Best and Worst of Outside Lands 2019

Outside Lands 2019 has wrapped up and I’m finally back at home in LA recovering. Saturday felt like the most packed the festival has ever been in the five years I’ve attended, and that speaks to the viability of the 12th year festival moving forward.

There are few better places to catch a show than Golden Gate Park. The weather was perfect all weekend, running a bit warmer at night than usual. Paul Simon, Childish Gambino, and Twenty-one Pilots closed out the main stage each day, with an undercard featuring old and new names of worth. The Childish Gambino crowd seemed insurmountable, maybe the largest at the main stage I’ve seen since my first year at the San Francisco festival in 2012 for Stevie Wonder.

It’s time to narrow it down to what I found to be the best and worst of Outside Lands 2019, check it out!

Photo courtesy of Andrew Jorgensen

BEST: Grass Lands makes Outside Lands first large-scale pot-friendly fest

Last year, Outside Lands launched their pro-marijuana Grass Lands on the outskirts of the festival, though on-site consumption wasn’t allowed. Vendors took a more educational approach, offering samples of non-infused items and other fun things. This year, just a couple days before the fest kicked off, the festival was given a recreational-use permit for on-site sales and consumption, making it the first large-scale music festival to do so in the U.S. The first festival to do it was Northern Nights Music Festival, though they cap at 8,000 attendees. Outside Lands serves about 200,000 people over the course of the three-day weekend.

The Grass Lands area was always packed, and people were able to buy and consume their products in a cool little consumption area that featured a wall people could paint while they were stoned. You were allowed to buy up to a quarter of flower per day and all my vendor sources confirmed that things ran smoothly all weekend despite the last-minute permit. It will be interesting to see how alcohol sales were affected by this new addition, since alcohol wasn’t allowed in the area (cannabis and alcohol aren’t allowed in the same area, per regulations). If the fest deemed it a success, Outside Lands will be a leader in the field for years to come. They’ve already got a head start.

Photo courtesy of JN Silva

BEST: Anderson Paak dazzles, closing out Sunday night

I’m as big of an Anderson Paak stan as there is. In fact, I took a Megabus from LA to SF for his February tour opener, taking the bus back that same night. The last time he played Outside Lands, he went head-to-head with Radiohead, a band I had never seen live. So I chose Radiohead, but was bummed because they were my No. 1 and No. 2 choices. This year, he went up against the first hour of Paul Simon, another legendary act I never saw. This time, I opted to split the difference and catch Paak’s set and then head over for Paul.

No regrets. Paak destroyed, and my group of friends who had never seen him were blown away and made new fans. His band The Free Nationals might be the most talented band backing up a hip-hop act out there. They work together in perfect unison and the transitions from song to song, especially when Paak is on drums, is amazing. Singing/rapping along to “Come Down”, “6 Summers”, “Suede”, “Bubblin'”, and “Jet Black” with a few fellow super fans were my festival highlights. The crowd was on FIRE for this show. Counting down the days until I can see him again.

Photo courtesy of JN Silva

WORST: Entitled teenagers

I know, “Old Man Yells at Cloud”. But one thing I can’t really deal with these days is the pushy teenagers who can’t handle their shit and don’t have any manners. If you’re trying to move closer, the least you can do is say “Excuse me” and not just shove past without any consideration. I noticed this mostly at the electronic and hip-hop shows, which so happened to be the shows that were mostly filled with teenagers. I knew it was going to be bad when I saw a pair of teens neglect to give up their seats on BART to an old dude with a cane. Have some consideration for your fellow festgoers out there!

BEST: Paul Simon brings out Bob Weir for “The Boxer”

Paul Simon came “out of retirement” like he was Michael Jordan to play the festival as their legacy act Sunday night. I only caught the final hour, but it was magnificent. His encore was mesmerizing, and it featured a truly special moment when he brought out Grateful Dead legend Bob Weir to help out on classic Simon & Garfunkel tune “The Boxer”, which you can watch above. Paul closed things out with “The Sound of Silence”, which will forever make me think of this classic Eastbound & Down scene.

One thing Outside Lands continues to do right is booking legacy acts. It’s one of the things that separates the San Francisco festival from everybody else, and it’s continually a draw that makes it a family-friendly fest. There’s nothing like seeing parents and their kids share in seeing once-in-a-generation talents.

Photo courtesy of Betsy Newman

Five Favorite Outside Lands 2019 Sets:

  1. Anderson Paak & The Free Nationals — For reasons stated above. If you have a chance to see Paak and his band, don’t fuck it up. The best vibes in that crowd. He has ALL of the swag.
  2. Justin Martin — This electronic set was for the 21-and-up crowd. No teens overdosing on molly, just a bunch of grown-ass adults getting down. The consistent groove of this set was exactly what I needed Saturday night before Childish Gambino closed out the main stage.
  3. Paul Simon — I only caught the last hour but damn was that greatness. It might be the only chance I get to see him, and he brought it. The crowd was thinned out and I was able to get pretty close for that last 40 minutes, between the front-of-house and the stage. “Sound of Silence” on repeat ever since.
  4. Denzel Curry — I’ve been hearing good things about his live show and he delivered. The only downside was he didn’t do his Rage Against the Machine cover he did at Lollapalooza this year. But I see why this guy is going to be a big star, the crowd was 100 percent committed to his show and people were shaking their asses despite it being peak heat for Sunday.
  5. Big Wild — Snuck into VIP for this set and got to enjoy it with a group of my good friends. Loved how they fit “Born to Be Wild” into their show, and I think I’m in love with the live bass player Haley Johnsen. She wowed me big time.