SF Outside Lands: The Humans are Still Being In


Radiohead’s set on Friday, August 22nd, marked a San Francisco first – officially sanctioned live music after dark in Golden Gate Park. Three generations of artists were represented on the roster for the weekend – Steve Winwood, Toots and the Maytals, Tom Petty, Wilco, Widespread Panic, Ben Harper, and Jack Johnson were just a few of sixty-four musical acts. Local and regional restaurateurs served foods ranging from vegan wraps to gourmet sausage, and craftspeople sold their artwork.

Producers asked that sponsors such as Microsoft, Dell, and PG&E participate in ways that accorded with the spirit of the event. The results: an EcoLand where solar panels powered the stage, the vending booths, and a cell-phone charging station; a large circus tent with computers available for audience members to upload their own photos, blog posts, and tweets; and a station for creating and emailing a mix “tape” of mp3s from artists performing this summer at festivals throughout the country.

As I took in the 80 acres of offerings, I couldn’t help thinking about an earlier gathering. I was not on the planet to attend the Human Be-In held in the park on January 14th, 1967, but its legend was one of the things that brought me to California. Organizers said that the purpose of that event was to harmonize then-competing elements of the youth movement – people focused on political change and those focused on transforming consciousness. The media coverage brought the world its first eyeful of what came to be called the counterculture. The Outside Lands crowd demonstrated how much some the ideals of those times, like environmental awareness and the revival of craftsmanship, have been accepted by the mainstream.