There was something in the air at this year’s fifth annual Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco. Don’t believe me? Just ask the musicians. Starting with living legend Neil Young, who closed his epic Friday night set with a classic little ditty called “Let’s Roll Another Number (For the Road),” musical advice quickly adopted by pretty much every head in rocking distance. Or chanteuse Norah Jones, who noted dryly that she “smelled a skunk” in the middle of her Saturday afternoon set before delving into one of the songs she recently recorded with high-end producer Danger Mouse. Or former-Fleet Foxes drummer J. Tillman, who now heads a group called Father John Misty, and took the stage wearing a shirt that read: “Legalize LSD.”
Also, apparently a lot of people needed to use medical marijuana after Metallica’s Saturday night homecoming, barn-burning metal-fest due to something called “I just got my face shredded” syndrome.
Seriously though, with top flight musical acts on five stages simultaneously, plus tasty dishes from the best of the SF Bay Area’s restaurants (including a desert enclave called Choco-Lands) and tents featuring wine and beer from top local vineyards and breweries, for three days Golden Gate Park held sway as easily the best place in America to burn some herb. With a Korean taco in one hand, a finely crafted rye beer in the other, and some heavily lidded eyes, those in attendance couldn’t help but reach a sort of nirvanic sensual saturation point.
Other highlights included: Two sets from guitar virtuoso Jack White, one jam-laden on the main stage and one fully acoustic and unannounced in the middle of the woods. A surprise appearance by Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir during Norah Jones’s otherwise mellow star turn. Santigold, Skrillex, Justice, and Big Gigantic getting their dance on. Tom Morello inviting the entire crowd up onstage with him. Breakout performances on the smaller stages from Thee Oh Sees, Caveman, Dr. Dog and the California Honeydrops. Crowd pleasing hit-fests from Beck, Foo Fighters, and The Kills. And a joyous, sing-along festival-closing performance from Stevie Wonder that filled the park with the kind of peace and love vibe that’s been a leading San Francisco export since the sixties.