Word’s out that there’s actual cannabis in the cannabis area of Grass Lands,” said Kiva Confections co-founder
Puff puff passing inside San Francisco’s biggest summer spectacle got much easier this year at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival. Over 210,000 attendees of the outdoor megaland could -— for the first time — legally purchase and consume cannabis on-site.
South of Golden Gate Park’s Polo Field where Paul Simon, Childish Gambino, and Twenty One Pilots headlined the three-day festival weekend (Aug. 9-11), nearly 30 vendors made up the second annual Grass Lands experience.
From gummies to chocolates to THC-infused water to festival-sized pre-roll joints, Grass Lands didn’t skimp on spark.
According to SFGate.com, Grass Lands sold “seven figures” worth of cannabis, though organizers Highland Events were unable to confirm specific sales numbers or an exact revenue figure.
Second year cannabis vendor Kristi Knoblich-Palmer, co-founder of Kiva Confections, confirmed foot traffic increased since last year; the line for her artisanal edibles snaking through the crowd.
“Word’s out that there’s actual cannabis in the cannabis area of Grass Lands,” Knoblich-Palmer told Castro Courier on Day 2 of the festival. “It’s a lot busier than last year.”
(2019’s Day 2 ticket sales were reportedly the highest in the festival’s 12-year history: 90,000.)
“Cannabis companies haven’t really been on the invitation list for festivals in the past,” she said, proudly glancing over at her bustling Kiva booth. “I think music and pot go really well together; I think a lot of other people agree it’s a bit of a match made in heaven.
“It was only a matter of time before we’d be able to be at a festival like this,” Knoblich-Palmer added.
To prevent overcrowding during peak hours, security at the entrance of Grass Lands delayed the long line of customers waiting to have IDs checked.
Inside the sizeable hideout, tall eucalyptus trees punctuated colorful, interactive booths, and merchants knew the way to their consumers stoned and hungry hearts. One air-conditioned booth offered free donuts and back massages. Another booth offered cold water refills from a gas pump.
26-year-old Outside Lands first-timer Brian Villalobos from Anaheim, CA said Grass Lands “feels amazing.”
“You’re welcome, finally,” Villalobos said. “[I like] not being glared at for smoking weed. Everyone is just having a good time vibing.”
Nearby at the Farm to Bong Competition table, attendees carved bongs using fresh fruits and vegetables. While some creations functioned like traditional bongs, others — the cucumber shoved into a watermelon, for example — resembled alternative adult activities.
Alexis Fulcher, a 33-year-old Outside Lands veteran from Los Angeles, created her bong using ginger, a bell pepper and a lemon slice.
“I feel like a cool kid in high school again: arts and crafts with weed,” Fulcher said, admiring her creation.
The Grass Lands Stage showcased cannabis-themed demos, conversations and music performances, including comedian Ngaio Bealum.
“We’re standing in the middle of Golden Gate Park smoking weed, but you gotta sneak off to smoke a cigarette,” said Bealum, a San Francisco native. “20 years ago you had to sneak into the woods to smoke the weed. It’s a great new approach to things.”
A marijuana activist for “20 something years,” Bealum, who had just finished a set on the Grass Lands Stage, said while the legalization of marijuana still has some challenges, the overall benefits have been fantastic.
“Being able to carry a bag of weed in your pocket and not worry when you see cops does wonders for the hypertension,” he said, laughing.
An Outside Lands first-timer himself, Courier asked what advice he had for other newbies?
“Wear comfortable shoes!” he said. “And pace yourself. If you’re not used to smoking weed at a festival and you show up here, you might be inclined to go crazy hard at first. But it’s a 10 hour day. Stay hydrated.”
The next Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival is August 7-9, 2020. Visit sfoutsidelands.com for updates.
(left) Comedian Ngaio Bealum performs on the Grass Lands Stage. (right) Attendees carved bongs using fresh fruits and vegetables during the Farm to Bong Competition table.
Top Outside Lands 2019 artists to catch when next in town
Photo: Jeremy Cohen
The stars aligned for Outside Lands 2019, bestowing the festival with the largest attendance ever, especially on Saturday night (thank you, Childish Gambino), and perfect weather across the three days. Okay, Saturday was pretty overcast throughout the day, but on what is always the busiest day of the festival, that’s kind of a good thing. Call it nature’s way of keeping the record crowds feeling a bit more chill, even with all of the adrenaline highs that popped up to meet them along the way. 200,000 people were at Outside Lands, but everyone showed respect to one another, demonstrating a sense of humor and a festival community vibe.
There was so much to see, and due to this reporter’s inability to teleport between the four main stages, along with the numerous smaller ones, this list of whom to see comes with a caveat: there were definitely a lot of other artists that should have made this list, but it was impossible to see them all. Nonetheless this is a good place to start.
