Outside Lands 2019: The best and worst of Sunday

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Outside Lands, Outside Lands 2019, Outside Lands Music Festival

Attendees at Outside Lands at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco photographed on Aug. 11, 2019.

The third and final day of Outside Lands 2019 is in the books so it’s time for this year’s final best and worst of the day. I’ll warn you in advance: I get uncharacteristically serious at a couple points, so be prepared for the rare not-a-joke.

Also, a shameless plug: If you like these best/worst columns it turns out I also write a column on this very site every single week! I pick five songs of a topic I select essentially at random and make jokes about them. Look for it every weekend, usually on Saturday. It’s good! Usually! I mean no promises but I try.

But for now, onto the griping.

Best: I’ve had a lot of critiques of the elderly lately, on account of them ruining society and the country and possibly the planet itself. But an exception to that is Paul Simon

Paul Simon

Paul Simon performs at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco during the Outside Lands Music Festival on Aug. 11, 2019. Photo: Martin Lacey.

Simon had, easily, one of the best shows of the festival. The hits like “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” and “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” had people young enough to be his great-grandkids dancing, and those were ballads compared to “You Can Call Me Al.”

When the main horn riff hit to start “You Can Call Me Al” everyone involuntarily started dancing. And I mean everyone. Young people, old people. Paul Simon himself started dancing. I personally witnessed a woman in the ADA seating section get up out of her wheelchair and start dancing, which in a different venue would have counted as a miracle.

(That’s not a joke. Stood right up out of a wheelchair and busted a move. It was beautiful.)

Worst: I may have softened my stance on old people for the day but I have not changed my position on youths.

Outside Lands, Outside Lands 2019, Outside Lands Music Festival

Attendees at Outside Lands at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco photographed on Aug. 11, 2019. Photo: Joaquin Cabello.

Look, I’m not expecting 77-year-old Paul Simon to draw the same kind of record crowd as Childish Gambino. I’m realistic. And I mean no disrespect to Anderson .Paak, who’s a great musician, and Kygo, who also performs music. But what in the world, young people?

You’ve got a living legend on stage playing some of the best songs ever written, backed by a horn section and multiple drummers and, for one song, a member of the Grateful Dead, and you’re gonna go watch a DJ?

Broaden your horizons, young people! Appreciate the greats! And get off my lawn!



Best: I’m still on old people.

Mavis Staples

Mavis Staples performs at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco during the Outside Lands Music Festival on Aug. 11, 2019. Photo: Martin Lacey.

Paul Simon was not the oldest performer on Sunday. That honor goes to 80-year-old Mavis Staples, who put on an impossibly good show in the early afternoon.

She was helped onto the stage by an assistant, looking a little unsteady, then the music started and she suddenly lost 25 years. It was incredible. You’d think she heard “You Can Call Me Al.” Belting out vocals so powerful it took the crowd a second to cheer, speaking out in support of Black Lives Matter and against Trump, even dancing a little, you’d never guess her age.

And her voice may have actually improved over the years. As good as she sounded with the Staple Singers back in the day, now it carries the weight of eight decades of experience. And that experience comes out with every single note of every single song.

Then the assistant came back out to help her back off the stage.

Worst: Mark my words: I will destroy the sun.

I know, I complained about the cold and fog. But at least when it’s foggy you can go inside and warm up. The sunburn I got today is gonna be with me for a while; the gift that keeps on giving.

How bad is it? I tweeted a picture of a pork belly burger I was holding and a friend and former colleague who shall remain nameless (Daniel Jimenez) replied that my hand looks like Zoidberg’s. And he’s not wrong.

It’s starting to sting as I type this.

So, I’m sorry, but I’m gonna have to destroy the sun. I’m not sure how yet but I’ll work that part out. I heard somewhere that as soon as a star starts producing iron it’s all over, so maybe I can get that process started by shooting a big chunk of iron in there. All I need is a rocket…



Best: Shoutout to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I’ve mentioned in my various columns that my legs are more or less ornamental at this point. Without going into the gruesome details, while they do allow me to walk they’re not very good at it, especially when they have to do it over long distances and up and down hills for three straight days. I start off with an elaborate collection of braces to keep my joints from going the wrong way but they can only do so much.

