One thing everyone in San Francisco learns very quickly is that, in this city, you always have to be prepared for the cold. Even on a day that begins with total sunshine. Outside Lands -- set in the western half of Golden Gate Park, on the front lines of fog banks rolling in off the Pacific -- is no different. This is the summer festival where it's 50 degrees.
Of everyone caught unaware by the chilly air on the first day of Outside Lands, the most vocal were the performers. Nearly every act we caught -- with the exception of Neil Young, God bless his flannel-wearing Canadian soul -- had a comment to make about how cold they were. Some were simple exclamations: "Nippy, ain't it?" (The Walkmen), "We're freezing our asses off up here!" (Washed Out).
Other artists dealt with the cold in their own way. Afrobeat revival group Antibalas used the cold as a reason to get everyone dancing. One song into their early evening set, saxophonist Martín Perna explained, "Our music is tropical music, and should be served at the proper temperature like wine. Right now we're the bottle of champagne that's been sitting at the back of the bar all day. You have to make as much heat as possible!" Sharon Van Etten came prepared for the cold, donning a "Paula Poundstone jacket" that she bought on her tour through the west. Still, when she received a chorus of "Nos" after asking if anyone was cold, she couldn't help but to remind San Francisco: "You guys are weird."
How do you keep warm in the outer lands of San Francisco? We saw some interesting ideas. Dressing up cut-off shorts or flimsy skirts with jean jackets, mittens, or (we saw it) pulling socks over your hands, does not work. There's a reason Bay Area women wear jeans or tights year-round: cold legs.
The other fashion choice we saw everywhere -- made under duress, we hope -- was a freshly purchased Outside Lands blanket wrapped head to toe, which complemented their owners like something between an burqa and a freshly-killed corpse rolled up in a carpet.
Another option, only slightly more flattering, was the full head-to-toe fur-suit. Unlike every other time that you wear a fur suit (not that we'd know), at Outside Lands, the stifling heat of those things makes a welcome respite from the cold. You wouldn't even mind the accumulated sweat and musty odor that goes with it (not that we'd know).
The best choice, chosen and endorsed by prepared San Franciscans everywhere, is layering. Don't worry that no one can see your clever T-shirt or sheer tube top underneath the flannel shirt, sweater, North Face fleece, and outer (wind-proof!) jacket, because when you finally get inside the DJ Dome, you can shed your cocoon and become a beautiful butterfly just in time for the drop. The rest of the time, when we're all standing in a field facing the same direction, you'll be happier if you're warm. Plus, in San Francisco, it's inner beauty that matters most.