The Nerds at Outside Lands! (How to Survive and Cope with Mental Illness at a Music Festival.)
This past weekend, Golden Gate Park was filled with music lovers from all over the world. Why? San Francisco's yearly music festival Outside Lands graced the bay area with some of the industry's biggest showstoppers in the world. Outside Lands has a reputation for bringing big names to fill it's stages, and the 10th edition of our annual visit from Ranger Dave and friends did not disappoint at all.
Now, I know what you are thinking.
"Dan, Outside Lands? 60+ musical acts? Over 200,000 people in that park during the festival? What about your anxiety?"
Well, first...wow, you really know me. Yes, I suffer from anxiety but I have always heard awesome things about the crowds at Outside Lands and how welcoming and friendly its attendees are. So, I had to check it out myself. Also, music is a great escape to help cope and deal with mental illness. So I know, there would be plenty of people who share in that experience with me. But, that escape is not limited to music lovers, it helps musicians, as well. And by the end of this week, you will learn more about one performer who bravely told us about her own struggles with mental illness.
Days before this event, I was already getting anxiety over the event. I would sit and think about how difficult it would be to get to Golden Gate Park. I am terrible at directions and public transportation but luckily, a good friend offered to take me and take that worry away from me. This brings out my first bit of advice:
1. PLAN YOUR WHOLE DAY OUT
Outside Lands is huge. There is so much to see and honestly, not enough time to see it all. It can be a bit overwhelming but the Official Outside Lands app make it so much easier. It had an interactive map to tell you where you were on the map and what you were close to. I was even able to see every single food vendor available and their menus! So not only could I plan which performers I wanted to see, I could plan everything I wanted to eat that day! I started to pair meals with concerts, it was hilarious.
"Ok, Sasha Sloan with Peanut Tofu Nachos. Then, Billie Eilish with a Caramel Funnel Cake. And finally, The Weeknd with Sexy Fries."
Outside Lands had 4 stages on different ends of the park. I had never been to Golden Gate Park before this, so I was confused. I know myself, so I showed up to the festival hours before it even opened just to get a feel of what it would take to get from one stage to the next. Which brings out my second bit of advice:
2. BRING THE APPROPRIATE ATTIRE
As I tried to figure out where stuff was, I noticed immediately that I had brought the wrong shoes. Golden Gate Park has trails, uphills, grassy areas, and most important to my current situation....mud. I was never good at fashion, but I did know that no matter how dope my outfit may have been, nothing ever looks good with mud. And a bit of foreshadowing, the friend who brought me to the event said earlier that day:
"Dude...that's the only jacket you brought? This is....San Francisco."
It was cold. And as I walked around and started to notice other people walking around, they had brought thick jackets, sweaters, layers and layers of clothing. Not this guy, yeah I wanted to look cool and thought about how I didn't have any jackets that matched my clothes.
Well, "cool guy over here" became "sick guy over here" as the night ended.
3. RENT A LOCKER, seriously.
I met some cool people this past weekend, and this was one the one thing they told me was ultra-important. Not just for the layers of clothing you SHOULD bring(see tip#2), but for all the stuff you are probably going to buy and all the free swag you are going to get just walking around Outside Lands.
I mean, they had a full-on shopping center in the middle of the event.
I didn't rent a locker so by the end of the night my pockets were filled with stickers, flyers, brochures, and random trinkets. I was a walking TSA nightmare.
4. IF ANXIETY TAKES OVER, FIND YOUR PEACEFUL PLACE
This was a difficult rule to follow. How can you find peace in an area with over 70,000 people walking around during the day? But, Outside Lands had something for everyone. And for anxiety-filled peeps like me, I found peace at the Bubble Tea Party. Tucked in a wooded area, this spot fell straight out of a fantasy movie. Bright lights, fancy chairs, sweet tea concoctions, awesome company...and bubbles, of course.
I came back to this area to just sit and collect my thoughts whenever I felt overwhelmed.
And the last tip:
5. NEW EXPERIENCES = NEW FRIENDS
Music is a great release for people with mental illness. Personally, I like to listen deeply to the words of songs to try to feel where the singer/band is coming from. It's how I connect. I use the same technique with just regular conversations with people. Listen deeply, so you can feel and understand. This music festival had over 60+ musical acts and it was impossible to see each one. So, it was an awesome opportunity to hear new sounds and bond with new people. I stood in crowds of other music lovers and just observed how music would take them away. And in most instances, I met other people who were checking out a group for the first time. Music has a weird power to create bonds with other people.
Honestly, I was scared to check out Outside Lands for obvious mental reasons. But, this venue and event was perfect for me. Music is a great escape to help with mental illness. And with so many experiences and things to try, you will always keep your mind occupied and still, find peace with something new. This was my first time...and it definitely won't be my last.
But, that's not all. Stay tuned this week for exclusive interviews with AJNA, Hot Flash Heat Wave, and Sasha Sloan! You don't want to miss it!