This year I decided to stop being so stubborn and use the accessibility options available. The ADA tent took a little work to find but once I found it and got everything squared away it was revelatory. There are chairs! Real chairs, with backs!

So props to the ADA for ensuring that people can enjoy things like music festivals even if their ligaments are dumb and bad, and props to Outside Lands for honoring the spirit of the law in addition to the letter. It really does help.

Worst: I realize it’s cliched to complain about food prices at music festivals but… come on, seriously?

I understand what capitalism does with a captive audience, and I’m fine with local businesses making a killing. But it’s $385 for a three-day wristband (or $155 per day if you don’t get a weekend pass before they sell out), then on top of that it’s $13 for a brisket sandwich? $10 for a beer? $7 for tater tots? $4 for a bottle of water?

Festivals are expensive to put on, I get that. But experiences shouldn’t be reserved exclusively for the wealthy. In the Bay Area especially, with rents what they are, most people don’t have a thousand dollars to drop on a weekend of music. And don’t they deserve to have fun, too?



Best: Most musicians, when something gets thrown on stage, just roll with it. They ignore it, or if it’s a gift of some sort they graciously thank the fan.

Denzel Curry

Denzel Curry performs at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco during the Outside Lands Music Festival on Aug. 11, 2019. Photo: Joaquin Cabello.

Denzel Curry is not one of those musicians.

Near the end of a song a shoe got thrown onto the stage. Did he kick it out of the way? Let it slide? No. He pointed into the crowd and said, “I saw who threw it too! You with the glasses! You caught it and threw it up here!” Then he threw it back.

For that I salute you, Mr. Curry. Letting things go just encourages people to do it again. This is the only way they’ll learn, and that benefits us all.

Worst: I understand that Outside Lands has both Beer Land and Wine Land, and that drinking at festivals is part of the whole thing. But know your limits.

The last song of Paul Simon’s set was “The Sound of Silence,” one of the greatest songs ever written, performed by Simon alone on stage with nothing but an acoustic guitar and his voice. It was not something one sees every day, and possibly something many in the crowd won’t see again.

Rather than simply enjoy it I took a video for, you know, you people, the readers out there who come to us for this stuff, or whatever. But about halfway through the video violently shakes when an extremely drunk bro, while standing perfectly still, lost his balance and careened into me.

I didn’t go down so he was utterly convinced that I had shoved him and took a step back to position himself to fight me. At which point he lost his balance again and fell into a barricade, knocking it over and getting his standard-issue vintage basketball jersey tangled in it. It was untangled by a security guard who dragged him in a direction that was not the exit.

What I’m saying is know your limits. Don’t be that guy. Every other drink or so try to stand up, and if it’s not as easy as it usually is you should stop and sit down for a while. Or at least stay away from me when I’m trying to film something.



Best: Outside Lands is over!

Look, I had a lot of fun. We all did (except the drunk bro from the previous entry). But that’s a lot of time to be outside and on one’s feet, trudging through a park in the blazing (and doomed) sun then freezing when the fog rolls in. Plus I have to stay up late writing these things for you people! So tomorrow I can sleep in, then when I eventually wake up around noon, refuse to get out of bed and complain about my aches and pains to the dog.

(It has to be the dog. The cats just wander away when the realize I’m talking at them and not to them.)

So nobody bother me until Tuesday, OK? Just shout all your complaints about my coverage out the window and I’m sure someone will deal with it.

Worst: This is turning into an annual tradition, but the real world is the worst, and now we have to go back to it. I started catching up on the news on the train home and apparently there was a lightning storm at the North Pole? I wasn’t aware that could even happen.

So, yeah, being away from our enemy the sun will be nice, but at what cost?

But look at the bright side. The next Outside Lands is only a year or so away. And if I have my way the sun won’t be a problem anymore.

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.

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