For most of the past 18 months, San Francisco’s celebrated music scene went dark. A city that was, prepandemic, alive with concerts, bands, and nightlife was silent and rhythmless. And it was devastating, not only to musicians and venue owners whose livelihoods suffered, but to residents who treasure live entertainment.
But music lovers are now rejoicing, not only as smaller venues start to open up, but as one of the country’s largest music festivals, Outside Lands, is braced for a comeback over Halloween weekend, Oct. 29–31, in Golden Gate Park. Headliners Lizzo, Tame Impala, and the Strokes are topping a lineup that includes dozens of diverse artists from across the globe.
Among the other acts that will take to the five stages spread across the park are Vampire Weekend, Glass Animals, Zhu, Kehlani, Sofi Tukker, Nelly, Brittany Howard, Angel Olsen, J Balvin, Rüfüs du Sol, and Tyler, the Creator. There will also be a house-music popup called SOMA Tent, inspired by the “underground clubs and late nights” of San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood.
After a year of pandemic-related postponements, organizers announced back in March that the three-day event would be pushed from its regular late-summer timeframe to October. The festival, which draws about 200,000 people, was last held in August 2019.
LANDS WITHIN LANDS
Along with its steady stream of musicians, Outside Lands will once again highlight Bay Area food and drink. A Taste of the Bay will feature some 85 local restaurants and food vendors, including the Marina’s own A16, Tacolicious, and Pacific Catch. Wine Lands will offer 100 different wines from California vineyards, and Beer Lands will showcase 30 Northern California breweries. Also in the works are Cheese Lands, Bubble Tea Party, and Cocktail Magic, where craft cocktails will be served up alongside magic shows and live music.
Other returning festival traditions include GastroMagic, a space where culinary personalities team up with performers, and Grasslands, a 21-and-over cannabis experience. Outsider Art, West Coast Craft and Eco Lands will also be back.
CAUTION AND EXCITEMENT
In light of the ongoing pandemic, this year festival attendees will be required to show proof of vaccination against Covid-19, with the last vaccine dose at least 14 days prior to their festival entry date. Those who are not vaccinated must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of attending the festival. At-home and rapid tests will not be accepted.
Organizers are also encouraging attendees to wear masks during the festival, regardless of their vaccination status, and are requiring masks in any indoor Outside Lands locations. Whether festival goers will comply remains to be seen.
Still, these protocols may be a comfort to some residents worried about the festival moving ahead as the threat of Covid-19 lingers. Ella L., who lives near Golden Gate Park, said she is “concerned [Outside Lands] will become a hotspot for spreading the virus,” especially with many attendees coming from outside San Francisco where Covid-19 restrictions may be looser.
Her other worry is that the neighborhoods surrounding the park will experience “even more gridlock” with the Great Highway now closed on weekends. “Our only route will be 19th Avenue, which is undergoing construction.”
But other residents are thrilled about the festival’s return.
Jonathan Wen, a Laurel Heights resident, said the festival’s timing with Halloween will add an interesting twist. “I’ve got tickets for Saturday and I can’t wait. A lot of Halloween costumes will be on display.”
“There’s a high level of excitement for live music and entertainment because it was taken away from us for so long,” said Richard Lowden, who also lives near the park. “I’m sure some people also feel a little nervous about being in large crowds again, which is understandable, and it’s O.K. to have both feelings at the same time. I’m fully vaccinated and can’t wait for Outside Lands … it’s going to be a blast!”
OUTSIDE LANDS FACTS
When: Friday through Sunday, Oct. 29–31. Festival gates open at 11 a.m. daily, with music starting at noon and gates closing at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 9:40 p.m. Sunday.
Getting There: Parking is extremely limited, so plan to walk, ride, or take public transportation; both the 1-California and 38-Geary Muni lines will get you close enough to the festival site in Golden Gate Park. Visit sfoutsidelands.com for updated information about an Outside Lands shuttle bus service.
Tickets: At press time, both general admission tickets and VIP tickets are sold out. Limited Golden Gate Club passes, a luxury festival experience crafted by designer Ken Fulk, are available at sfoutsidelands.com/tickets/.
Maryann LoRusso is a journalist and the creator of the More Beautiful website and podcast.