Freeloader's Guide to Infiltrating Outside Lands and Other Festivals

Surprise success and harrowing defeat at sneaking in for free music.

This past weekend was the glorious San Francisco music festival of Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park. The lesser-hyped, mystical Nor-Cal brethren of Coachella, Outside Lands featured a top-tier lineup this year in the beautiful forested-topography of SF. Radiohead, Lana Del Rey, and J Cole headlined among a stack of infamous artists. It was a must-see.

Being a broke college student without the funds to drop a few hundred on a ticket to the event, I road tripped up to Gotham by the Bay with a friend in the hopes of wrangling some good fortune in what some might call freeloading. We weren’t equipped with a plan. We only knew that we wanted to hear our favorite artists without going to the bank.

We scoped the high-security perimeters of the coveted event. All about us, brave souls had thrown caution to the wind in attempts to sneak into the festival. The Promised Land was seemingly impenetrable. We were dealing with a series of guards and police on horseback, bicycle, motorized vehicle and on foot every 50 feet or so around the fence line. Those stretches of high chain-linked fences themselves seemed to draw an inseparable line between the free-loading community and the splendors within. In spite of this, a number of people managed to surpass the odds stacked against them and successfully infiltrate the celebration of creative free spirits.

Some inventive tactics and shenanigans:

The Camouflage: One creative schemer dressed up as a bush. He wore all green and brown clothing, then taped leaves and shrubbery to the attire. The master-mind bushman hopped fences and strategically sprinted across a barren expanse of enemy territory. He reached a strip of brush between guards and froze to motionless. The bushman held as still as possible in the forests and inched his way toward the festival. After a number of transitions from motionless bush to fence-climbing human, the bushman attained festival entrance unscathed.

The Hang Glider: While the aerial access tactic was not witnessed at this year's Outside Lands, a comrade in the trenches told me a harrowing tale of triumph at Bonnaroo. The hang glider managed to soar into the festival and swiftly ditch the incriminating conveyance and meld into the crowd of respectable ticket holders. Infiltration successful.

The Storm Troopers: A large group of about 20 hopeful freeloaders used the tactic of storming the gates and mobbing into the festival with strength in numbers. The storm troopers rammed through the high fence, bringing it down, and forced their way past guards in a rush of jumbled human mass. The storm troopers succeeded in bringing down the first gate and circumventing a few rounds of guards. In the end, the tactic drew too much attention. Retaliation in mass defeated the troopers. Failure to infiltrate.

Bribery: A hit or miss tactic, bribery was attempted by many who hoped to see their favorite acts at a discounted rate. Smoking out guards, handing off hundreds, and passing some Xanax through the fence were some of the offers made to increase chances of entry. Unfortunately, a number of poor saps gave their bribes and were left empty-handed. Guards accepted the goods and proceeded to maintain their posts. On the other hand, a lucky few bribers encountered an honestly corruptible guard who stuck to the underhanded bargain and discreetly allowed them in.

The Campers: Some hard-core devotees who not only wanted to sneak in, but intended on staying for the duration of the three-day event, managed to do so at the cost of comfort and sanitation. Prior to the gates and security measures being put in place, campers found remote places throughout the park to make themselves undetectable within the boundaries of the event. Managing to remain undetected within the barriers, campers found places to sleep (under the stage, for instance) for the duration of the event.

The Forest Dwellers: At last we come to my batch of freeloaders. The forest dwellers, while not exactly sneaking into the festival, found the loophole between breaking and entering and merely being in the right place at the right time. I, and my forest dwelling comrades, penetrated the first fence through an opening that we came across and listened to our favorite artists from the surrounding woods. I climbed to the top of the highest tree on the perimeter and wound up with a perfect view and great acoustics for Lana Del Rey’s set. I came away with my pants ripped and a gnarly case of poison oak. It was undeniably worth it. Free-loading successful.