Photo Essay: three days of Outside Lands 2014

Photo: Mike Miller

The verdict’s in: Outside Lands 2014 stepped up its game in food, drink and general festival festivities. The music fell short, though you wouldn’t know it by the sold-out-in-less-than-24-hours 200,000-person crowd. 

SN&R’s Nick Miller explained his super fun though sonically disappointing first day. In short: Kanye was overly self-indulgent and annoying (surprise!), British electronic duo Disclosure was stiff, El-P and Killer Mike’s side project Run the Jewels didn’t quite deliver and Warpaint was “like a 2008-era Sister Crayon on Quaaludes.” 

British dance outfit Disclosure. hoto: Mike Miller

El-P of Run the Jewels. Photo: Mike Miller

But Miller dug deejay Paul Johnson in the all-day EDM dome, Chromeo and a magician dude named Jon Armstrong. 

I assumed the tough responsibility of attending days two and three of Outside Lands. And I totally messed it up. My computer spazzed out and erased my memory card, which means I can only offer these three shitty iPhone photos. Sorry.

Let’s start with the best thing that happened to me all weekend: this sandwich.

Mark Liberman’s spaghetti sloppy joe. Ohhh yeah. Photo: Janelle Bitker

Just look at it! Courtesy of chef Mark Liberman of fine dining hotspot AQ—and formerly of Sacramento—thousands were treated to “highbrow spaghetti sloppy joe’s.” In Liberman’s own words: “Super stoner food. Not gluten-free at all. Carb on top of carb on top of dairy.” Apparently he serves it to his cooks sometimes when they’re trying to clear out the fridge. Whatever. The sweet, simple spaghetti with fresh basil, Sriracha and Parmesan proved to be a surprisingly delightful filling for that warm, chewy bun. 

And playing to its strengths, Outside Lands added a new stage: GastroMagic, pairing up culinary talent and other entertainers. I witnessed chef Brandon Jew of Bar Agricole make duck, with Duck Sauce spinning disco and dancers in fuzzy, yellow duck costumes parading around stage. It was awesome. 

I also caught some of hometown hero Tycho’s set—ambient, entrancing, beautiful. German electro house producer Boys Noize was rad. No one really cared about Death Cab for Cutie’s songs that weren’t on Transatlanticism or Plans. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis drew a massive crowd that easily rivaled repeat headliner Tom Petty’s. Wild to think about how just two years ago Macklemore played the first set at Outside Lands, probably to just a couple dozen people. 

Sunday had a shakey start. Christopher Kostow, chef at Michelin-starred The Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa, mysteriously cancelled his event at GastroMagic. Scottish electronic pop band Chvrches cancelled too. 

The Improvised Shakespeare Company perform “Honey Badger Stew.” Photo: Janelle Bitker

There was, however, a very funny hour at GastoMagic in the afternoon, delivered by the Improvised Shakespeare Company. The group performed what was supposed to be a food-themed play—”Honey Badger Stew”—though it quickly devolved into a love story where everyone dies. Typical.

Australian electronic producer Flume was surprisingly endearing and engaging. Spoon was not quite as endearing and engaging as I had hoped. Luckily, the Flaming Lips met all built-up expectations. Glitter, streamers, smiley face stickers, giant mushrooms, rainbows, suns, butterflies, etc. Wayne Coyne rolled over the audience in his hamster ball and creepily stroked a baby doll. 

Giant mushrooms and/or the Flaming Lips. Photo: Janelle Bitker

Once again, the seventh annual Outside Lands festival further cemented its place as the Bay Area’s best-produced event—particularly when thought of as much more than a music festival. Maybe next year the ramen burger line won’t be so damn long.

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