Photo: Virginia Cortland/ Outside Lands
Photo: TomTomkinson/ Outside Lands
Photo: Ryan Mastro/ Outside Lands
Photo: Josh Withers/ Outside Lands
Okay, this one might be a little unfair, since Mr. Simon had his official farewell tour last year (Homeward Bound - the Farewell Tour), and who knows when and if he might return to our city. Still, it must be said that his set, as Sunday’s closer on the Lands End stage, was an event. Standing next to a mother and daughter who had flown in from different states to attend, a trio of friends reuniting in SF for the occasion, a woman wearing glitter sneakers in honor of Simon’s classic song, “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” and dozens of fans who had seen his shows since the 1960s, was a treat, and heartwarming. By the end of the night, people who had previously been strangers were swaying together to Simon’s career-spanning selection, with their arms slung over each others shoulders. Simon’s band was also excellent; he’d even brought in a chamber ensemble, yMusic, who wove their instrumental voices in so beautifully with those of Simon’s other touring band members. As an extra San Francisco-centric treat, Paul Simon surprised the crowd by calling on his old buddy from the Bay, The Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, to join him on a rendition of “The Boxer.” Ending the night with a five number encore, it was obvious that his songs have stayed so relevant in current times. Appearing solo for the number “American Tune,” Simon sang, “And I dreamed I was flying, And high above my eyes could clearly see, The Statue of Liberty, Sailing away to sea.” Even with major Gen Z favorites appearing on other stages, some attendees under 20 made it to Simon’s set too. As overheard when one animated teen regrouped with his friends who had just seen Kygo, and had asked him about Paul Simon’s set, he replied, “He sang this amazing song called “The Song of Silence!”
Toro y Moi
The crowds at Toro y Moi’s shows are pretty much San Francisco at its best, with everyone grooving to the hip-hop seasoned chillwave bliss that is so uniquely his, and looking totally content to be exactly where they are. For the longest time, Chaz Bear, aka Toro y Moi, kept music as a side gig, or hobby, not wanting to have to rely on what he loves to pay the bills, but it looks like he has finally come to the realization that his fans have realized long ago.... Toro y Moi’s music is more than capable of sustaining him. Bay Area shows sell out the day they go up for sale in most cases. Last January, his two nights at The Fillmore sold out immediately, and when he added an East Bay gig to precede those by a day, it sold out right way too. His latest album, Outer Peace, should hopefully keep him appearing here quite a bit, and it isn’t a long commute for the Berkeley resident.
This list most likely wasn’t necessary to inform you about Ms. Mavis Staples. She’s a legend and a hero. Mavis Staples has been keeping it positive while singing her songs of love, freedom, and justice for decades. Beginning her music career with her family, The Staples Singers, who first became famous for their gospel repertoire, Mavis Staples has seen it all, from the Civil Rights Movement to the civil right issues we face today. The woman whose family used to travel alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. continues to stay way in the game, releasing albums often, especially within the past decade or so. Her latest, We Get By, written and produced by Ben Harper, is very much a call to action. Current events have gotten her singing songs that call for change when it comes to gun violence, and the ramifications of immigration politics. Between songs too, Mavis Staples preached that we must stop the outrageous practice of separating children from their families, from their mothers. While her song topics are often far from light, Mavis Staples is all about action, and her sets are invigorating, rather than depressing. In fact. it’s pretty much impossible to not feel great at one of her shows. At Outside Lands, she teased fans again with the notion that she might run for president herself. Do it Mavis.
Understatement is where it’s at. Yaeji’s soft voice and subtle hypnotic beats will have you smiling hard before you know it, and Lindley Meadow, which fronts the Sutro stage, was a sea of smiles during her Friday evening set. Wearing all black, and dancing as she walked up and down the length of the stage, the Brooklyn-based DJ sang along to her beats in both Korean and English, sometimes within the same song. Please check out her wonderfully addictive tune, “Raingurl,” from her last EP (EP2), for a taste of what’s in store for you at one of Kathy Yaeji Lee’s shows.
When Kacey Musgraves won the Grammy award for Album of the Year last February, she looked thoroughly and honestly surprised. She would probably be the only one. Her album, Golden Hour, which provided all but two of the songs that she sang for us at Outside Lands, was an instant classic. Musgraves emerged onto the Lands End stage looking ready to enjoy herself and our company in beautiful Golden Gate Park. She’d had a pretty crazy couple of weeks, having incurred the wrath of Fox News following her public stance for gun control. Then there was the purely fabricated social media hack that made it look like she had liked a dreadful tweet by Kid Rock about Taylor Swift. When it rains, it pours. Musgraves was as charming as she was genuine when she let the audience know, “As much as you think you’re coming here to see me. I came here to see you guys.” When she sang the only cover of the afternoon, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” we all knew she would. And then some.
Hozier was also really happy to be here, in San Francisco, telling the massive audience that had packed Lindley Meadow, how it was the first time he had breathed really clean air in a while, and that it reminded him of his home, in Ireland. He then proceeded to bring us to Ireland, and a host of other places, via the beautiful blend of genres Hozier and his band provided his audience that Saturday night. Like Led Zeppelin, yet sounding completely unlike Led Zeppelin, Andrew John Hozier-Byrne marries the music of his Celtic roots to other musical styles of the people, like blues, soul, and folk, and then he rocks it out. Songs from his latest LP, Wasteland, Baby!, like “Nina Cried Power,” which features Mavis Staples, and “Movement,” were featured, along with prior faves like his career magnifying anthem, “Take Me To Church.” Even the usually unfazed security guards who lined the front of the stage kept turning around to check out the man behind that singular voice. While Hozier won’t be back in San Francisco for a while, he and his band do have other scheduled dates coming up along the coast in October. This is another artist one should never sleep on tickets for; they go fast.
