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

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

LATEST August 6, 11:30 am. One-day tickets for Saturday have sold out but day passes are still available for Sunday.

August 6, 9:30 am San Francisco’s Outside Lands usually sells out. Not this year. One-day tickets are still available for Saturday and Sunday.

If you’re on the fence about whether to snag a last-minute ticket, my advice after spending the day there on Friday is go, even if you’re underwhelmed by 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, like Zambian artist Sampa the Great who delivered a viscous swirl of hip-hop, rap, and Afrobeats drenched in jazz; and Fay Webster who soothed her audience with whispery, lovelorn indie-country ballads while playing guitar.

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

Adam Pardee/Special to SFGATE

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

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

The 15-minute wait offered the opportunity to scope out 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 falling over exposed bellies, Doc Marten combat boots with mini skirts, pants made from crotchet 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 entire day at the Sutro Stage or to hop around from stage to stage — a big decision for anyone going to the festival. I pulled up the Outside Lands app on my phone and started to put together my schedule, which required a lot of stage hopping as 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 ahead of a band you want to catch — a feature that comes in handy when you’re dancing in the DJ tent and lose track of time.)

By 11:30 am, I had gone through security (super easy, just be sure to follow the strict bag requirements — find those in SFGATE’s Outside Lands Guide.) and entered the festival grounds. The windmill at the center of the Polo Field was spinning in the ocean breeze and the sun’s rays were poking through the cotton candy clouds tinged with pink passing overhead. The live music didn’t start until noon (that’s the case every day), and Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hillbury Hill” was blasting over the sound system. The lyrics fit how I was feeling: “My heart going boom-boom-boom.”

The festival grounds were serene with more open space than people. I stepped right up to the booth where they check your ID and give you a special wrist band so you can buy alcohol. No line. Later in the day a friend waited 15 minutes to get her band. This all brings up another tip, my best advice — go early when there are no lines and you can get close to the front of the stage.

Spelling performs at Outside Lands on Friday, Aug.  5, 2022.

Spelling performs at Outside Lands on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022.

Courtesy Outside Lands

By noon, I was near the front row at the Sutro Stage catching Spelling, a Bay Area artist who has a gorgeous voice and an experimental, electronic-pop sound.

“What’s up?” she cried out to the crowd. “It’s a beautiful day. I’m glad for some sunshine. It’s a good to see you all.”

Wearing a full skirt and with her long hair falling down her back, she moved around the stage like a spooky ballerina, taking the crowd down dark, haunted alleyways with her spellbinding, synthy music.

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

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

The music picked up and two punk-rock women in tall black boots and baby doll dresses danced wildly, flailing their arms every which way. It was 12:30 pm and the party had already started.

Attendees sit along the grassy hill at the Twin Peaks stage where The Marias would soon perform at Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Calif.  on Friday, Aug.  5, 2022.

Attendees sit along the grassy hill at the Twin Peaks stage where The Marias would soon perform at Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Calif. on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022.

Adam Pardee/Special to SFGATE

Over at the Lands End stage, Cory Henry roiled up a crowd with his retro funk groves.

“One more song!” Henry called out. “Is that OK?” The roar of the crowd reverberated across the Polo Field.

The festival’s ready-to-party vibe was going strong and I had a full day of music ahead of me. I had no regrets.

Three more tips from my day:

  • You can’t bring your own drinks into the festival but you can carry an empty water bottle and there are special stations to fill these.
  • The lines at the bathrooms get long, but they were shorter near Helman Hollow and Panhandle Stage.
  • I’m glad that I brought my light down jacket that I could easily tie around my waist and wear in the evening as the fog rolled in and it got chilly. I would have been cold with only a sweatshirt or sweater.

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