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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chron Disses, Praises Outside Lands

Posted By on Tue, Aug 25, 2009 at 9:00 AM

NIMBY Targets: Black Eyed Peas
  • NIMBY Targets: Black Eyed Peas
In a clear case of covering all one's bases, the SF Chronicle has managed to both support this weekend's massive Outside Lands festival and criticize it. This past Sunday, the three-day extravaganza garnered lots of Pink section coverage, with a Joel Selvin feature whose headline declared "Outside Lands gets ready to rock." The Datebook cover package also included an Aidin Vaziri Pop Quiz with Jack Black & Kyle Gass of Tenacious D, and a list of bands and set times  for those attending the festival.

Sunday Datebook editor Sue Adolphson called the festival a "megamusic event" and compared it to Woodstock, while Selvin's article, which included an interview with Another Planet Entertainment impresario Gregg Perloff, noted "the festival does not lack for star power. But the real pleasures of Outside Lands will be found scattered on all eight stages across the Polo Field, Speedway and Lindley Meadow."

Yet just one day later, in Monday's SFGate, blogger Michelle Richmond took up C.W. Nevius' NIMBY torch with a post highly critical of the festival. Unfortunately, Richmond failed to do even basic research which might have informed her viewpoint. The ticket prices were an easy target for Richmond's ire: "If I want to take my preschooler to the meadows this weekend, it will cost us $89.50 (per person) for the day, $225 (per person) for three days. In this economy, those ticket prices aren't exactly appealing to the masses."

Too Expensive? Tom Jones
  • Too Expensive? Tom Jones

Ok Michelle, we understand that that's a wee bit more than you might expect to pay for two tickets to see Tom Jones  (who appears at OL) at the Starlight Room--although you'd probably want to get a babysitter (in case you feel the need to toss your granny panties at Mr. "What's New, Pussycat"), so you'd probably break even on that one, all told.

And, we have to wonder: is your preschooler a Pearl Jam, Black Eyed Peas or Dave Matthews Band fan? Does your tot rock out with his wee-wee out to Os Mutantes, Atmosphere, Zion-I, Zap Mama, Raphael Saadiq, Lila Downs, Incubus, or Street Sweeper Social Club?

If so, $90 for a full day of incredibly diverse music doesn't seem so exorbitant; lots of folks are paying those prices (which amounts to approximately $4 per band), and as the Chron itself noted back in January, the festival is expected to raise as much as $ 1.7M  ($950,000 of which is guaranteed) for the cash-strapped SF Parks & Rec Dept.

Still, that didn't stop Richmond from her NIMBY quest: "If all that money was going to fund music programs in our decimated public schools, or to re-hire the gardeners who've been laid off from the park in the last couple of years, or to build systems to capture rainwater to irrigate the park (as opposed to the current sprinkler system), I'd be all for it."

It's unclear what the festival promoters can do specifically about directing proceeds to hiring gardeners or constructing new irrigation systems in the park--that's under the Park and Rec auspices. And if ticket prices are a major sticking point for Richmond, it might be noted that there's a free hip-hop concert in GGP's Peacock Meadows, as well as another free, solar-powered, hip-hop show at Yerba Buena Gardens, that same day.

Green Enough? Pearl Jam - DANNY CLINCH
  • Danny Clinch
  • Green Enough? Pearl Jam
Which brings us to Richmond's next rant topic: Outside Lands' greenness. "Another Planet Entertainment's most adamant claim is that the festival is green. Their use of compostable packaging and solar energy is to be applauded," Richmond says, before launching into a diatribe against blocked driveways, Porta Potties, and "drunk cyclists."

Richmond then divulges that she herself has used Porta Potties at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass--which, besides making her a bit hypocritical, is more information than I needed to know--before concluding with this point: "The Outside Lands Festival is not some sort of environmental nirvana, whereby music lovers convene for the good of the land and the sweetness of the sounds. It's a huge commercial event."

Well, duh.

Many SF Gate commentators were not kind to Richmond: one noted, "Wahmbulance alert"; another accused the author of being a resident of (gasp!) San Ramon, adding, "I bet you don't even fart" (on a side note, being flatulence-free would be the definition of "environmental nirvana," were it humanly possible); another wondered, "Isn't there another park you could take your hellion to this weekend?"; and yet another summarized thusly: "Wow what a buzzkill!"

Interestingly, once the negative comments started to pile up, Richmond was quickly removed from the SFGate main page and banished to the outside lands of the City Brights section-you have to click past two pages to access her blog now, even though it's one of the more recent comments. Perhaps SF Gate's editors belatedly realized her NIMBY arguments, besides being counter-productive, were just too dim-headed to illuminate any real insight.

The one saving grace of Richmond's blog, perhaps, is that since it didn't appear in print, no trees were harmed to publish it. And now that the Chron has set a precedent for almost simultaneously lauding and dismissing a topic, readers have to wonder, what's next? A rave write-up of embattled North Beach club Pink Diamonds, followed by an overly critical report on strip club landlords who also serve on the SF Entertainment Commission? A fashion-oriented feature on Mayor Newsom, followed by a scathing article on the chemical composition of his hair gel? A concert review of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, followed by an expose on how bluegrass isn't totally green? I could go on, but the point should be abundantly clear: you can't have it both ways.

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Eric Arnold


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