All photos: April Siese

Be sure to follow the San Francisco Appeal live at Outside Lands on Twitter @SFAppealOL as we’ll be tweeting from the belly of Golden Gate Park for the rest of the weekend!

How do you, how do I say, how do I Outside Lands?

This is my first Outside Lands. I guess as I pack on the years, going to live shows becomes less of a pleasure, and more of harrowing experience of trying to find a place to stand without feeling like the mass of humanity was going to swallow me whole.

Do you know the best show I’ve been to in recent memory? CHVRCHES (who coincidentally will be performing on Sunday) at the Fox Theater in Oakland. because I had a banister to lean on far, far away from the rest of general admission, and the show let out at 9pm.

I got to Golden Gate Park right as the gates opened which allowed me to get my bearings of the situation. The scale of it made it feel like I was dropped into an open world RPG, a Fallout or Skyrim, left to make due and explore the world map. Choose your own adventure. I am in a gypsy, pop-up Disneyland, where instead of Mickey Mouse, it is the prevalent reminder from an attendant at the waste stations that the cups are compostable, not recyclable.

Night Terrors of 1927 performed first at the Panhandle Stage, officially becoming the first band I would ever see at Outside Lands. Featuring Blake Sennett (formerly of Rilo Kiley) and Jarrod Gorbel (the Honorary Title) they offered assured boy-girl, synth infused indie-pop, which is so in my wheelhouse, it was as if the band was birthed from my mind, like the goddess Athena. It earned head nods from the early crowd that flocked to the stage when live music, any live music was starting at Outside Lands. Mostly high school kids with backpacks, freelancer looking types, the money’d middled age, and the “out sick with a cold.”

Oh, maybe I can do this festival after all.

The Barbary tent is Outside Lands’ own mini comedy festival, co-curated by SF Sketchfest. I found myself in a musky-from-laughter tent laughing at jokes about depression/anxiety (“anxiety is like an edgy improv group”) from stand-up comic Aparna Nancherla (writer for the gone-before-its-time Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell), which acted like a salve for my soul, and helped put me at greater ease for the rest of the day. Paired with comedy-duo Garfunkel and Oates (whose television show on IFC premiered on Thursday – you would know this if you read Appealing TV on Mondays). Riki Lindhome (Garfunkel) mentioned trying to see former Outside Lands headliner Radiohead at Bonnaroo and it just sounded like a vacuum incited cheers from the audience.

I took in my first main stage act of the day (from the cocoon of the media tent), Run the Jewels, which is a collaboration between El-P and Killer Mike. Notably, they brought on local legend DJ Qbert of the seminal Invisibl Skratch Piklz onstage to ply his turntablism craft for a song. The bass vibrated the floor, giving my feet a massage as a byproduct.

The good (dare I say streamlined booking) of Holy Ghost!, Chromero and Disclosure in a row all putting in more than solid sets on the Lands End stage made it easier for me to stay within the vicinity of the polo grounds. The fog actually burned away during Chromeo’s set. April Siese, our intrepid photographer, remarked how Friday’s crowd was unusually packed, and how in past years it would have been half the size.

It was all just a precursor until Yeezus himself, Kanye West, took to the stage, closing out day one of Outside Lands in the year of our Yeezus 2014. Opening up with Black Skinhead from Yeezus, I knew something was amiss. The big screens flanking the Lands End stage, providing vision of the Lands End act to those who couldn’t see him weren’t on. They didn’t turn on, in fact, until the second song, I Don’t Like. But, the visuals but warped in a Predator thermal vision cum Instagram filter from a parallel dimension that processes sight in a different way than we do. Was this a troll job?

Kanye bounded across the stage, and the audience was rapt. Kanye is watching a one-man show. It was like if Spalding Gray was performing Swimming to Cambodia in front of eighty thousand people, where everybody knew all the words and shouting along to Spalding’s perfect moment monologue on top of tweeting and Instagramming it. Kanye West is Spalding Gray with better beats.

Three songs into his set, and Kanye breaks into a King Lear-esqe monologue about bad press, white people, mindfulness, and Yeezus season, much to the delight of the crowd. Some may say it is self-indulgent and eye-rolling. Watching the petulant student in the back of the class harangue the history teacher again with outlandish claims about Christopher Columbus, where maybe he isn’t wrong, but fuck if it isn’t funny to watch and point our fingers at? Was this what “we” wanted? Someone in the media tent mentioned how the audience was just enabling his psychology. It was watching existential NASCAR.

Kanye is a cultural Batman AND Joker, and with every tweet, every Instagram selfie, every time we do it for the Vine, are we contributing to his masterwork, which in a twisted sense is our own masterwork, as well?

Having Kanye close out the first day of Outside Lands felt like the festival was telling me its statement of intent, and all of a sudden, it contextualized the sea of wayfarers, graphic tank tops, the fucking flower crown booths to me. Kanye is culture, and not just culture in the 5000 word think piece-y sense of the word, but a culture like a bacteria for young people self-actualization, whose end game was probably bringing about the singularity of the ego with technology, which will begin when every Outside Lands selfie is aggregated into a collage of our savior, Yeezus.

As probiotics have taught us, not all bacteria is bad.

Thirty minutes into his set, I knew I have seen enough. Not in a disgusted, hand washing way, but I knew I wasn’t going to let Kanye FOMO override my own fear of getting back to Oakland for the night. Maybe this was my own bit of self-actualization for the night. Maybe this was me thinking too much about it.

There was something downright spooky and sinister about trying to make my way out of Golden Gate Park in pitch blackness as Kanye orated a vocoder monologue.

Stay tuned for more coverage of Outside Lands 2014! Follow us on Twitter @SFAppealOL where we’ll be live tweeting the rest of the weekend’s shenanigans!

the author

Paolo Sambrano adores television theme songs. You can follow him on Twitter @paolo. He is the creator of the card game, No Benefits and the writer/performer of the solo show Bi-Poseur.

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