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Notes From Outside Lands 2021

Outside Lands took place over Halloweekend this year because of COVID. For some reason everyone decided to dress up as a cowboy, which made me want a cowboy hat more than ever. Did you know Stetson cowboy hats cost hundreds of dollars? Even the straw ones are like $150. I would really like a nice Western hat with a little chin strap. There were a few tents at the festival promoting the new Toyota Mirai, and one of them gave me a free Mirai bucket hat, but I would have rather had a cowboy hat. Anyway, here’s my day-by-day recap of Outside Lands.

Friday – Music

The first act I saw was The HU, a Mongolian metal band. They are pretty cool. They sing in Mongolian and play traditional Mongolian instruments.

Next, I checked out the beginning of Remi Wolf’s set, but I didn’t stick around because to be honest I don’t really like her songs. But it seemed like other people were having fun.

I was very excited for Sharon Van Etten, but I left after a song or two so that I could interview The HU. I spoke to them through their manager/interpreter, Tuga. Here’s some of what we talked about:

AH: You guys are known for combining traditional Mongolian instruments and throat singing with the sounds of heavy metal and folk rock. Do you make any modifications to your instruments to change the sound?

HU: The acoustics, the sound of the music is still the same as our ancestors had played thousands of years ago. But our uniqueness—the uniqueness of our band—it's connecting the Eastern with the Western [to make] all of it new. So we made certain design changes on the instruments—the colors, the shapes—but the sound is exactly the same.

AH: And those visual changes, do you do them yourselves or do you have someone who modifies them for you?

HU: Our producer, Dashka, has certain good ideas. For example, with the traditional horsehead fiddle, the horse looks at the audience, but we talked about it and thought: Why not have it look at us while we’re playing? So we bring up these ideas, and then there’s somebody who can draw the design and help us bring the ideas to reality.

AH: What do you like to do to pass the time when you’re on tour?

HU: Some of us just work on music. Some of us like to go sightseeing. Some of us like to play cards.

AH: Do you think that being on tour has strengthened your brotherhood and your bond?

HU: Yes, it’s strengthened our brotherhood. Being on the bus 24/7 for over two, three months—it’s a lot, and we’re like a real family, and we have to look after each other. If one of us gets sick, it can jeopardize the tour, so we really look after each other and try to help each other achieve our potential.

AH: What band are you most excited to see at Outside Lands this weekend?

HU: This music [Sharon Van Etten, which we could hear from the media tent] is beautiful. I love it. Of course, we’re looking forward to seeing The Strokes.

AH: If all of you had to fight each other physically, who would win?

HU: It would probably depend on the day. But we’ve never fought with each other.

AH: When is your next album coming out?

HU: Next year.

Afterwards, I checked out Khruangbin, but I couldn’t get very close, so I couldn’t really see anything, but they sounded fine. When their set ended, I found myself swept up in the mad rush to get closer to the stage for Glass Animals. The lead singer was dressed in a big cable-knit sweater vest. He reminded me of Wallace from Wallace & Gromit, probably because of the sweater vest and because he is British. His pants, which were white with a few applique cherries, reminded me of a pair my sister has from Lisa Says Gah. Someone was blowing bubbles during the set. I looked up at them and thought, I am at the bottom of a champagne glass. Soon, someone will drink me or I will go flat.

The vaporwave visuals and props onstage were fun. However, I think the audio people might have done a really bad job, because I could barely hear anything over the bass. It’s possible that it was just me and the resonant frequency of my ribcage, though. A source from the Clean Vibes volunteer trash pickup crew told me that Glass Animals sounded great from the VIP section.

The Strokes and Tyler, The Creator played at the same time. I stayed for The Strokes because they played at the same stage as Glass Animals, and I think I made the wrong decision. I should have heeded people’s warnings that The Strokes are underwhelming live. They sounded kind of like a moderately talented group of karaoke singers, and Julian Casablancas was unable to stop himself from being rambling obnoxiously about inane bullshit between songs.

Friday – Food

Borsch Mobile: Potato dumplings and kvass, which tastes kind of like nonalcoholic beer. Pretty good.

Alicia’s Tamales: When I went to Outside Lands in 2017, I had a spiritual experience while eating tamales from Alicia’s Tamales. I don’t remember which tamales I ordered that time, but I think there was cheese and prickly pear. Unfortunately, the tamales I got this time were not as good, but they were still decent. I got one Oaxaca cheese and one vegan veggie. I think the vegan veggie could have used more prickly pear. I love prickly pear.

