Given this is the tenth anniversary of Outside Lands you would think they would have it figured out by now. Unfortunately Outside Lands in 2017 turned into a disorganized, overpriced messed. The festival seemed doomed from the moment they announced their Eager Beaver sale in April. The festival came out with a whopping $395 price tag (including fees) for their presale and $415 (also including fees) for their general sale. This put it at more expensive than Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, ACL and pretty much every other major music festival in the United States. For that kind of change you would expect a great experience, but the festival was anything but that. This article goes over the good, the bad, and the ugly of Outside Lands 2017.
My fiancée got us our Outside Lands wristbands for Gorillaz. They were definitely a bucket list concert for me and when they were on the lineup for Outside Lands we had to go – and they did not disappoint. I have been to dozens of festivals at this point and their headling spot on Friday of Outside Lands 2017 was one of the five best sets I have ever seen. The set covered their whole career and featured guest after guest, making the set an absolute party. When I look back at Outside Lands 2017 this is what I will remember.
Outside Lands should be pretty embarrassed that two of their top six dropped out. When you look at the OSL 2017 lineup without Queens or Tribe, and yes I know they replaced Queens with Cage, it is a joke they charged $415 for this lineup. Coachella has nearly three times as many bands at Outside Lands. Lollapalooza was almost $100 cheaper and had more than twice the bands. Tribe and Queens were some of Outside Lands rarest gets for 2017 and neither of them showed up. Cage the Elephant plays nearly every festival so there is no exclusivity with that booking. That said, at least there was some replacement. A Tribe Called Quest simply dropped out and there will be nothing for festivalgoers. This is doubly shitty for anyone who bought a single day pass specifically for Tribe. I realize that neither of these situations is necessarily Outside Lands fault 100%, but it’s their job to make sure their shit is in order for their festival.
First, I have never seen a festival needing to dump out their Portapotties before the day ended. Outside Lands was having to go through by early afternoon simply because their wasn’t enough of them. Additionally they were incredibly spaced out, making any trip to the bathrooms a journey that had a long line waiting for you at the end. It blows my mind Outside Lands has been going on for 10 years and this is still such an issue. I shouldn’t need to worry about walking in piss puddles because people are going in the trails because they don’t want to put in more toilets. Outside Lands was the worst bathroom situation I have seen in years at a music festival.
Yes, San Francisco is absurdly overpriced and know that Outside Lands is no exceptions. Maybe part of it was we were coming from Lollapalooza, which is probably the most affordable festival once you are there, but goddamn Outside Lands is expensive. Two 8 oz glasses of wine at Wine Lands were $40, 6 avocado fries were $8, and a tiny sushi burrito that can easily fit in the palm of your hand is $10. Outside Lands has plenty of delicious treats throughout its lands, but you are going to pay for them. Outside Lands is the most expensive music festival we have attended for drinks and food – go prepared if you plan to attend in the future.
San Francisco does have solid transportation, so even when staying pretty far away from the festival it is a breeze getting there. As tourists we stayed in Union Square and taking the MUNI to get to Outside Lands couldn’t of been easier. Security getting into the festival was also quick each day, never taking more than 10 minutes to get into the festival. Outside Lands was easy to get to and getting into the festival was a breeze, which was a welcome change from the rest of the disorganization.
Wine Lands is an utter and complete ripoff in my opinion. Beer Lands is more reasonable, with most beers being between $9 and $11. Is this cheap? No, but its not $20 for a glass of wine and it is more in line with what other music festivals charge for brews. Outside Lands does absolutely have one of the best beer selections we have seen at any music festival, so if you are a big fan of beer than this should put Outside Lands on your radar – Beerlands is legit.
I thought this was San Francisco, the tech hub of the country. The screens at the different stages of Outside Lands are some of the worst of any music festival, if screens are there at all. Panhandle has absolutely no screens and Sutro has just a small one on the right side. This makes it pretty rough to see from the back, especially at Panhandle, which got more and more packed throughout the weekend. The Lands End (main stage) screens also seem thoroughly unimpressive after coming from Lollapalooza, where even there secondary stages had better screens than the OSL main stages. For a festival charging $400+ a ticket this is a pretty tough sell.
If you are from San Francisco I’m sure you are just used to it, but if you are travelling to Outside Lands be prepared for much cooler weather than your standard weather at festivals. Typically it was in the low 60’s and cloudy every day, and pretty cold at night. I actually was good with this at it was a nice break from sweating your ass off at a festival, but be sure to dress appropriately if you decide to attend Outside Lands.
The Barbary is a small tent at the back of Outside Lands that featured great comedians and podcasts all weekend long. I really loved it for a nice break from standing at a stage as if you got there early you could easily snag a great seat for a show. Just to be clear these were included in your Outside Lands pass, so it’s a really cool feature at Outside Lands. This year they implemented a reservation system where you could go to the Barbary tent early in the day and get a ticket for a show later. You could still attend without a ticket but it was on a first come, first serve basis. I really hope more festivals begin implementing something similar to Outside Lands’ Barbary tent – it’s a lot of fun and as I mentioned a refreshing break.
It’s not that Outside Lands isn’t fun – I am glad we went and overall it was a fun weekend. That said, it is my least favorite music festival we have attended this year. The crowds are the worst I have seen at a festival, the food is overpriced, the drinks are expensive, and the cost of the passes simply isn’t justified in today’s music festival landscape. Again, Outside Lands was $415 with 68 bands while Coachella and Lollapalooza are less expensive with over twice as many bands. Outside Lands is simply overpriced and there are far better values. If you live in San Francisco or have a place you can crash there (saving you accommodation costs) I get it – Outside Lands works for you. If you are thinking about travelling to San Francisco for Outside Lands I would strongly recommend looking at other festivals first – it’s just not worth the money.
Now that we’ve gone over the festival itself let’s quickly touch on the best sets of the weekend. Obviously we cannot see everything, but of the sets here’s what we were most impressed with at Outside Lands 2017.
1 – Gorillaz – As I mentioned above, Gorillaz was an absolute party and worth the price of admission for me as a lifelong fan. We are also attending ACL where Gorillaz will play against another childhood favorite of mine The Killers. Outside Lands settled that debate for me – we are absolutely going to Gorillaz.
2 – Metallica – I don’t even like Metallica but their set was awesome and a spectacle. From the multiple guitars at once, to the fire and the massive drums it was definitely something to be seen.
3 - Royal Blood - Royal Blood unequivocally kicks ass and will headline one day - that is all.
4 – Empire of the Sun – I hadn’t had a chance to see Empire live yet, mostly because they played against Radiohead at Coachella, so I was glad to catch some of their set at Outside Lands. I’m really not a fan of the Twin Peaks stage where they played, but they sounded great and their set was absolutely packed. Hoping to be able to catch their full set sometime soon as they were a blast.
5 – Lemon Twigs – They were definitely weirder than at Coachella, but I still really enjoyed their set. They’ve started incorporating some of their new material from the upcoming album, which gets me even more excited for that to be released.
6 – Mondo Cozmo – We just saw him at Lollapalooza and I had to see him again. As I mentioned in that review, these guys rock and are going to climb the lineup posters quickly.
7 – Belle & Sebastian – Thanks for A Tribe Called Quest quitting on us we got to see Belle & Sebastian, and they rocked. They seemed genuinely happy to be there and love San Francisco, which really came off during the set. They played all their big hits and mixed in a few older songs here and there, making it a great set for hardcore and casual fans alike.