Outside Lands 2014 Review

photo by John Withers
photo by John Withers

San Francisco sure knows how to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, even if you have to wear a wool hat in August.

The weather this year was so varied. It had you strip down to your tank top when the sun came out, and bundle up in scarves and winter coats when the famous San Francisco fog moved in and the wind picked up. But nothing could get the Outside Land’s crowd discouraged.

I felt taken in with open arms immediately upon my arrival and didn’t encounter a single frown all weekend. The Outside Lands Staff was extremely accommodating and eager to help. Rock stars were walking around the festival grounds and mingling with their fans. And the people of San Francisco may be some of the most welcoming and friendliest city folk I’ve ever met.

Aside from all the fantastic music, Outside Lands also offered Wine Lands, Cheese Lands, Beer Lands and Chocolands, where people could experience a wide selection of various delicacies. Gastromagic offered up several fun cooking and cocktailing shows paired with music and dance performances. And if you were in the mood for comedy, you could swing by The Barbary. The carnies and Burners in the crowd found a second home at Dr. Flotsam’s Hell Brew Revue, an area decorated with crossbones and skulls and signs indicating that children had to be above a certain height to sell their soul. Finally – and possibly my favorite – there was Digital Detox, where attendees had to read a waiver and turn off all their digital devices upon entering an environment inviting you to engage in arts and crafts projects, write poems on typewriters, pin hand-written notes up on wooden boards, or take your shoes off and crawl into a tent to join in on some acoustic music.

For those preferring club-type environments, The House of Heineken gave festival-goers a chance to enter a completely dark environment, with lights projected upon the tent’s ceiling and DJs playing funky tunes. If that wasn’t your speed, you could always watch some live art being painted nearby.

The food was also incredible. Satellite Vendors offered a true taste of the bay area restaurants. There was even a small farmer’s market called Farm Lands near one of the main stages, where you could buy farm-fresh vegetables and bouquets of fresh flowers. San Francisco’s eco-friendly spirit was also reflected at the festival – whether by Eco Lands, an educational forum of sustainability showcasing such things as urban gardening workshops, or by offering bike valet or bike self-parking areas, direct shuttle busses to the Civic Center downtown, where one could easily jump on public transportation, or park rides to and from the festival sponsored by Toyota.

Overall, Outside Lands was an incredibly captivating festival. Considering that it took place in a city and ended at 10 pm every night, it wasn’t your typical overnight camping type audience, but the loving and happy festival vibe was still there. It truly shows how music unites people of all backgrounds and ages.

Here are the highlights from the Outside Lands weekend (in order of appearance):

Friday

  1. Phosphorescent: Right after picking up my Outside Lands wristband for the weekend, I found a blue feather on the ground. And everyone knows that feathers in your hair and festivals were basically made for each other. The line to the festival entrance seemed insanely long. But as soon as I put the feather in my hair, staff opened up a side entrance, and I got to enter through the VIP gates. Once inside the festival, Phosphorescent played on the stage to my immediate right and I walked up to the man behind the band, Matthew Houck, playing my favorite tune, “Song for Zula.” What a perfect introduction to a festival. Needless to say, the feather stayed in my hair for the rest of the weekend.
  2. Holy Ghost!: This upbeat band reminded me of 80’s club music with a healthy dose of rock. Pigtails were flying up and down as booties were shaking side to side.
  3. Disclosure: Despite the early evening set, which seemed odd for someone used to playing late night clubs, this duo still sounded every bit as great in daylight as they did during their late night set at Bonnaroo this year. The only thing missing was their fun light show and the glow sticks.
  4. Arctic Monkeys: Playing at the same time as Kanye West, the Arctic Monkeys didn’t draw quite as big of a crowd as they usually do. But regardless, they delivered once again a breathtaking show and had fans singing along to every single song.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - photo by Jeff Kravitz
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – photo by Jeff Kravitz

Saturday

  1. Dum Dum Girls: I’m sad to say that I was unimpressed with this band. Unfortunately, and despite a great sound system at the main stage, these girls sound considerably better recorded than they do live. The only song I truly enjoyed hearing live was their hit song “Coming Down,” which they played at the very end. But at least the girls were still eye-candy in their super sexy black outfits.
  2. The Kooks: I’ll vote this show my favorite set of the entire weekend. This British band had everyone jumping up and down and helped warm up half-frozen bodies on this chilly Saturday afternoon. Listening to their fun melodies and rocking guitar riffs, you couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear and dance, dance, dance.
  3. Capital Cities: Most known for their song “Safe and Sound,” these guys have made a name for themselves as an indie electro group. However, they brought the horns to Outside Lands, resulting in a jazzy, funky sound that drew so many people to their set it made things a bit claustrophobic and you found yourself wishing they had played the main stage instead. What an amazing show.
  4. Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers: This legendary 70’s band still knows how to rock out on stage. They may be getting old, but they’re still producing great music to date. As I was watching this show, I had to wonder what it feels like to perform in front of an ocean of people all singing along to your songs. If that’s not magical, then I don’t know what is.

Sunday

  1. Paolo Nutini: The name may be Italian, but the man is Scottish and boy, does he put on a great pop show. Unfortunately, CHVURCHES had to cancel Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, it pushed Paolo Nutini’s set to a later time in the afternoon and I was able to catch the end of it after circling around the city for an hour looking for parking.
  2. Lykke Li: This sensuous Swedish goddess dressed in all black mixed catchy beats and lyrics with atmospheric sounds. And when she asked the audience to dance and sing along, she was quickly embraced by all.
  3. The Flaming Lips: I think it’s safe to say that Wayne Coyne is the definition of weirdness. Equally brilliant and crazy, it’s hard to find a show that leaves you feeling as disturbed yet ecstatic as a Flaming Lips show. Who else could rock blue-tinted hair, a shimmering coat, full make-up and cuddle a plastic baby doll before crowd-surfing in a plastic bubble? It was strange to see them play in daylight as it took away from their psychedelic light show. But it did not make the show any less weird.
  4. The Killers: This Vegas-native band closed the festival on Sunday evening. Lead singer Brandon Flowers looked just as great as he ever did, tan as if he had just returned from a Caribbean vacation. Their famous pop tunes had everyone singing along and throwing fists in the air in union. Seemed like a perfect ending to a perfect festival.

About The Author

As a contributing editor for Blank Newspaper, Michaela shares Blank's love for all genres of music. After ten years on the Nashville music scene, you can now find her hopping around LA's various music venues and bars in search for the next big story. Michaela has been with Blank Newspaper since 2013 and she currently covers shows in Los Angeles as well as several annual music festivals around the country.

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