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Outside Lands Music Festival: A Review In Polaroids

Featuring UPSAHL, Holly Humberstone, Manila Grey, NALA, Poolside, and more.

by Lindsey Blane

Photos by Lindsey Blane

Aug. 11 to 13, 2023

San Francisco, CA

Golden Gate Park

San Francisco’s Outside Lands Music Festival celebrated its 15th anniversary this year, bringing headliners Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters and Odesza to the incredibly gorgeous Golden Gate Park. The event is the largest independently-owned festival in the United States, and prides itself on a world-class lineup of music, food, and arts. Despite being scheduled for early August, the weather was cool and breezy, with the ever-familiar “Karl the fog” rolling in each night to envelop the park in a stunning natural haze to close out the evening. This was a welcome reprieve from the usual blistering-hot weather of most summer festivals, and there was plenty of shade to be found all across the tree-lined park. 

The picturesque and more secluded setting of Outside Lands gives the event a unique feeling in comparison to most other summer events, and helps lend to a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, instead of the frantic and chaotic feeling of the majority of summer festivals. Wandering through trees and shade to get through stages instead of navigating massive crowds in open fields was a nice touch, with various art installations and food setups across the festival grounds. This environment felt inviting, luring festival-goers to come in and explore new areas and try new foods.

The only major downside to this setting was the occasional bottleneck of people trying to pass through the corridor openings at the end of the night to pass between the headliners on each stage. It was also quite a long walk between stages – if the crowd was packed, it was at least 15 minutes from the main Lands End stage to the secondary Twin Peaks stage on the other end of the park – which turned scheduling conflicts for headliners into difficult choices. Friday night hosted Kendrick Lamar on the main stage against Zedd on the second largest stage, Saturday was Foo Fighters vs. Lana Del Rey, and Sunday was The 1975 vs. Odesza. On paper, these artists seem quite opposite, but a large amount of attendees were faced with the decision of making a choice between the two or face missing a good portion of each set. 

The 1975 perform at Outside Lands Music Festival 2023.

The musical programming of the event was diverse, with a mix of rock, pop and alternative, electronic, and even the festival’s first-ever K-Pop act, Aespa. The four stages of varying sizes boasted a range of artists on each. Hats off to the organizers for pulling off an incredibly cohesive lineup on Sunday at the Twin Peaks stage, with a lineup boasting Holly Humberstone, Inhaler, beabadoobee, Cigarettes after Sex and capping off the night with The 1975. For the alternative music crowd, that second stage was the place to be to end the weekend. The new Soma Dance Tent was specifically dedicated to achieving the club-like atmosphere of a sweaty nightclub, and boasted long lineups to get in. The tent was not without hiccups, however: the first day of the festival, the tent closed after the first few acts due to an unsafe section of the raised floor. The tent was back on day two, but unfortunately it seems as though some rowdy festival-goers were determined to break the floor in the same spot, and thus had to be shut down again.

Megan Thee Stallion performs at Outside Lands Music Festival 2023.

Overnight, the festival miraculously disassembled the tent and lighting, transformed the tent into an open-air space on the ground instead of a raised platform, and made some line-up changes to re-open the area for the final day. The festival also focused on programming an all-new smaller, LGBTQ-friendly open-air dance club on the main Polo field, with a focus on celebrating the queer, trans, and DIY communities and spaces that San Francisco is known for. Walking by many times over the three-day event, there was non-stop dancing, smiles, and sheer joy radiating from this area. 

Over the course of the weekend, while dashing between stages to make it to the next performance, we were able to catch up with a handful of incredibly talented artists playing the event for some Polaroid portrait sessions.

Holly Humberstone



Read UPSAHL’s essay about Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” that she wrote for RANGE, celebrating the 50th anniversary of IV.


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Manila Grey


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