Claire Fenerty

As the last independent music festival in the United States, Outside Lands had big shoes to fill this year. The festival celebrated its 10th Anniversary in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park this August.

With an idiosyncratic lineup including Metallica, The Who, Gorillaz, Lorde, and Alt-J, Outside Lands offered a once-in-a-lifetime concert experience, but this may have come at a cost. A literal cost: festival goers now pay Coachella prices for three hours less of music time and a host of other issues. Despite offering diverse and astonishing headliners, Outside Lands has struggled in the past to bring female names into its headliner mix. This year the only female headliner to grace Land’s End stage was Lorde, last year the token female artist was Lana Del Rey. It’s not like there is a shortage of leading female voices ready to fill those spots, so what gives? Another trend: unexpected cancellations. A Tribe Called Quest and Queens of the Stone Age both bailed on the festival this year, forcing festival coordinators to generate an appearance from Cage the Elephant out of thin air. This may have been one side effect of releasing the lineup later in the year, as previously unavailable artists clear their schedules for the August weekend. 

However, anyone who has attended Outside Lands before will tell you that if you show up just for the headliners, you’re an idiot and a fool. The festival also offers appearances from locally selected artists; expensive yet trendy food; designated areas for Beer, Wine, and Chocolate; and a star-studded round of comedic appearances from Nick Kroll and Jeff Goldblum. This was my second year going to Outside Lands, and both years I have curated a wealth of new bands and songs to add to my Spotify library. Last year I became acquainted with Lany, Kamasi Washington, and Anderson .Paak. This year I had a similar experience on the small stages where I saw RAC, Swet Shop Boys, and Noname deliver the best performances of the festival. 

So overall, was it worth it? My answer is yes. I had a blast eating local food and watching new artists kill the auditory game onstage. I’m a “go with the flow” kind of person. Even though the cancellations let me down, I was alright to move on to the next thing and keep the good vibes rolling. I had a good time, and that was what I paid for, but in the future the uncertainties of the festival and the climbing price tag may keep me from attending. But you know, we’ll see.