Over Halloween weekend, the Outside Lands music festival drew an estimated 74,000 people daily from all over the country to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Crowds gathered in costume to indulge in some of the Bay Area’s unique food and art offerings and watch three days of jaw-dropping live music acts. The impressive lineup included celebrities the likes of Tyler, the Creator; Glass Animals; Lizzo and Tame Impala, along with smaller rising artists such as Bebe Rexha’s mentee Shilan.
Organizers designed entry requirements with COVID-19 safety in mind. Guests had to test negative 72 hours prior to attendance or show proof of full vaccination. Though generally encouraged, masks were only strictly required indoors.
Alison Rogers ’25, who attended on Friday, was particularly excited to see British indie rock band Glass Animals. She said the concert “was everything I’d hoped going into it — they were energetic and charismatic, and hearing live music for the first time in forever was a feeling I’ll never forget.”
Nicole Domingo ’24 was similarly excited to finally see a live performance; she attended Outside Lands in order to see her favorite band, The Strokes, in person. Domingo added that she attended alongside one of her best friends, with whom she’d initially bonded over a “shared love for The Strokes — an amazing full circle moment.”
Local Bay Area food spots, including the highly ranked Nepalese restaurant Bini’s Kitchen and fried chicken experts World Famous Hotboys, offered a cornucopia of tantalizing meal options. The park air was constantly permeated by the mouth-watering smells of everything from quesabirria tacos to wood-fired pizzas. Organized in neat rows of tents, the eateries hustled to handle long lines of hungry concertgoers.
The festival’s main field also boasted a booming marketplace organized in collaboration with West Coast Craft, a collective of small artisanal businesses from across California. Talented Bay Area makers sold everything from intricately designed sew-on patches to striking handmade statement jewelry. Grass Lands, a legal marijuana vending area, was tucked away beside sister 21-plus areas selling beer and wine.
One musical group in particular stood out to me for their trailblazing: Mongolian rock band The Hu. The four-member group fuses Western rock music with a traditional Mongolian overtone singing technique called throat singing, or khoomei. The Hu’s rapid growth is a testament to the surprising stylistic synergy of their music. As they performed, the astounding resonance of khoomei and traditional Mongolian instruments completely enveloped the audience.
In an interview, vocalist Nyamjantsan “Jaya” Galsanjamts said the throat singing technique “takes years of hard work and practice,” claiming to have been practicing it for 22 years. Much of the band’s music revolves around their Mongolian culture and homeland. They employ traditional Mongolian instruments like Jaya’s tumuur hhuur (jaw harp) and tsuur (flute). Members Enkhsaikhan “Enkush” Batjarga and Galbadrakh “Gala” Tsendbaatar play horsehead fiddles called morin khuur. Gala, who is also the lead vocalist, explains that at the heart of their lyrics lies a universal reminder to “be respectful to our elders and protect this nature.”
For them, “having fun together” was the most vital element of returning to in-person concerts.
“Being connected with the audience is our favorite part of performing on this stage,” said Temuulen “Temka” Naranbaatar, backing vocalist and tovhsuur (lute) player.
While The Hu stood out as an unexpected star, Outside Lands also stunned audiences with established crowd favorites on their four main stages. Tyler, the Creator had fans cheering with a characteristically high-energy performance of hit songs from his latest album, “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST.” One moment he reeled the crowd in with fast-paced raping on “LEMONHEAD,” and the next, everyone was swaying to the sweet, nostalgic “WUSYANAME.”
Iconic pop singer Lizzo, similarly known for the infectious energy of her performances, drew in the audience by recording a TikTok right on stage during her performance.
Palo Alto High School alum Remi Wolf is also no stranger to TikTok, having had several songs go viral on the platform. Her memorable Outside Lands set highlighted her versatile voice and irresistible charisma; Wolf swept her audience up in a tide of bubbly pop sound and covers of familiar hits such as Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.”
Other Bay Area-born artists delivered brilliant concerts of their own, including San Francisco rapper 24kGoldn and experimental musicians Salami Rose Joe Louis and Brijean of Oakland. Country artist Cam was raised in the San Francisco suburb of Lafayette, and even worked in psychology research at Stanford before turning to the music industry.
Outside Lands is the latest in a chain of tentative post-pandemic music festivals. There was no shortage of artists to see; as each day wore on, excitement built for the final headlining concert of the night. Propelled forward by a giddy pulse, the event made for an exhilarating Halloween weekend that holds much promise for live entertainment to come.