An Outsider Lands
The story of our family journey to the Outside Lands music festival at Golden Gate park Aug 10th-12th 2018. (Link to companion Spotify playlist below).
Without further ado…
I hate San Francisco, naturally. I never go there by choice. There needs to be a compelling business reason and I certainly would not choose it for a vacation. Which is exactly what my lovely wife Suzanne proposed a few months ago.
(Suzanne… yes I married up).
My distaste for San Francisco stems from 3 primary sources:
1. I am a Los Angeles native. I have lived in LA all my life. I love my city and the Dodgers. Giants fans hate us with such fervor it’s hard to feel welcome in San Francisco… ever. They fly Giant colors everywhere and quite frankly it gives me anxiety. Or schpilkes for Yiddish among us.
2. I have been in AdTech (advertising technology) for my entire career and have done business in the Bay Area with regularity. Some of the best and smartest people I have ever worked with are in San Francisco.
People such as the affable Mark Rabe, the mustachioed Jason White, the dynamic Vish Makajhani, and the enterprising Jonathan Lee. (Jonathan is the founder of Copper- the best CRM alternative to Salesforce on the market. We use it at Plush. Topic for a forthcoming blog).
All incredible people. I don’t want to lump them in with the regional vitriol I am about to spew.
Here goes… In general, I find the people in SF to be a combination of smug, hyper-competitive, and oozing in political correctness. A repelling cocktail of conceit. They have seen it all. They are jaded. No need to name names.
3. The last reason for my contentious relationship with San Fran is my beloved father, Ken Downey. He was an attorney for the city of Los Angeles for 37 years. (He died 9 years ago). He spent his entire career defending LA’s right to divert water from the Owens River in Northern California to allow the city of LA to flourish. He was a civil servant at heart and a true Los Angeleno. He typically referred to people from San Francisco as “those tree huggers.” He was a US Marine and went to Stanford. He also drank Manhattans from a coffee cup. He raised me on a steady diet of LA civic pride.
So when Suzanne announced she had purchased VIP passes to take the family to the Outside Lands music festival at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco for summer vacation I was deeply conflicted.
On the one hand, I am a massive music fan and the lineup looked incredible.
On the other, it was located at the epicenter of crunchy hell… Golden Gate Park.
I realize I bring a substantial amount of emotional baggage to the party. My unconscious bias about San Francisco is not unconscious at all. It is just bias.
My kids went berserk with excitement when Suzanne told them we were going to Outside Lands.
Jackson 16 and Devin 14
They had never been to a music festival before. They have been asking to go the the epic Southern California shit-show known as Coachella for years but no fucking way. Not yet. Still too young.
We are all voracious consumers of new (and old school) music in our family. We love Spotify. (It trumps Apple Music on many levels IMHO… another topic for future blog post). Could I check my bias at the door and actually enjoy the journey?
On the first day we boarded a shuttle from the city center to Golden Gate park. A 20-something girl in ripped jeans and half a tee shirt stumbled onto the bus and sat right next to me. She was clearly already intoxicated on the way TO the festival at 2:00 pm in the afternoon. An epic fail in pacing.
She sat down next to me and started chowing down on a huge cheeseburger with a fried egg on top like a starved animal.
I am no one to judge eating with unbridled enthusiasm but this was something special. I watched out of the corner of my eyes with a mix of curiosity and envy while trying not to stare.
I was listening to music on my ear pods but I could tell she was trying to say something to me. I paused the music so I could hear. She was offering me a French fry. Very nice but I passed. The next minute she had passed out.
Passed Out Girl
I was curious to see if she would wake up when we arrived. Did I need to alert the authorities of the situation? When the bus stopped she regained consciousness and stumbled towards the door. She left the half eaten egg burger on the floor. I cleaned up her mess. I did not take a bite.
The weekend was off to a memorable start.
It actually ended up being an awesome family trip. We spent the next 3 days listening to an incredible variety of music and eating great food.
I was left with a few takeaways that I will share.
The people at the festival were very cool. We did not witness a single fight or conflict which is incredible considering the size of the crowds. Not sure if the same would be true in LA. (I still hate the Giants).
Music festivals are a young man’s game. If you are over 40 do not even consider going unless you splurge for the VIP passes. Even with VIP it is still a questionable decision. There is a very high likelihood you will find your nose jammed into a millennial’s sweaty armpit as they push towards the stage. I might be done with festivals.
It is a questionable parenting decision to bring a 16 and 14 year old to a modern music festival. We saw no less than ten people throwing up or unconscious from over-intoxication. We used it as a teaching moment.
“Don’t be this…” .
The world is currently overflowing with incredible music. The tools to create and distribute are available to all. The only limiting factors are talent and the balls to do something with it. It is a great time for music fans to be alive.
I leave you with this parting gift. A summary of my top 10 musical finds at Outside Lands with a link to a companion Spotify playlist called The Outlandish 10.
Click here for the Playlist.
The criteria for inclusion was: 1) I did not know much of them before the festival and 2) I had a “holy shit” life affirming moment while watching them play.
- Rex Orange County
This 20 year British singer has a classic sound. “Loving Is Easy” will transport directly to the the 1970s . Bright brass section. Yacht Rock with F Bombs. He crushed an acoustic set at Outside Lands. (No connection to the Orange County of the 714 and 949 areas codes).
2. Tash Sultana
Tash Sultana is a gender fluid (her words) musical prodigy. She is mesmerizing live, and uses looping to stitch together quilts of amazing sound in real time. She plays over 20 instruments and also has a beautiful voice. Tash is a one person band and was clearly put on this planet to play music.
I would hire this duo from LA to play a pool party at my house if I was a baller and a little bit taller. The name fits the vibe and the tone. Music designed to be enjoyed poolside. They do a great version of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon which I included on the playlist.
4. Billy Eillish
A mercurial 15 year old girl from the Highland Park suburb of LA. She effortlessly goes back and forth between empowered tom boy and musical diva with an incredible voice. A true musical talent. It will be interesting to see how long she can stand the spotlight after being discovered and rising to stardom at such a young age.
Laura Pergolizzi is a recording artist that goes by the name LP. She has a one of a kind voice with incredible range. She looks a little like Bob Dylan which makes it even more odd when she sings. I stopped by her set at the festival and did not want to leave.
6. Nick Mulvey
I love his sound. Plain and simple. Reminds me of Nick Drake and Alexi Murdoch.
I thought they were DJs but they are much more. A full drum line and brass sections. They put a ton of effort into the their live show and it was awesome. Massive energy and super exciting set. Stock going up.
She is from Topanga Canyon. She wore a hood and stayed in some sort of haunting character during her set on one of the smaller stages at Outside Lands. I thought she was mesmerizing and sounded incredible.
9. Mac DeMarco
My kids are nuts for this guys which is surprising to me. He reminds me a lot of one of my favorite bands of all time, Wilco. Great sounds.
I had to include Beck on this list although hardly a discovery. He was one of the headlining acts... He is pushing 50 but still has incredible swag for a tiny white boy. He is an idol of sorts. (He is from LA…not San Francisco). I included one of his new songs that I love on the playlist.
Enjoy… lmk what you like…