CupcakKe, aka Elizabeth Eden Harris, who played the Panhandle stage on Saturday evening, is a guaranteed fun night out, but maybe not for a first date, unless you want to talk about sex right from the start. CupcakKe leaves nothing out and nothing to the imagination. It was fun to watch as festival goers, who were migrating from Big Wild’s set at the Twin Peaks stage to Flume’s set at the Lands End stage, unexpectedly heard CupcakKe’s delicate lyrics as they drifted over a large crowd of her fans at the Panhandle stage, “I like it doggy style so much, I gotta go to the vet!,” and that’s a lyric that can be printed here without a lot of asterisks. The rest of them, not so much. Predictably, San Franciscans were all about CupcakKe and her sex-positive message. She didn’t leave out the LGBTQ community either, including her song “LGBT” in her set list that day. You gotta love a CupcakKe with rainbow sprinkles! It’s a festival, so CupcakKe sang us her most fun stuff, but the Chicago born rapper doesn’t just get real about sex - she gets real about lots of the issues that she’s faced, including racial injustice and gender-related injustice. CupcakKe has released four albums and two mixtapes within the last three years, so it’s likely that she’ll be touring on something new soon. Go and see her.
Castro Courier featured Rainbow Girls in our summer issue for good reason; these three women are a Bay Area treasure. Rainbow Girls’ music is as timeless as their themes of love, travel, and social justice are, and largely springs from the folk music traditions that have been around for decades. Still, their music isn’t limited by the constraints of genre; in fact one gets the impression that limitation isn’t a word that is very often used in Rainbow Girls’ vocabulary. Vanessa May, Caitlin Gowdey, and Erin Chapin opened the festival early on Friday afternoon, and set the tone for a wonderful weekend. Please see Castro Courier’s Summer 2019 issue for an in-depth interview with singer and multi-instrumentalist Caitlin Gowdey, to catch up on Rainbow Girls’ latest releases and more.
The Marias are a mod, LA-based, LA-centric band, with a super dreamy, sultry groove, and Latin jazz accents. Maria Zardoya,, who goes by her first name only, sings in both Spanish and English, and one gets the impression that was just what flowed naturally in the writing that she and her partner, Josh Conway, did for The Marias. They had the audience at Friday afternoon’s Panhandle stage moving their hips in all directions from the opening number. Maria emerged from backstage wearing a plasticized, puffy-sleeved white swing trench coat over a bejeweled black bustier, matching high waist bikini bottoms, and black stockings, with black sunglasses to complete the look. The rest of the band wore matching white turtlenecks and black pants, with black sunglasses, of course. The whole thing was very reminiscent of Robert Palmer’s video for “Addicted To Love,” in a reverse gender send up. The band performed tracks from their two EPs to date, Superclean Vol. l, and Superclean Vol. ll, along with a slowed tempo, brilliant cover of Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time.” The Marias are perfect for a date night, or for when that drive down the coast is long overdue.
Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals
If one name was heard above all others on Sunday at Outside Lands, it had to be that of Anderson .Paak. Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals performed two sets that day, closing out the Sutro stage for the weekend, and joining chef Roy Choi on the much smaller Gastro Magic stage, at the other end of Lindley Meadow. Although his Gastro Magic set was only 30 minutes, devoted fans found their places on the lawn to wait for their hero hours in advance. Now, truth be told, it would have been impossible to see both Paul Simon and Anderson .Paak simultaneously, but the buzz onsite for this artist was so over the top, he had to make this list. YouTube videos, and there are a few, verify the accolades. Check out his opening number, “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance” on YouTube to suss what the hype is all about. As Anderson said himself on his Facebook page, “No words could explain it. You had to be there. I ♥ the bay, thank you #outsidelands Outside Lands Music Festival”
Lastly, honorable mention must also be made to three more artists that aren’t on this list due to schedule conflicts, but should have been. Having seen and heard Leon Bridges (brilliant singer and songwriter who continuosly expands his musical identity), Weyes Blood (that voice!), and Shallou (singer/producer/environmentalist Joe Boston puts on such a fun show), on previous occasions, one can only say that the aforementioned artists are three big reasons why Outside Lands’ lineup was so stellar in 2019. Props also to all of the great artists who graced the smaller stages this year, like Amo Amo and Monster Rally, the latter of whom sounded like they were born to play a stage called Cocktail Magic; their music is essentially the perfect soundtrack to your next cocktail party. Some of the best discoveries made at Outside Lands can sometimes happen at a little stage in woods. What a great spot to relax and recharge before heading back into all else that awaited at Outside Lands 2019.
Editorial note: Shout out to Alicia’s Tamales for their vegan tamales, and to Project Juice for their Green Ginger Juice! Thanks for sustaining me on this adventure. See ya next year!
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