The three-day San Francisco Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival marks its fifth year with a complete sellout a little over a week before the downbeat Friday at noon.
Last year's event did sell out, but not until the event started. That's exciting news for festival organizers, performers and festival food, wine, beer and merchandise vendors.
That means 65,000 people per day will be coursing through the beautiful Golden Gate Park festival grounds, stretching from the Polo Field to the eastern end of Hellman Hollow (formally Speedway Meadows).
With four outside stages and two indoor, plus the incredible Wine Lands with its 41 Northern and Central California wineries, and the new-this-year Beer Lands tents, plus innumerable local restaurant food vendors with amazing choices for all tastes, food trucks, Choco Lands, Eco Lands, the new Outside Lambs, art installations, the list goes on and on, there are a plethora of sights, sounds and smells to amaze and delight those who come to one of the most beautiful cities in the world to have a great time together.
For those unfamiliar with the mega-sized festival rhythm, it may seem daunting to interface with large throngs of mostly youthful festival attendees.
But each year, Another Planet Entertainment and Superfly Productions have worked diligently to improve the festival experience and have taken good measure to insure a safe and pleasant time for all.
While weather is an inexact science at best, predictions point to warm days with transitory fog, subject to the whims of nature. Being that the park is a coastal California locale, a number of clothing layers is certainly prudent and worth the weight it might add to your pack, especially after the sun goes down during the last sets of the day.
This is going to be a good one folks, so those of you with tickets, get on your mark.
"Everything is exciting, starting with the lineup," said Another Planet Entertainment's Vice President Allen Scott. "We have some heavy hitters this year, with Bay Area legends Neil Young and Crazy Horse, and Metallica. Those guys and Stevie Wonder are out there, the Foo Fighters, Sigur Ros and Jack White, SkrillexÉthe lineup; you never know how it's going to shake out with so many variables in effect. This year we were fortunate to put together a massive lineup, certainly reflected in the ticket sales. So we're excited to see all those artists."
To add to the obvious major names above, one cannot forget Norah Jones, The Kills, Franz Ferdinand, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and a host of lesser-known indie bands to include the likes of White Denim, Sharon Van Etten, Two Gallants, Fitz and The Tantrums, Of Monsters and Men, Andrew Bird, Zola Jesus, Sean Hayes, Tame Impala, Portugal. The Man, Explosions in the Sky, Thee Oh Sees, Jovanotti, Allen Stone, Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman, Birdy, fun., Trampled by Turtles, Regina Spektor, Rebelution, and Bomba Estero, all who are on my My Schedule, a feature of the free download Mobile App for your Smart Phone.
I'm going to try and catch all those bands, but there's also a good chance of being steered to other sets, or being swayed by other activities that will force me to forgo the music.
Set times, artist bios, grid views are part of the app's features to explore, as well as food vendor menus with an opportunity to voice your review, and a festival map and a Ranger Dave Camera. I'm getting excited, I tell ya!
"We're excited about the addition of Beer Lands this year," Scott said, "which is 15 different breweries from California, and most of them from Northern California. Twenty-five percent are from San Francisco. We're working with this guy Dave McLean, who owns the Magnolia Gastropub at Haight and Masonic, and then he has another restaurant called Alembic on Haight as well. He curated the breweries for us. I think he did a really good job. There's a signature beer from Sierra Nevada Brewery called Outside Lands Saison. There will be tastes and full drinks. We've extended the footprint back into the east end of Lindley Meadow, where Beer Lands will be and The Barbary. We brought back the Spiegel Tent again this year, after a few years. It's a Belgium tent with wood floors, stained glass, and booths. It's the most beautiful tent you've ever seen. This year we programmed it primarily with comedy. Great comedians like David Cross from Arrested Development, also Neil Patrick Harris, some of the Muppets.
"That whole area, the east end of Lindley, will give a bit of a respite from the rest of the festival, a place to catch your breath. The vast majority of people are coming for the full three days. After the first and second days you start to explore these different attractions beyond just the music. If you're out there for just one day it's mostly music, music, music. If you're out there for three days you take in what we call festival elements. That helps make our festival great.
"We're expanding McLaren's Pass this year, where we're doing Outside Lambs, which should be really cool from the guys at Michael Mina and Chef John Fink from The Whole Beast. We'll have a coffee area in there, more food trucks, and more local restaurants. I think we're up to 71 restaurants. So that's exciting. I get excited to just come out there and eat. You have to pace yourself, for everything out at the festival.
"But what's been fun, people not just coming up to you saying 'Hey, did you see Of Monsters and Men, did you see The Be Good Tanyas, did you see that Skrillex set?' But, 'I just ate a Korean Taco from Namu Gaji, that was so good.' That's what I had friends coming up and saying."
It's really great to have one of the event's promoters so excited about what there is to offer at this eco-conscious, sustainable-focused festival. When possible, it's advised to take advantage of the shuttle service based from the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, downtown next to City Hall. There is underground parking there and tickets for the shuttle can be bought online.
Esurance Pedicabs are available at the festival site to help cut down on your walking to arrive at the gates. Also, bicycle valet service is available, and your bike will be washed and ready to roll after a long day at the fest.
I've been covering this event from its inception in 2008, and I've watched as each year the infrastructure and efforts to make things flow smoothly have improved exponentially.
It's a wonderland of sights to soak up, the people watching is unparalleled, and once you know your way around and can strategize effectively, there's no reason for not having a good time.
After dark, the lights on the trees that are all around the site's perimeters create a magical ambiance, and unreal art treasures are placed all around the grounds.
Specialty shops, a farmer's market, a hair salon, a techie center, artisan and craft booths dot the landscape, and there's hardly any cement to be had. It's a party, it's a concert, it's a food and wine festival, it's a little city in itself in the middle of this gorgeous park.
If you didn't get tickets to this year, there will be a next year, or perhaps you can find tix for resale or on the event's Facebook page. Navigating the event will be easier if you do some homework before going by visiting the webpage at www.sfoutsidelands.com.
Oh yeah, besides the festival itself, there are nighttime shows, several that are sold out, but some that are not, at venues around The City. Also, there is a TuneIn Mobile App that allows anyone anywhere to listen to music from the festival for free.
So, if you can't make it to the show, listen in to selected sets from each stage. If you are going, be sure to visit the website's info page to find out what you can or cannot bring.
This year, for the first time, you'll be able to rent locker space, so that will make life easier to have your festival gear held for you overnight and not have to schlep it each day.
"We see people from every state in the country coming, people from Scotland, England, Australia, France, coming into the festival," Scott added. "When you have such a wonderful city like San Francisco to come to, it's like the icing on the cake."
Hey now! Come back to the Herald's online edition next week to read a review of the festival and see a photo slideshow of the performers and the happenings throughout the weekend. I hope to see some of you up there!
Beth Peerless can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. GO!