Celebrating its ninth annual year as Northern California’s premier music, comedy, food and arts festival, Outside Lands took over Golden Gate Park last weekend and entertained crowds of more than 60,000 attendees each day with a massive roster of world-renowned talent. This year’s highlights surmounted all previous editions and exceeded the expectations of the most veteran festivalgoers.
Beyond the daily artist lineups, mouth-watering fare and unparalleled comedy showcases, Outside Lands kicked it up a notch in 2016, playing to what seemed like a more refined crowd on a local and national level. The festival’s organizers created an environment that appealed to both novices and seasoned attendees, with convenience being the key factor and a running theme that helped establish a flow to the fairgrounds that was unattainable in past years.
The fest also worked with PayPal to set up an option for cashless transactions by uploading “Bison Bucks” to your wristband, creating a seamless navigation of all the food/beverage and merchandise options. Furthermore, the debut of additional boutique concessions at Oyster Lands and Cocktail Lands provided a reprieve from the long lines at food trucks, booths and beer stands for the mature palette.
Even the structure and pace of this year’s Outside Lands schedule felt more conducive to less park-length traversing, with each stage focusing more on specific genres and demographics. There are still certain aspects that could use improvement, such as an increased availability of trash receptacles, bathroom options and crowd control at the festival’s entrance, but the issues that Outside Lands faced this year were no different or more overbearing than any other large-scale production.
Now nine years on the circuit, the Bay Area’s premiere destination for festival revelers has definitely matured to an impressive standard in the live music business. As Outside Lands continues to set the bar high thanks to its innovative features, top-notch billing and overall experience, here are our favorite moments from 2016.
Headliner: LCD Soundsystem
Hip-Hop: Anderson .Paak
Singer-Songwriter: Lana Del Rey
Jazz: Kamasi Washington
Breakthrough artist: Jidenna
Local act: Down and Outlaws
Heineken Dome: Warren G & E-40 (pop-up performance)
OUTSIDE LANDS 2016 AWARDS:
Biggest Crowd: Chance the Rapper
In one of the few transcendent moments of the weekend, a set that had everyone throughout the fairgrounds hyped into an anticipatory frenzy, Chance the Rapper performed at the Lands End stage on Sunday afternoon for easily the largest crowd of the entire weekend. Even those who stood their ground through Third Eye Blind’s preceding set felt the drastic change in both crowd size and personal space as the Polo Fields flooded and temperatures rose. Even though Chance could have used this to his advantage and conducted an explosive show, igniting the tightly configured crowd into a combustive state, he instead took his fans “to church” with a spiritually centered gospel set, making sure everyone was attentive and of course, that “his part” resonated among the masses.
Honorable Mention: Lana Del Rey, J. Cole
Most Magical Outside Lands Moment: Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem
One of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind coming into Outside Lands was, “Who were Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem?” For those who knew, it was, “How in the hell were the Muppets going to fill a Sunday slot on the main stage?” Because the band had never played a show of such magnitude or outside the context of a TV/film studio, no one had any clue what to expect during this early-afternoon slot. Though some festivalgoers (mistakenly) decided to forego the experience altogether, those present will not forget the incredible feat that Another Planet Entertainment and Jim Henson Enterprises were able to pull off for what was one of the most emotionally nostalgic, blissfully complex and once-in-a-lifetime festival performances maybe ever. The Muppet house band both effortlessly managed to pluck the heartstrings of multiple generations of fans while delivering the most conceptually beautiful “love letter” to the city of SF, blanketing the grounds in a sea of love and collective euphoria for a brief, yet unforgettable moment. Relive the full performance here.
Honorable Mention: Big Boi’s set at Heineken Dome (pop-up performance), Jason Isabel performing with Ryan Adams
Funniest Stage Banter: Ryan Adams and The Shining
Known to be quite the comedian with his sassy stage banter and on-the-spot ad libs, Ryan Adams and his backing band, The Shining, catered to the Bay Area audience by revisiting a moment from his 2014 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass set with a rousing reprise of “3 Balloons”. He not only called out his attending family’s and audience members’ concert etiquette faux pas, but he also mentioned his annoyance with the bass of Major Lazer’s simultaneous set as well as referenced the standout beacon of this year’s festival, which was hoisted up by a group of super fans watching from the crowd. Check out it here.
