My advice after going to Day One of San Francisco’s Outside Lands: Go

LAST August 6, 11:30 a.m.. Have day tickets for Saturday out of stock but day passes are still available for Sunday.

August 6, 9.30 am San Francisco’s Outside Lands is usually sold out. Not this year. Day tickets are still available for Saturday and Sunday.

If you’re in doubt about getting a last minute ticket, my advice is after spending the day there on Friday, even if you’re not impressed with the lineup and only know a few bands playing (see our recommendations here). The best part of my day was discovering acts I was unfamiliar with, such as Zambian recording artist Sampa the Great who delivered a syrupy whirl of hip-hop, rap and afrobeats drenched in jazz; and Fay Webster who soothed her audience with whispered, love-struck indie-country ballads while playing guitar.

Faye Webster performs at Outside Lands at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California on Friday, August 5, 2022.

Adam Pardee/special for SFGATE

Convinced? Now you have to figure out how to get there.

Lyft and Uber are expensive this weekend as demand drives prices up (SFGATE wrote about the insane prices coming home Friday night). My advice is to hop on MUNI, ride a bike or do what I did, and take the $24 prepaid shuttle (buy your ticket online) that runs between Bill Graham Civic Auditorium and the festival site in Golden Gate Park. Buses start running at 11am and when I arrived at 10:45am on Friday, a line had already formed.

The 15 minute wait provided an opportunity to see the outfits people had put together for the festival. Outside Lands is almost as much about fashion as it is about music. People wore halter tops with strands of beads that fell over their bare bellies, Doc Marten combat boots with miniskirts, pants made of cross fabric that resembled the blankets my grandmother had on her bed, and Boy Scout uniforms with marijuana patches.

On the bus, two girls debated whether to spend the whole day on the Sutro Stage or jump from one stage to another – a big decision for anyone going to the festival. I got the Outside Lands app on my phone and started putting together my schedule, which involved a lot of stage hopping because I like to see as much music as possible. (If you haven’t already, download the app and create your schedule. You can ask the app to alert you to a band you want to catch – a feature that comes in handy when you’re dancing and losing in the DJ tent follow time.)

By 11:30 am I had gone through security (super easy, just make sure you follow the strict bag requirements – find those in SFGATE’s Outside Lands Guide.) and entered the festival site. The windmill in the center of the Polo field spun in the sea breeze and the sun’s rays pierced the pink cotton candy clouds that passed over. The live music didn’t start until noon (it does every day), and Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hillbury Hill” blared over the sound system. The lyrics fit how I felt: “My heart goes boom-boom-boom.”

The festival site was serene with more open space than people. I walked to the booth where they check your ID and give you a special wristband so you can buy alcohol. No line. Later in the day, a friend waited 15 minutes to get her tape. All of this brings up another tip, my best advice – go early if there are no lines and you can get close to the front of the stage.

Spelling will perform in Outside Lands on Friday, August 5, 2022.

Spelling will perform in Outside Lands on Friday, August 5, 2022.

Courtesy outside country

Towards noon, I sat in the front row of the Sutro stage and caught Spelling, a Bay Area artist with a beautiful voice and an experimental electronic pop sound.

“How are you?” she called to the crowd. ‘It’s a beautiful day. I’m happy with some sunshine. It’s good to see you all.’

She wore a wide skirt and with her long hair falling down her back, she moved across the stage like an eerie ballerina, taking the audience down dark, haunted alleys with her mesmerizing, synthy music.

“Her music pushes the boundaries of pop… It’s very different,” says Modesto’s Logan Albiani. “I don’t even know what genre this is, but I love it.”

When she sang her popular anthem “Awaken”, the audience got excited: “Everything we want is here. Everything we need and more. Let your heart surrender. Let your heart transform,” she sang.

The music picked up and two punk rock women in high black boots and baby doll dresses danced wildly and waved their arms in all directions. It was 12:30 and the party had already started.

Contestants sit along the grassy knoll near the Twin Peaks stage where The Marias would soon be performing at Outside Lands at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California on Friday, August 5, 2022.

Contestants sit along the grassy knoll near the Twin Peaks stage where The Marias would soon be performing at Outside Lands at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California on Friday, August 5, 2022.

Adam Pardee/special for SFGATE

On the Lands End stage, Cory Henry made a crowd with his retro funk bushes.

“Another song!” cried Henry. “Is that good?” The roar of the crowd echoed across Polo Field.

The party vibe of the festival got strong and I had a full day of music ahead of me. I had no regrets.

Three more tips from my day:

  • You are not allowed to bring your own drinks to the festival, but you can bring an empty water bottle and there are special stations to fill it.
  • The lines at the bathrooms are getting long, but they were shorter at Helman Hollow and Panhandle Stage.
  • I’m glad I brought my light down jacket that I could easily tie around my waist and wear at night when the fog set in and it got chilly. I would have been cold with just a sweatshirt or sweater.

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