Not all festivals even try to deliver nine separate stages. In fact, most don’t.
But for anyone who was in attendance for San Francisco’s 14th annual Outside Lands festival, it was a variety-lover’s paradise. Some stages were in open fields and others were tucked away in acoustically advantageous pockets in the sprawling hills of Golden Gate Park.
One of the most lovable features of Outside Lands is the emulsion of crowds. In addition to offering ample opportunities to discover new music, when you find your vibe you’re probably not too far from finding your tribe.
The importance of this relationship doesn’t escape the leadership at Another Planet Entertainment and SuperFly. In fact, they produce a degree of scale that greatly eclipses other music festivals on the continent. They have a surplus of offerings at the festival, but the number of them never prevent the event’s producers from making each one excellent.
For beer lovers, there was the thirst-quenching Beer Land. For winos, there was the Wine Land. For the half-baked homies, Grass Lands was fire. One patron at the event even described Outside Lands as a “festival full of festivals,” like it were a vast universe full of planets to explore.
Some stages were perfect for flailing and frolicking. Others for singing along in chorus with your friends. But for those who searched for the best dancefloor at Outside Lands, that distinction goes to the SOMA Tent, where the vibes were as irresistible as they were untamed.
“When I go out for dance music I like to go to a dark club and listen to them play for hours on end. And when you go to a festival and you’re out there in the middle of the day in the sunlight and you’re watching a 45 minute set,” Nick Barrie, SOMA’s Talent Buyer, told EDM.com about his vision for the stage. “The thing is a lot of DJs only just get going then. They’re mellow and then they start hitting later, so I wanted to create a more authentic club experience.”
“So we do the 90 minute sets of nonstop music in a dark tent to capture the underground culture of the dance scene,” Barrie continued. “Not just be in a field in broad daylight.”
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A handful of strong dance music acts—like Polo & Pan and ILLENIUM—popped up here and there around Outside Lands 2022. But SOMA cemented its tradition of delivering lineups that are stacked with juggernauts of house, techno and hip-hop-infused bass music, and reasserted its dominance as the festival’s best dancefloor. With rhythmic selectors like Ellen Allien, ANNA, J. Worra, Avalon Emerson, Tiffany Tyson and JOPLYN packing enough brutally beautiful breakdowns into each day of the event, the footwork at SOMA was consistently fancy.
Perhaps the buzziest performer through the weekend was TOKiMONSTA. Her gravitas and improvisational flair drew what may have been the largest crowd at the stage all weekend. In three or four bars, it was abundantly clear why.
For those who crave a clean, industrial flavor in their music, Dixon’s Berlin-strong techno proved to be a rare treat. With a jazz player’s intuition and a high-octane pace, it isn’t very often that budding legends like Dixon come around, even in big cities like San Francisco.
“This year we made it twice is big with a 2000-person capacity, added a bunch of lighting, made it tall and black on the inside,” Barrie says. “It’s just better and better. And we’re only going to keep improving.”
Along with achieving the often impossible goal of transporting audiophiles into another world—in this case, a gritty underground warehouse party—SOMA manages to keep the indoor space almost entirely devoid of sunlight thanks to a unique air conditioning system. That latter bit is essential too because if you can stay cool on the dancefloor, you’ll definitely be able to spend more time on it.
“We’re just really excited to get [SOMA Tent] going with a diverse lineup who are cool and fun and give people a good time again,” added a laughing Barrie, humbly. “It’s long overdue.”