Honorable Mention: Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem, Lionel Richie
Most Jaw-Dropping Performance: Peaches
For those familiar with the raunchy revelry that a Peaches show entails, we were front and center when the pro-sex powerhouse took the Panhandle stage on Saturday. As for novice audience members or anyone really within the general vicinity during the set, this festival performance was one that frontwoman Merrill Nisker was determined to make sure would be burned into our Outside Lands memories for life. Somewhat of a crossbreed between live sex show and avant-garde performance art, Peaches paired hard-hitting bass lines with spitfire lyrics and a stage show of elaborately X-rated costumes and choreography that left the crowd on one hand speechless and on the other frantically screaming for more.
Honorable Mention: Grimes, The Claypool Lennon Delirium
Best GastroMagic Moment: Skew It on the Bar B with Big Boi, Animal’s Jon Shook & Vinny Dotolo and State Bird’s Stuart Brioza
On the third and final day of Outside Lands, most attendees were camped out at their favorite stage, decompressing from the first two days of excitement and settling in to watch the final performances of the weekend. But if you happened to be one of the few wandering through the Choco Lands overpass or happened to remember Big Boi’s scheduled performance at the GastroMagic stage, you were in for a treat. Those present in the intimate crowd not only got a mini set of both Outkast and solo hits from the vivacious emcee, but they also got samples of some of the most sought-after BBQ shrimp in the Bay Area while listening to remixed versions of each song that incorporated the word “shrimp” into every chorus. Hilariously ridiculous and insanely delicious, those present may never hear those songs performed the same way again. In fact, we’re still giggling and singing “I like the way you shrimp” days later.
Honorable Mention: Beignets and Bounce Brunch (with Big Freedia and Brenda’s Soul Food), Shark Bites (with Jauz, Mother of Pearl and Guittard Chocolate Company)
Most “Thirst-Inducing” Performers of the Weekend: Big Gram’s Sarah Barthel, Miguel
Worst Decisions of the Weekend: The girl who climbed the windmill during J. Cole’s set and fell (watch here), deciding to bring a bag with you to the festival
Best Totems: The Red Balloon
Honorable Mention: Rick & Morty, Stranger Things Dustin
Biggest Festival Wear Trend of 2016: Hipster Bandito
Honorable Mention: Animal-themed onesies, flower crowns/bedazzled body parts
Best “Taste of the Bay” Menu Item: Bacon Bacon CA BBQ Bacon Burritos
Best Adult Beverage: Elixir’s Whatamelon Cocktail
Best Non-Alcoholic Nectar of the Gods: Straw’s Basil Strawberry Lemonade
Best Festival Feature: Cocktail Lands
Best Way to Waste Time Between Sets: PayPal Video Game Arcade
OVERHEARD AT OUTSIDE LANDS 2016:
The best directly stated and heard in passing at the festival.
“An empty bag is still a bag!” – crowd members policing the “no-bag” entry lines to the festival
“Is this the Trail of Tears section of Outside Lands?” – crowd members while passing through Choco Lands
“I’m in the Upside Down …” – Day 3 entry ways to the festival
“Hurry up, run! The flower crowns are coming, the flower crowns are coming!” – crowd members exiting the Twin Peaks stage area before Lana Del Rey
“I must’ve missed the goth/bandito appropriation memo …” – in reference to this year’s style trends
“Meet me at the Red Balloon!” – various lost attendees throughout the grounds
“Tits out for Radiohead!” – an ambitious crowd member on Saturday night
“Jesus, Rachel!” – in reference to “basic bitch” behavior/clothing choices throughout the weekend
“I be on that shrimp tonight, straight up on that shrimp tonight, I be on that straight up on that, I be on that shrimp tonight.” – Big Boi during his GastroMagic performance
“Mmmm, porcini doughnuts …” (Homer Simpson voice) – mimicking nearby food vendors
“Who even is Lionel Richie … oh, Nicole Richies’ dad?!” – mortifyingly clueless audience member
“We’re all Diana Ross!” – Lionel Richie in reference to his “special guest”
“We’re all gonna die, whatcha’ gonna do about it?” – Sufjan Stevens contemplating life on stage
“This is the best moment of my life, can I live in an LCD set?” – enthused crowd member
“I’d follow you to hell …” – a member of a large group attempting to traverse the grounds
“But my mom and dad are in there …” – festivalgoers attempting to jump the line entering the festival
“You know San Francisco has totally changed, like I went back to my place on the pier and it was taken over by sea lions, like totally gentrified!” – Janus during Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem’s set