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Posted Aug 11th, 2015 (8:00 am) by Staff
Outside Lands Day Two: The Hump Day
Image by Peter Virth

I just drove hours from a previous work assignment on Saturday morning, quickly showered and decided that the best way to Outside Lands was to hop on my bike. On the way, the trickle of festival-goers into Golden Gate Park began and the more I rode into overcast and misty greenery, the number of groups increased. By the time I got to the intersection of Transverse and Overlook Drive for the valet bike parking, it was a steady sea of hip 20 and 30 somethings, large groups of bros finishing off the 12 pack they’ve brought for the walk, and the suburban teenagers clearly not dressed for San Francisco “summer” weather.

This is my seventh Outside Lands and if I could sum it up in a few key words, it would be “walking and waiting.” No matter how close you think you’ve entered the park, chances are you will walk another mile to the nearest entrance, and then walk for another 10 minutes before you get close to the possibility of music or a beverage. Somehow Golden Gate Park never felt this epically large-scale on my morning runs, but as I walk from the Bike Valet over to the Box Office, I’m questioning what kind of mess it will be to get back out a the end of the night.

And….we’re in. I’m already feeling every social anxiety disorder that could ever lay dormant inside of me start to bubble up as the expansive field filled with people moving in every direction. A quick consult to my map let me know that I’m not far from the GastroMagic area and I was in time for “Beignets & Bounce Brunch w/ Big Freedia & Brenda’s Soul Food.” Everything in that title sounded like it could take me to my happy place: beignets, brunch, Big Freedia? Yes, please and thank you. But apparently about 1000 other people felt the same way. The stage was set in a nook of trees but was impossible to see anything unless you stood on one of the oversized log benches which have been claimed. I can hear Big Freedia getting the crowd riled up and in my heart, I know that she is shaking it, but sadly, I couldn't even get a glimpse. My hopes for beignets also went out the door quickly.

The GastroMagic stage seemed to be the epitome of San Francisco - music and art fusing with celebrity chefs. I love the idea and it seemed a welcome change from the main stages or vendor lines, plus there was some sort of VIP or private area that looked like every dinner party I’ve ever wanted to be invited to, but every time I attempted to get close, or figure out how I could get in line for food, my efforts are thwarted by the large crowds.

At that point, I was hungry and luckily one thing this festival does well is food. Well, sort of. Almost every restaurant in San Francisco had a booth here and the selections were out of control. Did I want Hot Chicken Broth from Wise Sons Deli? Or was I more in a Dried Porcini Doughnuts-mood from Rich Table? What about something sweet from the ChocoLand or should I just throw my good Jewish girl caution to the wind and stroll over to BaconLand? The possibilities were endless until I realize that most of the food vendors are cash-only. Wait… seriously?

I was told earlier when I received my wristband, that I could load up “Bison Bucks” onto the R.F.I.D. chip to pay for wine in the WineLands tent. An awesome option considering that in years past, it involved buying tickets from one desk that seemed to be getting swarmed by people who wanted a better option that just “red or white” for $11. I love it - technology being useful. And with PayPal as one of the major sponsors, the regular beer booths and the BeerLands are all credit-card friendly. Score! (This girl NEVER carries cash.) So, that being said, it was to much dismay that I find out that almost all the food vendors are cash-only. But I’m hungry.

I made a bee-line to the main Polo Field to the Tacolicious / Chino booth - two of my favorite restaurants in the city because tacos sound AH-MAZ-ING right now (and also because my friend Sarah works there and can spot me some cash). Two of the most perfect, flaky and delicious fish tacos later, I’m felt re-energized and ready to explore. First show on the list - Billy Idol. As Cold War Kids wraped up at the Lands End Stage, the crowd shifted from young hipsters to ANYONE over the age of 35 and everyone who just was interested in seeing this living legend. I cringed for a moment while waiting for a beer when I overhear “I don’t even know who Billy Idol is….is that like American Idol?”

I linked up with some friends in town who are in their 40s and were ready to dance to Billy Idol. And you know, what, he does not disappoint. It’s like someone put Billy in a sealed-off house and didn’t let him or his band know that the outside world moved past 1986. After opening with an unfamiliar 2014 single, “Postcards From the Past,” he got the crowd going with one hit after another. Idol started off with “Dancing with Myself” and moving into “Flesh for Fantasy,” “Eyes Without A Face,” and “Ready Steady Go.” There is always a shining moment in every foggy San Francisco day and with the start of a semi-acoustic “White Wedding,” the sun came out. And it was really just Billy being Billy up there. Eyeliner, bleached hair, leather pants and of course, the shirt came off at the end (I’ll just say, at 60 years old, he has got it together.) Idol in true for, announced that the acid had just kicked in midway through his set. I don’t know if I actually believed him, but it was rock-n-roll at its finest.

