying? To buy a really cool concert t-shirt and not be able to wear it?!

    You have a student from Tibet? From here on out I’m going to be ultra paranoid about my writing skills, or the lack thereof. Please feel free to edit my posts. Really. 🙂

  2. 2 Linda T
    September 4, 2008 at 6:19 am

    Wow, what an outstanding recap. Those kinds of festivals are so hard to go to because there is so much good music happening simultaneously. I remember at Newport there were several occasions where I wanted to cut myself in two or three parts just to catch it all.

    Thanks for introducing me to some new artists — I was quite interested in Nellie McKay and Donavan Frankenreiter. I have dipped a bit into the Ben Harper catalog over the last couple of years, but now I want to go more deeply into it. The “Use Me” story was hilarious!

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