Outside Lands outtakes
by Craig Emanuel
For the third successive year in a row, I spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday of last week in Golden Gate Park attending Outside Lands — a food, wine and music festival which has been held every year for the last seven years.
Unlike the insanity of Coachella, which is held in the Southern California desert in April when the temperature can be over 100 degrees during the day, there is, by comparison, mellowness to this festival, which for me, is my favorite music event of the year.
Not only is the setting in Golden Gate Park, which is green and filled with tall Eucalyptus trees (that remind me of Australia – although with no Koala Bears, as one Australian musician pointed out to the crowd), as distinct from the dust fields that you can find in the desert, but the temperature during the day tends to be in the high 60s and low 70s and drops off in the evening as the fog rolls in off the ocean.
At Coachella, there is definitely an element, particularly amongst the younger crowd who are there in part for the social interaction with their peers, as distinct from being principally driven by the music.
At Outside Lands, people are clearly there for the music and to enjoy three great “chill” days in the park.
The fact that there is a large selection of different foods offered from diverse ethnic backgrounds, as well as wine and beer tents where you can sample a reasonable variety of beverages, are a bonus rather than a driving force to get people to attend.
Despite the crowds that attend (probably over 100,000 in three days), there is largely no pushing and shoving and people are patient as they make their way from one end of the park to the other to listen to the different acts. Even with the more popular acts, there is not a huge element of people trying to push their way forward to the front of the stage as the bands begin to play, despite a large number of people who waited patiently for sometimes hours to stake out their favorite viewing spot.
It is true, that in my case, my son and I each had purchased VIP passes which gave us preferential viewing for the two main stages which was a definite plus as it meant that for almost any act, you could show up 10-15 minutes before the act began and still be assured of a pretty decent place to stand and watch the relevant band.
Although in the past I have been somewhat driven by the ability to hear the likes of classic acts that I grew up with such as Paul McCartney, Neil Young and Stevie Wonder, this year I was genuinely more interested in both listening to and experiencing new talent as well as witnessing what it is that today’s youth is driven by.
When I was younger, in order to get a rich, full sound, a band would need to be comprised of two or three guitarists, a bass player, drummer, perhaps a couple of horn players and some back up singers, in addition to the lead singer. Today, some of the biggest acts that performed at Outside Lands were one or two people standing on a stage with a series of computer driven sound devices that could recreate the sound of a full orchestra and horn section, as well as pump out a great rhythm which would cause the crowd to jump up and down, use their hands and shout out the words of what were often remixed songs. In one case, a 23-year-old DJ from Australia, who is known to the crowd as Flume, performed in perhaps one of the largest crowds ever to have attended a single event at Outside Lands, attracting probably close to 25,000, all of whom were standing and dancing on the grass.
I heard, witnessed and really appreciated for the first time how much talent some of these young musicians have and why they are so popular. The integration of sounds, as well as visual images, which are constantly changing on digital screens on the stage, creates a total experience that is truly impressive.
Don’t get me wrong. I was very happy to hear Tom Petty play his classic hits from 25 years ago and if Led Zeppelin decided to make a return to the stage, you can count me in. But certainly next year I won’t be as hesitant to say “no” to the newest sounds that today’s musicians are creating!
“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” – PlatoTags: Craig Emanuel, Flume, Golden Gate Park, Hollywood, Live music experience, Music, Outside Lands, Tom Petty