Nestled away in a corner of Golden Gate Park, the 10th anniversary edition of San Francisco’s Outside Lands Music Festival unfurled over the past weekend. As 200,000 people meandered through the fog over the three-day festival, no amount of craft beer or local food could cloud the deafening silence over what was unfolding on the opposite coast in Charlottesville, Virginia.
As I wandered from stage to stage on Saturday, I was waiting for some sort of recognition that the Nazi gathering was, you know, happening. Yet, nothing. From what I saw of The Lemon Twigs, Thundercat, Kaytranada, Foxygen, Bomba Estetéro, and Metallica, they all managed to make it through their sets without uttering a word about Charlottesville. To top it off, Metallica’s headlining performance included visuals of violent protests and police brutality, which seemed ironic for a group so disconnected from what was happening on the other side of the country.
Maybe that’s what a music festival is supposed to be—especially one like Outside Lands. Four stages spread over a fog-covered park with fairy lights in the trees makes it easy to forget you’re actually in the heart of San Francisco, let alone a country being torn apart by literal Nazis. But that’s not how it should be. It is unacceptable for a lineup of mainly cisgender, white men, including all three headliners of The Who, Metallica, and Gorillaz, to fail to acknowledge the hatred and bigotry occurring at that moment.
I was curious to see how the crowd was feeling about it, so I asked a couple of attendees what they thought of Charlottesville and the majority didn’t even know the rally was happening. I didn’t hear word about Charlottesville at all during the festival until 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, when Maggie Rogers reiterated that we can’t forget that this is happening just because we're thousands of miles away from. I was expecting to hear something from Lorde due to her outrage the day before on Twitter, but yet again, there was nothing about Charlottesville during her hour and ten minute set.
i just want to say i'm so, so sorry. all white people are responsible for this system's thrive and fall. we have to do better. i'm sorry
— Lorde (@lorde) August 13, 2017
I didn’t hear anything about it again until Solange at 8:45 p.m., the latest set of the weekend. "Before we do this next song, I want to say, ‘Stay up,’” she said. “I know it's been a rough few days… [but] you matter, you belong.” She then told the crowd that, in times like these, she likes to dance it out, and encouraged us to do the same as the beat to “Losing You” dropped.
Outside Lands managed to pull off a weekend of escape and carousing through Golden Gate Park, but the fog's haze extended beyond the trees. Solange and Maggie Rogers led the way to combat Outside Lands' collective unawareness this weekend, but there's still work that could have been, and needs to be done, by artists who have a platform.