There was a mellow beginning and a repeatedly “Bloody” end to the first day of the lucky seventh edition of Outside Lands, the festival so beloved by San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park that organizers Another Planet have a contract to host it there until at least 2021. Don’t worry, though, it wasn’t real blood — just an attempt by Kanye West to extract some from the crowd by playing his current favorite song by himself over and over.
If that doesn’t make much sense now, it should by the time we draw you further into this dalliance of a day, which also saw uplifting dance beats by Disclosure, Chromeo and Holy Ghost!, explorations of country and beyond from Kacey Musgraves, and so much more:
1:20 PM: Festival early birds are greeted by the sounds of Greensky Bluegrass upon entering. Frisbees are hanging in the air and the sun is starting to peek through the cool summer fog.
1:33 PM: Looking for two musical men named Art and John proves fruitless as it’s the comedy duo of Garfunkel and Oates, stars of a new series on IFC, who are on the Outside Lands lineup today. Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucciere are here to start and close out a day of offbeat humor on The Barbary, a stage curated by standup comedy event SF Sketchfest.
2:05 PM: Inside the tiny dance dome (or what its corporate sponsor would like to be known as The House by Heineken), SF’s DJ Dials shouts, “Raise your hand if you called off from work today!” As everybody screams, he throws on a snippet of “Everybody,” a 2003 dance hit by Danish act Junior Senior.
2:40 PM: Killer Mike and El-P (aka Run The Jewels) give love to the Bay Area community during their set on the main Lands End stage by dedicating “DDFH” (which stands for “Do Dope Fuck Hope”) to Oscar Grant, who was fatally shot by a transit policeman in Oakland in 2009. Killer Mike takes a moment to remember late local rapper Mac Dre and declares that Too $hort is his father figure. El-P calls out world champion turntablist DJ QBert to provide extra flair over “No Come Down.”
3:05 PM: After opening up the small Panhandle stage a few hours earlier, Night Terrors of 1927 is enjoying an intimate bonus set inside Soundwave, a Toyota-sponsored tent that serves as a makeshift car showroom. Frontman Blake Sennett looks out into the crowd and starts addressing a woman in a squirrel mask, deciphering her sign: “‘I like big nuts and I cannot lie,’” he reads. “I bet that works on every stage!” “Well, my work here is done,” says the satisfied squirrel, scampering off.
3:32 PM: No Native American-style headdresses are spotted during the subtle set of Apache/Puerto Rican/Filipino musician Nahko and Medicine for the People, which means people have hopefully gotten the memo as to the item’s cultural insensitivity.
3:50 PM: Warpaint is weaving a web of psychedelic awesomeness worthy of manifesting invisible fractals in the sky without pharmacological assistance. Yeah, they’re that trippy in their simplicity.
4:20 PM: With more than 200 edible items available throughout the park, this is just as much a food festival as a music one. Selections tend to be adventurous, including doughnut cheeseburgers and mushroom doughnuts. But the perfect item to fuel the day turns out to be a “highbrow spaghetti Sloppy Joe” sandwich made by AQ, a high end restaurant that normally serves a fine tasting menu.
4:33 PM: It feels like an infomercial for Roland and Yamaha synthesizers over at Lands End, thanks to the retro noodlings of Holy Ghost!
5:09 PM: Next up on the Lands End stage, Chromeo continue the synthpop takeover with enough cheeky bombast to make Jon Bon Jovi, well, “Jealous.” Synthpop artists are more rock stars than rock stars these days.
ranger dave got jealous of @chromeo‘s fly jacket backstage but he’s too cool to admit it #outsidelands pic.twitter.com/dBxYXADiGU
— ranger dave (@sfoutsidelands) August 9, 2014
5:22 PM: Back in the dance dome, Paul Johnson, a legendary Chicago DJ who is confined to a wheelchair, injects the festival with a necessary dose of old-school jackin house music. Today this style is apparently popular with stocky men in lucha libre Mexican wrestler masks.
