By Will Houston and Spencer Tierney // Photos by Andrew Jorgensen / Outside Lands
Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival is prime territory for those with a spirit for exploration. But experiencing all Outside Lands has to offer -- from a diverse lineup ranging from classic legends to soon-to-be stars and a landscape chock-full of award-winning cuisine, brewers, vintners, cannabis connoisseurs, artistic inlets, specialty stages and secret shows -- in three days or less can seem a bit daunting.
So before the 2019 festival kicks off, we’ve devised a scavenger hunt of sorts for you, one that we hope will expand your musical horizons, palates or at least bring you some good memories during your time in Golden Gate Park.
What do you win if you complete the list? That’s for you to find out.
Keep an eye and ear out for a secret show. From Jack White’s pop-up show in the woodland paths of the festival in 2012 to Big Boi saving the day in 2017 when Tribe Called Quest canceled their set, some of the fan-favorite sets haven’t shown up on the official schedule. Don’t expect anything, but don’t rule it out either. Hint: the small stage at The House by Heneiken is a good place to keep an eye on.
Freak out your friends with your perfectly imitated Childish Gambino body contortions during “This is America.” Easily one of the most anticipated acts with his funkadelic and pop-rap vibes, don’t miss him headlining Saturday.
Absolutely nail the “Mr. Jones and me” part of the chorus at Counting Crows and then mumble the other 99% of the lyrics you don’t know in your best Adam Duritz impression.
Slow dance with your boo (or yourself) during Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up” and other soulful raps about love such as “Shot Clock” and “Good Bad.” Ella Mai hasn’t been around long, but she’s good at pulling heartstrings.
Find and hug Ranger Dave or Ruth. The festival’s khaki-clad, mustachioed and matriarchal mascots should be easy to spot. I mean, they’ve got felt heads. Lots of festivalgoers dress up as them, though, so make sure you hug the right one.
Do the hoedown hustle during “High Horse” at Kacey Musgraves’ denim discotech. Get ready to shake yer boot scoot booty.
Be an early-bird. There are plenty of reasons to get an early start to the festival -- the short wait times, the smaller crowds, the more intimate performances. But this year the musicians are the biggest pull for an early-bird arrival:
- Fatai: Once Fatai’s latest single “Road Less Traveled” came on, my noon-time arrival on Saturday was sealed. Gaining the love of fans including Sam Smith through online recordings of her performances, the 24-year-old Melbourne artist isn’t afraid to explore the impressive range of her characteristic voice and seamlessly jumps between genres from jazz to soul to R&B. Fatai and her guitar kick off the Panhandle stage at 12 p.m. Saturday.
- PJ Morton: Looking for a Sunday pick-me-up? PJ Morton is the show to see. With a voice packed with shaking soul and talent on the keyboard that’s had him playing with Maroon 5 since 2012 and earning a Grammy for his live album Gumbo (2018), the 38-year-old New Orleans native will kick off the Lands End stage at 12:10 p.m. Expect some new material from his upcoming album, PAUL, which is set to drop Friday, August 9.
- Weyes Blood: With a voice and style that invokes Joni Mitchell, Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine and characteristics of Harry Nilsson, Weyes Blood’s Natalie Laura Mering is a powerhouse on the mic. Her latest album Titanic Rising (2019) received well-deserved acclaim, transporting listeners with psychedelic folk tracks like “Movies” and “Andromeda” or the uplifting, piano-driven driven anthem “Everyday.” Get a seat on the hill by the Sutro Stage at noon Sunday to catch her performance.
- Honorable mentions: Rap artist Leven Kali (Twin Peaks, 12:40 p.m. Sunday); San Francisco’s own psychedelic surf group Sandy’s (Panhandle, 12 p.m. Sunday).
Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you aren’t actually being sucked into an interdimensional vortex during the Flying Lotus 3D set. Hold on to your butts. Steven Ellison’s 3D visual setup and masterful, often erratic mixes are just the right dose of strange stimulation the festival requires this year.
Find the obvious dad belting “All the Small Things” at the Blink-182 show. It’s been 20 years since Enema of the State captured the teenage angst of an entire generation. Much has changed in the years between, but Blink-182 is paying homage to its iconic third album in its latest tour with some fresh additions. Look out for a cameo by the band’s tour-mate Lil Wayne.
