THE BLOG

San Francisco Makes Outside Lands the Best Music Festival in America

08/16/2013 01:25 pm ET | Updated Oct 16, 2013

Outside Lands was an experience. If the coldest winter is a summer in San Francisco, then the chillest festival in America is probably Outside Lands. Pick a fest in America: Bonnaroo, Coachella, Lollapalooza, Wakarusa, Ultra, All Good, Suwannee, even Burning Man, and none compare to what just transpired in Golden Gate Park.

Woodstock may be the model for music festivals, but make no mistake, the spirit of music festivals has its origin in San Francisco's counterculture: a rock-n-roll, free-wheeling spirit born and nurtured in Haight-Ashbury in the Sixties by the likes of The Grateful Dead.

To host a gigantic festival in the birthplace of this counterculture is an accomplishment and the ultimate homage to the city. Focus on the experience of Outside Lands. San Francisco's largest treasure (Golden Gate Park) is transformed into a labyrinth of stages and side-shows for 180,000 people to enjoy over three-days. It was sublime. The world's largest, most expensive smoke machine couldn't match the natural fog rolling into Outside Lands from the ocean, a mere twenty blocks away. The smell of pine, oak and wood chips -- a smell of comfort and anticipation, naturally massaged those of us in attendance.

Put aside the fact that the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nine Inch Nails, Paul McCarthy, Pretty Lights, Vampire Weekend, Jurassic 5, Phoenix, Hall & Oats, Willie Nelson, A-Trak, Trombone Shorty, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs constitute an all-time, eclectic wide-range of awesome, and you're still left with San Francisco.

There's three ways to stay young forever: die young, become a rock star, or move to San Francisco. The crowd at Outside Lands is defintely older than other music festivals but there's also swag and style in age. One must bow humbly to the producers of OL, Another Planet Entertainment and Superfly Productions--the same dudes that put together Bonnaroo. Bonnaroo is bucket-list material, reigning in the American Dream, offering the on-the-road, free, camping spirit of rock-n-roll to coming-of-age millennials -- but Outside Lands brings it home to those who've been there before, to those who can savor a good thing, like a nice Napa wine.