San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival is coming home.
After two years of false starts because of the uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemicSan Francisco’s flagship music festival is expected to return to its usual foggy summer spot in Golden Gate Park from Friday-Sunday, Aug. 5-7.
“It feels good and a little surreal because we were just in the park nine months ago,” said Allen Scott, co-founder of Outside Lands and president of concerts and festivals at Another Planet Entertainment. “It feels like in some ways we were just there and then in other ways, it feels like it’s a long time ago.”
the three-day outdoor concert was hosted over Halloween weekend in 2021 after several cancellations and postponements, changing up the overall feel of the festival. “Last year was such a special year for so many reasons,” Scott said. “Coming off of COVID, it felt like a celebration for the city. And then having the Halloween edition where everyone was dressed up, there was just palpable energy.”
But Scott said everyone is relieved to have things somewhat back to normal for the 14th annual festival that started under the century-old canopy of trees on the Polo Field in 2008.
“We’re thrilled that it’s back,” said Tamara Aparton, spokesperson for San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Department. “The festival is part of the cultural fabric of the city and provides vital support to the park.”
Outside Lands is expected to draw 75,000 people per daywith Bay Area pop-punk icons Green Day set to make their festival debut as one of the three main stage headliners, alongside rapper Post Malone and Grammy-winning singer SZA. Rounding out the bill are more than 90 artists on six stagesincluding Jack Harlow, Wet Leg, Kali Uchis, Rina Sawayama, Polo & Pan, Pusha T, Dominic Fike, Mac DeMarco, Kim Petras, Parcels and Washed Out.
And as imagined, pulling together that lineup with a shorter window between festival dates proved challenging.
“We always knew Green Day was going to play because we have been talking to them for many years,” said Scott. “They are hometown heroes and one of the biggest bands in the world, so that was something that we had locked in. But for the rest of the lineup, it made it a lot more difficult to not only book the festival but to book a unique festival.”
Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong told The Chronicle the band is proud to be the first act “actually from the Bay Area” to headline the festival, dismissing Metallica’s 2017 appearance: “Hey, they’re not really from the Bay Area.”
“They’re all Los Angeles dudes, pretty much, except for Kirk Hammett,” he said. “But for us? I mean, God, it’s our backyard. We’re just psyched to get to play in front of all our homies.”
In addition to the music, some of the Bay Area’s buzziest new restaurants will be at the Outside Lands, joining the largest food lineup the three-day summer event has ever offered. There will be 90 restaurants, 35 wineries and 30 breweries on site.
The festival plans to also bring back many of its beloved experiences and pop-up spaces, including the SoMa Tent, inspired by the dance clubs in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, and Grass Lands, where attendees can purchase and consume local cannabis products.
There will be the usual slate of after-hours concerts too, featuring more intimate shows ranging from the Russian punk act Pussy Riot to an acoustic solo set from Phoebe Bridgers at local venues throughout the city.
It has been difficult to keep lower-tier ticket prices affordable as the cost of staging such a massive festival has risen dramatically amid a national inflation crisis, Scott said. But he added that some of those expenses have been offset by offering higher-tier VIP packages such as the Golden Gate Club for $4,699, an “ultra-luxe” festival experience curated by San Francisco-based interior designer Ken Fulk with exclusive food, cocktails and stage access.
And finding ways to enhance the festival experience — for attendees and artists alike — is an ongoing process.
Another Planet and the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department continue to make improvements to the festival site spread across the Polo Field, Hellman Hollow, Speedway Meadow and Marx Meadow. Together, they decided to recently install a small concrete pad over a section of the field that will make it easier to build the stage and other behind-the-scenes production areas. They’ve also pushed back the Sutro Stage to accommodate more fans and widened some of the busier walkways joining the fields.
Outside Land’s iconic windmills are also getting an upgrade.
“From the Human Be-In to the Tibetan Freedom Concert, Golden Gate Park has always been a spot for iconic music festivals, and Outside Lands is part of that history,” said Aparton.
Outside Lands has contributed $27 million to the parks’ budget since it started, enabling the hire of a full-time gardener for the festival grounds and scholarships for its youth recreation programs, according to city records.
Like many other major US concerts and festivals that have taken place over the past few months, Outside Lands will not have any COVID-19 restrictions in place this year, but promoters “highly recommend that all attendees are vaccinated and boosted” and highly encourage “everyone to mask up when unable to distance from others.”
“Because we’re doing concerts every day, we’re seeing how people react at concerts, and there hasn’t been a huge red alert for us where most people are being deterred from going to concerts — certainly not open-air concerts and younger-demographic concerts,” Scott said. “The reality is we are in a world of COVID, and it’s going to be like that for the foreseeable future. I think people are resigned to living with it.”
For full Outside Lands coverage, check datebook.sfchronicle.com throughout the festival weekend.
Outside Lands 2022: Friday-Sunday, Aug. 5-7. $175-$4,699. Golden Gate Park, SF www.sfoutsidelands.com
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