Wave goodbye to a folk and rock legend. In his first show since his Farewell Tour last year, Paul Simon, the legendary singer-songwriter made famous through Simon and Garfunkel, will headline the final day of the festival. And this might be your last chance to see him. Go for the oldies, “Mrs. Robinson” and “Sound of Silence,” since there isn’t much new stuff. Unlike his other albums in his 60 plus years of songwriting, his latest album In the Blue Light reworks old songs with new life, including the story-driven Darling Lorraine and the jittery “Can’t Run But.”
Toast to the warmth of a beautiful soul and blues legend. Gospel and blues icon and civil rights activist Mavis Staples will hit the Lands End stage Sunday afternoon, bringing with her not just her powerful voice and joyful spirit, but a legacy of seven decades of music. Hear from her latest album We Get By, featuring dynamic songs about persevering in these tough times.
Mumble to the intentionally mumbled song “Mumbo Jumbo” by Tierra Whack. Plus, if this hip hop artist’s 2018 audiovisual album is any indication, keep an eye out for costumes, props and other production gems. And get ready for one-minute songs such as “Hungry Hippo” and “Pretty Ugly.”
Rain dance to Yaeji’s “raingurl.” During her Friday set, you’ll hear a fresh blend of hip-hop and house, English and Korean lyrics, and words sung and spoken on top of a dazzling burst of snap rhythms and synth.
Explore your vice of choice
(Andrew Jorgensen/ Outside Lands)
- Hop into Beer Lands. The beer line-up hasn’t changed year-to-year -- and that’s a testament to how good it is. Pick from the many local favorites from last year, including Woods, Fort Point and Seven Stills, as well as this year’s additions of 21st Amendment and East Brother. Instead of going with a tried-and-true brew, let your palate trust-fall into the Bay Area’s expansive world of craft breweries.
- Swirl around Wine Lands, cheese and more. With over 40 wineries, Wine Lands is your opportunity to swivel, sip and soak in the diversity of Northern Californian vineyards and beyond, with the likes of Turley Wine Cellars, Dry Creek Vineyard, Ram’s Gate, and so many more. Choose not just red, white or rosé, but also the size of glass: you can buy a taste, glass or double-sized to-go portion. And stroll down to wine’s foodie partner, Cheese Lands. Or indulge in the Outside Clams for lobster rolls, oysters, or -- you guessed it -- clams.
- Breathe in Grass Lands. While having a soft launch in 2018, the festival is going all in on Grass Lands this year and is in the process of getting a permit to sell and allow consumption of cannabis at the festival (not that that hadn’t stopped people before, this is Golden Gate Park after all.) Grass Lands offers more than just the flower, but also a chance to meet local growers or carve a bong out of vegetables if that sour gummy edible piqued your creative side.
Play the air banjo vigorously during The Lumineers’s “Ho Hey.” Cap off your Friday night with the folk, the rock and the charm, including songs from the band’s new album III, set to release this September. Outside Lands will be one of the first chances to hear it.
Just stand and admire the hat steez of DJ Koze.
Check out a show at some of the smaller stages.
(Andrew Jorgensen/Outside Lands)
Let’s start with The Barbary, the chandelier-laden tent where comedians, podcasts, oddball acts and even NPR’s All Things Considered call home. One recommendation: Red Room Orchestra’s Friday performance of the soundtrack from the cult classic movie, The Big Lebowski (Bonus point if you’re drinking a White Russian.) Saturday, you can hear a conversation with the hosts of award-winning podcast Ear Hustle about day-to-day life in prison.
Discover the GastroMagic stage which is kind of a microcosm of Outside Lands: fusing live cooking, music, art and more mixed in with some top musicians including Anderson .Paak, Counting Crows singer Adam Duritz, and Ella Mai.
Get liberal artsy. Take a picture in front of the murals, watch one of the many live painting performances, carve a vegetable bong at Grass Lands, try to hold back on the urge to pop the giant bubble blown from the Alice and Wonderland-garbed folks at the Bubble Tea Party. Feel the freak.
Let your nose and mouth guide you. Music isn’t the only incredible line-up at Outside Lands. Taste of the Bay Area consists of over 80 local restaurants, including popular food trucks such as Curry Up Now (deconstructed samosas, anyone?) and Señor Sisig as well as familiar carts such as the Humphry Slocombe’s gourmet ice cream. Whether you go for Nombe’s ramenburgers, Azalina’s peanut tofu nachos, or keep exploring, there’s bound to be something that will equally bring you surprise and delight.
- Ben Houston Magnetic's Chill Dance Editor at Large also contributed to this article.