Every year for the past five years, I’ve gone to Outside Lands in search of a sense of something greater. To be greater than the silly but seemingly world consuming tribulations of high school, to be an excuse in college to drink before noon and now, to feel like I still have parts of my youth that I’ve convinced myself are no longer there.
The festival has never let me down, showing me the vibrancy of not only the Bay Area but the world in its entirety. From the food to the music and the people, it’s always shown me society in its greatest form — a collection of all things good and worthy of gathering over.
I will never attend anything that doesn’t involve food. Not only am I hungry all the time, but it’s also my favorite thing to do with my friends, involving coming together and sharing a meal. Especially at the festival, it was nice to take a break and sit on the ground for a moment before marching over to the next artist we wanted to see. I love that there are all the different cuisines I can think of. They highlight local businesses that create some of the best things I’ve ever tasted. My favorites of the weekend included spicy lobster tater tots, a smash burger and a classic slice of pizza. Wherever you are in the park, you can hear one of the many stages nearby with someone performing, making it so much fun to just take a seat and enjoy your food.
I think the food venues at the park are especially unique to the whole experience because not only are they small businesses that we get to support, but they are restaurants that clearly care about food and the stories that are associated with it. A lot of the owners of these places were there to talk about how much their dishes meant to them, highlighting their culture and personal stories that they’re attempting to express through this craft. It’s a special thing to be able to taste something that holds so much value and history.
The music was also so great the entire weekend. I seem to forget how much I love listening to live music and seeing my favorite artists (probably because concert tickets are so expensive), but I always get emotional when I am able to go, especially at Outside Lands. It always manages to gather some of my favorite artists — this year having Kendrick Lamar there blew my mind.
I think I find myself on the verge of tears at concerts for two reasons. One is just the mere fact that all these people have come together to witness this one artist or group. I think it’s such a beautiful thing when something so special and valued amongst massive groups of people is treasured at the exact same moment. It’s so human, the way we gather to experience joy in the same way at the same time. I would look out onto the huge crowds and just think that this is what life is really about. Not the petty and trivial things I worry about on a daily basis, but the pursuit of happiness, looking to live through moments like these with other people — even complete strangers.
The second is that I often associate moments of my life with music. Lamar performing his songs from previous albums made me think of when I would listen to them in high school and how I’m not that person anymore. It’s bittersweet. I found myself getting flashbacks of singing in my friends car, walking down the school hallways or just the lasting remnants of who I was when those albums had come out. I’m so thankful to not be in that young, frankly dumb and reckless stage of my life anymore, but a part of me missed it too. I wondered if my past self who listened to these songs would be proud and happy of who I am now, listening to him perform in front of my eyes. I’d like to think she is.
My absolute favorite thing about the entire weekend was being with my friends. The festival brings out something so youthful, nostalgic and exciting in everyone. Some of my friends have full time corporate jobs while others are in school, so this weekend was like a vacation for all of us. It’s a weekend where the only thing we need to worry about is having a good time and catching up with each other. Deadlines and responsibilities are paused for three straight days, and the fact that fall semester is rapidly approaching never crossed my mind. Not to mention that I haven’t ordered any of my books, the final grades for my summer classes were out and I missed the deadline for an internship I was too lazy to apply for. It was all so silly and obsolete in contrast with the memories being made around the people I love. These things are still important but I forget that stepping aside from it and making the time to enjoy life without its burdens is important too.
This weekend I felt so young and unmoved by all these things that normally consume me. The way we danced and sang wildly without care made me feel like a younger version of myself that wasn’t so stressed and worried all the time. It’s strange how a place can bring this out of someone, but it’s a powerful feeling in which the weight of being is lifted and you sort of regress to a simpler state of mind.
The festival holds memories for me — it remembers who I was four years ago and urges her to come back. It creates a space of belonging and collective joy that is contagious. It’s a sanctuary created by my shared childhood, built by my friends and I from the unspoken promises that we will return and we will express love for one another profusely because of the memories we’ve made and will continue to make at this special place.
It’s something that is ours to remember and continue to look forward to.