I decided to shift gears and check out The Barbary - a unique Outside Lands stage where some of the top comedians and troupes in the country come through for stand-up. With the sign-off of Jon Stewart this week, I hoped to be one of the lucky 500 to listen to Daily Show correspondents Al Madrigal, Hasan Minhaj and Jordan Klepper. I am SO happy I decided to do this. The three comedians had just finished an earlier set and were feeling good. They seemed to have gotten comfortable with their jokes when an ASL translator changed all that. Standing stage left on the floor, the curvy, middle-aged woman assigned to translate their punchlines stole the show with her facial expressions and, I’m guessing, not dictionary-friendly interpretations of male genitalia.

Taking advantage of her requirement to interpret whatever he said, Hasan Minaj came out on stage and started chanting “Dicks, dicks, dicks, dicks and nazis, dicks and nazis! Dicks! Dicks! Dick dick dicks!” Not phased one bit, the interpreter started mimicking hand jobs, blow jobs, double blow jobs, while covering her upper lip like a Hitler mustache and saluting. This went on for a good 3 minutes while the crowd and Hasan almost lost it. She deserved every bit of that standing ovation and there was no chance that any joke would be as good as her performance after that. So we thought.

Midway, Hasan set up a joke about being a first generation child of immigrants and talking about arranged marriages. Seeing a young Indian couple seated towards the front, he began to interview them about how long they’ve been dating, how they met, where their parents are from, joking about how “practical” they were coming from business school and that the man had asked the girl to “venmo” him the money for the ticket. After 2-3 minutes of jokes at their expense, Hasan asked the man his name. The man, Samir, replied that they knew each other and had played basketball together as children. Upon naming a mutual friend, Hasan’s face dropped and his eyes widened as he recognized his acquaintance and realized that he had been ripping on him this whole time. After that, Hasan never really regained his composure and couldn’t remember his jokes - which was fine because it turned into 10 more minutes of pure improve and conversation with Samir. It was totally off the cuff and memorable.

It was time to make major life decisions as the scheduling fail this year involved Kendrick Lamar performing at the exact same time as the Black Keys. I made my decision to see Kendrick and began to funnel my way towards the Twin Peaks stage. Friends told me where they are standing and while I see their navigational landmark, at some point it becomes too crowded and I start to panic. There was literally nowhere to go and I’m felt trapped in a sea of people that rise up on either side. I called it and moved uphill to the side - still in a crowd, but feeling less at the bottom of a barrel. The pushing, shoving, streams of people, the “I just need to find my friends” and “there's a space over there” became far too much for me. Regardless, there is no way to LEAVE if I wanted to, so I make friends with some neighbors who are not planning to move and we all protect each other.

Once that subsided, it was all worth it. Kendrick Lamar OWNED Outside Lands. His high-energy set featured all the top hits off of good kid, m.A.A.d. City to a crowd that just wanted it. “Backseat Freestyle,” “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” “Poetic Justice” and “Swimming Pools (Drank)” played to a crowd that knew every non-rap word (more on that later) and sang the choruses at the top of their lungs. He paired down “The Recipe” into a stripped repeat of the hook that had the audience entranced. It was one man, no band or music behind him repeating “Women, Weed and Weather” over and over. His love for the West Coast was on display and he kindly changed the end from “welcome to L.A.” to “welcome to the Bay.”

There was a moment towards the end of the evening, when Kendrick began praising his mentor Dr. Dre’s genius and vision that I thought the crowd might lose it. With the release of Compton just a day before, it seemed the whole field was waiting with baited breath to see if the legend might make a surprise cameo. It couldn’t happen. It was too good to be true. While I doubt this tease was intentional, my heart broke a little when it was clear that Dr. Dre was not coming out. Sad, but Kendrick was so incredible for all 85 minutes that it was easy to forget and just focus on the performance happening.

There was an incredible juxtaposition of black culture and white culture during that performance. Kendrick’s lyrics are molded by his life experiences growing up in Compton, in the black community in an area plagued with gang violence and hardship. The screens behind him played a montage of footage taken, presumably, from Compton of that specific community. It was exactly what white Americans think the black ghetto looks like. And yet, the crowd was almost universally white. I was surrounded by North Face jackets, blonde blowouts, college-bros with American flag bandanas tied around their heads and more tank tops that I can imagine. The crowd had no problem singing along to every lyric and shouting “bitch” and “nigga” like they were saying “red” or “blue.” They were singing songs about experiences they will never have or even begin to remotely understand. It’s a conversation for a larger story, but worth touching upon for the time being.

Words by Rebecca Pariser
Photos by Peter Virth

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