Saturday – Music

I don’t remember a lot from Andrew McMahon other than the fact that he climbed onto his piano and walked on the keys. Why would you do that? Afterwards I saw Dr. Dog. I think this is supposed to be their farewell tour. There was a huge crowd and I couldn’t really see much. I also think the sound on the Sutro stage was pretty shit because I couldn’t hear much either.

Later, I saw Angel Olsen. I don’t really like her two newest albums as much as her previous ones, and I don’t like her newest EP, which is all covers. I’m a simple girl and I like Angel Olsen songs that you can sing along to. I’m glad she performed “Spring,” which is pretty much the only song I like from All Mirrors.

The last act I saw on Saturday was The Midnight, a synthwave band from LA. I liked the saxophone bits. I heard part of Lizzo’s set on my way out of Golden Gate Park. She was probably good, but I was way too tired to stay any longer.

Saturday – Food

Vegan Mob: I ordered the collard greens with baked beans and soy brisket but they gave me someone else’s order so I ended up with soy brisket, baked beans, and mac and (vegan) cheese. I would never have ordered vegan mac and cheese because the undeniable reality is that all vegan cheese tastes bad. Sometimes vegan cheese is so bad it’s inedible—never buy the Follow Your Heart brand because it tastes like burnt plastic. In this case, the vegan cheese was tolerable. The soy brisket was quite good, though a bit too salty for my taste. The baked beans were fine, but the portion size was laughably small.

Marley’s Treats: The ube cheesecake topped with flan was way too small to cost seven dollars but it tasted amazing.

Sunday – Music

I thought it was funny that Neal Francis and Neil Frances played back to back on the Panhandle stage, but I didn’t think it was funny enough for me to see either of them. Instead, I saw Claud, the first artist to sign with Phoebe Bridgers’ new label, Saddest Factory. Claud was fun, but I think their vocals got drowned out sometimes. I like their song “Overnight,” which is about being a simp and getting with your crush. I also like “Soft Spot,” which made me think about how having a soft spot for someone can also be like having a rotten bit that you have to cut out with a paring knife so that the rest of you is still edible. (The lyrics don’t make this comparison explicitly, but you can hear it in the delivery.)

I watched some of Cannons’ set from the media tent while I waited to interview Claud. (They eventually canceled on me, but it’s fine.) I liked Cannons’ costumes and makeup. They reminded me of ABBA, but their songs were forgettable. Afterwards, I saw Yves Tumor and Its Band. I liked them a lot even though I didn’t know any of their songs. I left Yves Tumor early to meet up with some people who were watching mxmtoon. I have to say I made the wrong decision. I’ve always wanted to like mxmtoon because she’s around my age and went to the same high school as a bunch of people I know, but I just don’t like her songs. I’m sorry. I tried. It’s just that she doesn’t sound good enough to make up for her boring lyrics. I liked her costume though. She was Steve from Blue’s Clues.

I don’t know why there was such a huge crowd for Sofi Tukker. I had literally never heard of them before. Honestly, they sound like hot garbage. Their songs are incredibly repetitive and the lyrics are shit. My boyfriend is actually playing Sofi Tukker right now and saying that he will continue to play their songs until I finish writing about them (so that I will be motivated to write more quickly). I’m going to leave it at that.

Tame Impala was great. They played a fun trippy intro video and had a cool light show. I liked the bit they did where they pretended to be The Wiggles. (The Wiggles did a really good cover of “Elephant” earlier this year.) During the set, two very tall guys dressed as British redcoats took turns sitting on each other’s shoulders, and seeing them stacked on top of each other like that made me think about millipedes.

Sunday – Food

Lazy Susan: I ordered the Impossible™ mapo chili cheese fries thinking that there would be tofu contained therein, but actually it was just a plate of cheese fries with some fake meat in mapo sauce. I did not like it very much and gave most of it away.

Marley’s Treats: I got a big ube cookie stuffed with flan. It was a lot bigger than the ube cheesecake with flan, so the $7 price was a bit more justifiable, but the cheesecake was definitely better. I wish that there had been more flan in the cookie.

Suppenküche: The vegan currywurst was so good! But it was also tiny. I thought German portion sizes were supposed to be big. Definitely not worth whatever we paid for it.

The Chairman: The name and theme are cringeworthy and honestly kind of racist but we were hungry and had to eat. The miso cured tofu steamed buns were good. I think there were some ribbons of raw Chinese greens, which were surprisingly tasty.

In conclusion, Halloweekend Outside Lands was pretty cool. Some people want Outside Lands to be on Halloweekend every year, but I disagree. I sure am glad I got to go, but personally I think summertime Outside Lands just feels more correct. It was so cold this year, and the ground was marshy. The End.