The sweetest moment at Outside Lands happens in a tunnel

The time is 22.00. My feet hurt and my arms are weak after fist pumping. I’m stuck in a bottleneck of people trying to leave Outside Lands, San Francisco’s annual music festival in Golden Gate Park, through a small tunnel at the south end of the park.

And then I hear a familiar tune emanating from the depths of darkness: “You, you have what I need. But you say he’s just a friend. You say he’s just a friend. Oh, honey, you….”

As people filtered through the park’s southern tunnel and moved at a snail ‘s pace, they sang the chorus to Biz Markie’s 1989 hip-hop, “Just a Friend.”

The choir moment got a new resonance this year for several reasons. First, Markie died in July at the age of 57 due to complications from type 2 diabetes.

“Biz created a legacy of artistry that will forever be celebrated by his industry mates and his beloved fans, whose lives he was able to touch through music that spans 35 years,” his representative said in a statement. “He leaves behind a wife, many family members and close friends who will miss his lively personality, constant jokes and frequent teasing.”

Singing “Just a Friend” in the South Tunnel felt like a tribute to Markie. But it also felt more urgent than that. After a year of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cramped spaces full of people scare me. I’m not used to being around 10 people, let alone thousands of strangers.

Still, it felt like a party to sing with the audience after everything we’ve been through – a moment of fellowship after months of so much loneliness and isolation. Walking through the tunnel and singing in a group seemed like a guiding light that led us to the exit.

The tradition is not new. In fact, according to them on social media, it has been around since at least 2014. It must last a long time.

More Outside Lands coverage:

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The best OSL set from Day One had an awkward ‘San Fran’ song

Outside Land’s headliners appear to be mocking SF vaccine rules

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