5:55 PM: “Don’t worry about a thing, ‘cause every little thing gonna be alright!” Bob Marley’s oft-covered “Three Little Birds” sounds ebullient and fresh coming from country star “Spacey” Kacey Musgraves.
say what you think, love who you love cause you just get so many trips round the sun #ol2014 @KaceyMusgraves pic.twitter.com/kJaaNdDFUC
— Lori Berenberg (@loriberenberg) August 9, 2014
6:20 PM: A friend says the three-day ticket he bought from a secondhand source turned out to be a fake, but a little, um, gratuity given to someone at the entrance was enough to get him in anyway. The mockup of the Ticketmaster-branded pass looks remarkably convincing on the surface, but the bar code scanners don’t lie.
6:35 PM: Disclosure starts their deliciously bottom-heavy set with the remix of “F for You” featuring Mary J Blige, but unlike at last weekend’s HARD Summer festival in Southern California, she does not appear in person to sing it. There’s no more drama, though; brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence, clad in button-up shirts, make easy friends with the crowd when they thank them for being what they think is the biggest audience they’ve played for in a short but meteoric career.
7:37 PM: Space Disco, another Toyota-branded tent housing display cars, is blaring Tears For Fears’ 1985 hit “Everybody Wants to Rule The World.”
7:39 PM: The unusual sound of the triangle beckons from the Panhandle stage, where Bear Hands are playing. It sounds like a full-on performance, but turns out it’s not. “It’s really weird to do a soundcheck in front of everyone,” says singer Dillon Rau. “So, here’s a preview of a song we’re going to play for you in two minutes!”
7:42 PM: Giant red hearts are filling up the screens on the Twin Peaks stage, where Tegan & Saraare making it throb for the masses. The sisters have a killer live set closer that makes people skip with happiness, and it happens to be called “Closer.”
Oh hey @teganandsara, always a pleasure. Get your #EEEEEATS on girls. Chicken & waffles @LittleSkillet @outside_lands pic.twitter.com/NBOHYZoiUk
— The Infatuation (@infatuation) August 9, 2014
8:12 PM: Hours after filling up the Polo Fields at the main Lands End stage with some mind-melding synthpop, Holy Ghost! is presiding over a smaller boogie session at this year’s new GastroMagic stage with the help of Escort’s “Caméleon Chameleon” and a happily dancing chef from Guittard Chocolate Company, a local factory that’s been in business since the 1800s.
8:17 PM: As the sun completely makes way for a beautiful moon, this year’s main advancement in flower crown technology reveals itself: Some of these suckers light up now.
8:36 PM: Kanye West cuts off his “Clique” in order to address members of the press who he says look for something negative to write about him, “instead of embracing the moment, embracing the time, the era, the season that they’re living in — called Yeezy season.” Yeezon.
8:49 PM: Yeezus is in control now, and he stops the song “Power” dead in its tracks. “I like that song and all,” he notes, taking off his couture face mask, “but I want to play a little of the last song now.” He instructs the crowd to make “circles” so people can mosh when the beat to “Blood On The Leaves” drops. “This ain’t no radio shit,” he says. “This ain’t no concierge, maitre d’ music, trying to sound as smooth as possible.”
9:00 PM: As we’re all toasting to the scumbags and assholes on “Runaway,” a man in a wheelchair briefly stands up, grinning widely.
9:10 PM: “At the Yeezy show, everyone is a star,” Kanye croons through Auto-tune. “I promote self-confidence! If you’re a friend of mine, you’re really just a friend of yourself!”
9:20 PM: Snippets early hits come fast and furious, a blur that “All Falls Down” under “All of The Lights.”
9:50 PM:“Blood On The Leaves” is back again to close the show, along with renewed orders to make more mosh pit circles. Kanye adores when the beat drops on this track so much that he pulls it back to release it for the third and final time, leaving the stage in foggy silence. He’ll be a tough act to follow tomorrow, but plenty of artists are ready to go for it.