OUTSIDE LANDS, August 10-12, 2012

Misty, dreamy lighting changes colors, illuminating Golden Gate Park trees at night

This year’s Outside Lands, a three-day extravaganza of some of the top musical acts in the world, quality food and drink (this is SF, after all), all in the beauty of Golden Gate Park, felt more packed than ever. But despite throngs descended on SF from all over the country, turning Golden Gate Park into a sea of trash (the clean-up crew are saints) and no shortage of rude attendees, Outside Lands magic happened each day.

Thousands swarm the main stage lawn

It took place on Sunday when Jack White popped up for an impromptu set of a few songs, literally standing in the eucalyptus groves in the woods near Choco Lands. Magic happened eating local foods in a festival setting, like dreamy Italian Del Popolo pizzas (although hour-plus lines and daily sell-outs were a drag) or everything from Ryan Farr’s two 4505 Meats stands sustaining us on those long walks between stages with the perfect Damn Good Cheeseburger and Yum Yum fried chicken sandwich. Magic was felt in this year’s new Beer Lands, sipping craft beers chosen by none other than Dave McLean of Magnolia Pub & Brewery, while taking in Foo Fighters, Regina Spektor or Beck (though shame on the training given to those pouring beers, as one pouring for The Bruery on Saturday told me confidently that this incredible brewery from the OC was from San Diego).

Beck keeps the crowd happy at the main Land’s End stage on Friday

Magic occurred when Metallica, flames, lasers and all, delivered the tightest, hardest rocking set of the weekend. Not long after the noon hour, fun. swept up the entire Polo Field in their rousing anthems. Magic reached its pinnacle in Stevie Wonder’s set on Sunday night. His voice sounding as tight and beautiful as ever, even at age 62. His joy and wisdom just radiated from the moment he took the stage, streaming out to a field full of thousands basking in waves of pink, blue, green lights, foggy, Pacific Ocean air, and the voice of a legend.

4505 Meats’ greasy-good chicharrones bars, like Rice Krispy treats but made with Ryan Farr’s unparalleled chicharrones, puffed rice, marshmallow, and choice of Apple Jacks or Cocoa Puffs
The hilarious, improvisational Reggie Watts rocked it with comedy and music Friday afternoon and in the media tent following his set
A fantastic addition this year, Lamb Lands, Michael Mina’s RN74 and Bourbon Steak restaurants served some of the best food of the weekend, including whole roasted lamb gyros, lamb poutine, and RN74’s Chef David Varley’s Brentwood sweet corn in lamb sausage crumbs and cotija cheese
Lamb Lands: under faux Victorian facades, an array of lamb treats were offered, with Chef John Fink of The Whole Beast grilling up and using 8-10 whole lambs per day (lambs from lambs from Superior Farms in Dixon, CA)
4505 Meats/Ryan Farr’s ridiculously good Chicken Yum Yum sandwich understandably sold out on the last night of Outside Lands as one of the festival’s best eats – watch for it at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
The Wine Lands tent impressed once again with 49 wineries, many small and Old World-influenced; highlights included Villa Creek, Robert Sinskey, Qupe, Kermit Lynch imports, Palmina, The Scholium Project, Wind Gap
New this year: Beer Lands tent with 16 CA breweries selected by Brewmaster Dave McLean of Magnolia and Alembic; highlights included The Bruery’s brilliantly bitter Humulus APA and Sierra Nevada’s special event beer, Outside Lands Saison
Saturday in the media tent, Dave McLean (center – Magnolia, Alembic) talks Beer Lands, John Fink (right – The Whole Beast) dishes on lamb,
Choco Lands is an enchanted, Tim Burton-esque fantasy in eucalyptus groves with Day of the Dead accents and an array of chocolate carts and treats
Outside Lands ends with best set of all: Stevie Wonder exudes joy and life to thousands in the Polo Field, his voice in top form