An inside look from Tahoe at Outside Lands music festival |

An inside look from Tahoe at Outside Lands music festival

Kevin MacMillan
At 64 years young, Tom Petty still knows how to play to the crowd. He and the Heartbreakers played a two-hour set Saturday night at the Land's End state, belting out top hits such as "Free Fallin'" and "Won't Back Down."
Courtesy Josh Withers / Outside Lands |

SAN FRANCISCO — As Eminem famously sang a few years ago, “You better lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it — you better never let it go.”

While the rapper was not among those who performed at last weekend’s 7th annual Outside Lands music festival, plenty of top-tier artists gave thousands of people from across the world — and locally from Truckee/Tahoe — plenty of reason to lose themselves among the sights and sounds filtering through Golden Gate Park.

I was among those in attendance at my first-ever big-name music festival, and I can easily say that I will never let the experience go.

From the stages fronted by screaming fans to the beautiful artwork spread throughout the San Francisco venue to the positive vibes from the festival’s volunteers and staff — even to the food options, Outside Lands lived up to everything it was billed to be.

“Music is so powerful, and I like watching people get lost in it.”
Amanda Gray
Incline Village resident

I made the trip to the Bay Area with a handful of friends, and met several more, all of whom had different stories to tell that describe several facets of “the moment.”

One of those locals is Christy-Lynn Taylor, who lives in Glenshire with her husband and three children.

Having already attended the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival this year in Indio, Calif., the North Tahoe High grad decided to attend Outside Lands at a friend’s urging.

Aside from seeing her favorite musical acts — Arctic Monkeys and Chromeo — she said she enjoyed the festival’s unique energy and atmosphere.

“Being in Golden Gate Park, just being in the city, it’s awesome,” she said. “You go to Coachella or other big festivals, you’re kind of in a no-name place, not really anything super spectacular, but being in the city is a totally different and amazing experience.”


Taylor and others joined me for many of the superbly put-on concerts. My schedule for Day 1, Friday, was as follows: Nahko and Medicine for the People; Warpaint; Mikal Cronin; Chromeo; Disclosure; and Arctic Monkeys.

My schedule for Day 2, Saturday: Haim; Atmosphere; Death Cab for Cutie; Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers; and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.

The final day concluded with: Flume; Ray Lamontagne; Spoon; The Flaming Lips; and The Killers.

I’m a classic-rock guy at heart, so, to likely no one’s surprise, Petty was my favorite. He rang off with ease so many of my favorite songs, namely “Free Fallin,’” “Won’t Back Down” and “Into the Great Wide Open.”

But I was equally blown away by the trio of shows from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Atmosphere and The Killers. Like Petty, they were some of the main headliners, no doubt, and their performances had me awestruck and with the widest of grins attached to my face.

The energy each artist drew from the raucous — yet well-behaved — crowds was like something I’d never before experienced.

Incline Village resident Amanda Gray perhaps describes it best. Gray, also a North Tahoe High graduate, was the person who convinced Taylor to attend Outside Lands.

It marked Gray’s fourth-ever music festival, and third this year (Joshua Tree and High Sierra being the others).

“This one was just as fun as any others I’ve been to. It’s hard to compare because they’re all so unique…” said Gray, whose favorite performances were Disclosure and Macklemore/Lewis on Saturday. “Disclosure just because I absolutely love their music, and Macklemore because he puts on a great show. It was very moving and he has a really great message.”


Last weekend’s festival was the fourth Outside Lands for San Francisco resident and frequent Tahoe visitor Joe Stopa, who originally hails from Hopkinton, N.H., and has been to “too many” music festivals in his life to count.

“With Outside Lands being such a large draw, I was able to see artists I would not normally see, from the legendary Tom Petty to The Killers,” Stopa said. “With these larger festivals, it becomes tough to choose among different acts that are happening at the same time. You can either stay at one for the entire time or only stay for parts, so you can catch more.”

Stopa’s favorite acts this year included Greensky Bluegrass (which has performed at many Truckee/Tahoe several times over the years), Tedeschi Trucks Band, and Nahko.

“Those guys earn my votes because they kill it every time I see them,” he said.

Bedford, N.H., native Ryder Kelley has lived across the North Shore off and on the past several years, and has now been to two Outside Lands festivals. He said this second go-round — when he also volunteered at the Relix magazine booth, along with Stopa — “was an incredible amount more fun because of the plethora of amazing people with us.”

Kelley has been to seven music festivals this year — the others being Coachella (twice), Desert Hearts, Joshua Tree Music Festival, Huck Fin Jubilee and High Sierra — and estimates he’s attended more than 45 in his life.

“One of the best reasons to attend (Outside Lands) is because it is located in Golden Gate Park, a gorgeous 2-mile strip at the southern end of San Francisco, on a polo field surrounded with gorgeous trees that at night are lit up with high-powered lights,” Kelley said. “It fully puts together the whole scene of the place, that everything around you is filled with color, light and music. It’s very unlike any show you go to, where all you are looking at is the stage — they have done a great job to create a 360-degree musical play land.”

A few of his favorite acts last weekend included Cut Copy, The Flaming Lips and Haim, along with Tedeschi Trucks, Nahko, Disclosure and Greensky.


For me, while Petty was incredible, I found myself dumbfounded by not ever experiencing the sounds of some of these bands live. Bands like the all-female rockers Haim; the dazzling electronica of Flume; or the sensational hip-hop beats of Atmosphere, to name just a few.

The feelings one experiences at a music festival are nearly indescribable. I attempted to give readers a glimpse in an opinion column that recapped my attendance at the High Sierra Music Festival a little over a month ago, but still, words sometimes just don’t do it all justice.

But, for people like Stopa, Gray, Taylor and Kelley, and likely many of the other roughly 200,000 attendees this year at Outside Lands, it’s more than just the music.

As Gray puts it, “just being there with great friends and sharing that experience with them” is a very big part of the draw.

“It always makes me smile seeing my friends dance and enjoy themselves,” she said. “Music is so powerful, and I like watching people get lost in it.”

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