Festival 411: Outside Lands Makes Epic Return with October Surprise

FilmMagic / FilmMagic for Outside Lands
Festivalgoers are seen during day 2 of the 2021 Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on Oct. 31, 2021, in San Francisco, Calif.
This year’s Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival was a perfect alignment of synergies and then some: The three-day confab welcomed back long-deprived festivalgoers to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco for the first time in more than two years just as the live industry is continuing its comeback. Here, a reported 70,000 per day were treated to a top-notch bill, elevated festival dining with a trifecta of 21+ experiences that included Wine Lands, Beer Lands, and Grass Lands (sponsored by Eaze, the cannabis delivery app) and, most notably, exquisite timing.
Outside Lands is promoted by Another Planet Entertainment and Superfly Presents and is the largest independently run music festival in the United States. After cancelling the festival in 2020 because of the coronavirus, the inspired decision was made to host Outside Lands on Halloween weekend of 2021 as opposed to its usual dates in early August. This meant the Bay area’s wildly diverse and creative community got to do what it does best: don costumes and get their freak on. Encouraged by both OSL’s festival website and social media, the elaborate costumes worn by attendees brought a new level of exuberance to this year’s fest.
While 2021’s exact attendance hasn’t been reported, in 2019 Outside Lands met capacity with 205,500 tickets sold for the annual festival with a record gross of $29,634,734, according to Pollstar Boxoffice reports. Comparatively, the highest attended OSL festival, hosted in 2015, welcomed more than 212,000 festivalgoers yet fell $5.3 million short of 2019’s reported gross. Ticket prices for the 2021 festival, however, ranged between $165-$395, reflecting an 11% increase in pricing for 3-day passes from 2019’s price point – and may result in its highest gross ever. This year, the fest also partnered with Twitch to offer a free livestream of the event. 
Having attended the festival in 2019, 2021’s crowds were of comparable size. The age demographic, though, appeared more heavily concentrated by Gen Z and Millennials since this year’s lineup did not feature a legacy headliner as previous years traditionally have. Paul Simon was the Sunday headliner in 2019, following Janet Jackson in 2018, and Metallica in 2017. 
FilmMagic / FilmMagic for Outside Lands
– IRL:
SOFI TUKKER’s typically colorful set was given the proper high-profile treatment on day three of this year’s Outside Lands, likely California’s largest festival this year with the absence of Coachella.
This year more than 100 acts performed across seven stages over three days. Among the headliners were Tyler, the Creator; Lizzo; Zhu; The Strokes and Tame Impala with numerous critically acclaimed acts, including Glass Animals, Angel Olson, Remi Wolf, and SOFI TUKKER appearing. In fact, for some acts like Vampire Weekend, this was their only performance so far this year. Here, Tame Impala’s impressive closing set on Sunday aligned perfectly with San Francisco’s historic connection to psychedelia while SOFI TUKKER, who experienced tremendous growth throughout the coronavirus shutdown with their livestreaming, proved they could still bring it live and continue strengthening their fanbase.
Over the course of the pandemic, SOFI TUKKER virtually delivered their New York house sets to millions of viewers via livestream, ultimately landing the artist duo on Pollstar’s Top 5 Steamers of 2020 with over 5.2 millions views. In that time, they tirelessly livestreamed mixed DJ sets and guest takeovers for 445 consecutive days between March 2020-June 2021, in addition to streaming their own DJ sets for 267 consecutive days between March-Nov. 2020. The constant fan engagement led to the formation of their fan community, known as FREAK FAM. After nearly 569 days without taking the stage, SOFI TUKKER returned to performing live in late September at Delaware’s Firefly Music Festival and the FREAK FAM was in attendance. At this year’s Outside Lands, SOFI TUKKER again met up with the FREAK FAM at a festival, while members of the community streamed the duo’s third live performance since the industry hiatus on Twitch and simultaneously joined a Zoom call to virtually enjoy the experience together. 
 “This year’s performance felt very comfortable for SOFI TUKKER in terms of them knowing how to play in front of that many people and their ability to keep everyone jumping around the entire time,” said Neil Harris, owner of Punkdafunk and SOFI TUKKER’s manager. When asked how the show compared to their 2017 Outside Lands appearance, Harris said, “I don’t know which crowd was bigger since they reached capacity this year and essentially sold out the Sutro stage.”

Ranger Dave
FilmMagic / FilmMagic for Outside Lands
– Ranger Dave
is ready to get spooky at Outside Lands, which coincided with Halloween this year.
Harris also mentioned SOFI TUKKER’s growing global appeal buoyed by frontwoman Sophie Hawley-Weld’s ability to speak six languages of various fluency. “They are going to Turkey again next week to shoot video for an upcoming collaboration that they are doing with a Turkish artist,” he said. “They’ve shot videos all around the world… being global is very much part of the SOFI TUKKER brand.”  As for what’s ahead, Harris revealed that the duo “just finished their next album. It will come out next year. They have been doing a lot of collaborations and remixes since we last spoke… 11 remixes have come out this year. There has been a John Summit collaboration, Amadou & Mariam collaboration, and a Spotify collaboration with Alok and INNA.”
Beyond incredible performances, Outside Lands offered elevated concessions, including Wine Lands, which hosted over 40 small production California wineries and offered over 100 different wines. Similarly, Beer Lands poured from 30 Northern California breweries. Grass Lands returned for a third time after being the first curated cannabis experience at an American music festival. Shortly after Grass Lands launched a 4:20 promotion on Halloween, The Gateway Show hosted by Billy Anderson took the Grass Lands Stage and welcomed comedians Maggie Maye, Armando Torres, and Robin Tran to perform in front of an audience sitting in a cannabis consumption area. Each comedian performed one act before getting high, then followed up with a second act after lighting up on stage. The audience was challenged with determining which comedians use cannabis products most frequently. Cookies, PAX, Select, and Lowell Farms were among the 15 Grass Lands partners. 
Proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours of the event were required for entry; CLEAR Health Passes helped expedite the process for many attendees while countless others had to verify their status at the entrance.
Although post-facto consumer demand to maintain the Halloween dates and costume policy for the festival appeared strong, Outside Lands recently announced its return to the summer festival calendar from Aug. 5-7, 2022. Fortunately, dressing up as an astronaut or the Power Rangers in August is not out of the ordinary for San Francisco.