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Saturdays in McLaren Park offer alternative to Outside Lands

A view of the stage from behind the seats of the Jerry Garcia Amphitheatre at McLaren Park.
A view of the stage from behind the seats of the Jerry Garcia Amphitheatre at McLaren Park.
MJ Kasprzak

Saturday in the Park McLaren


Many Christians might avoid events like Outside Lands that wraps up Sunday, Aug. 10 at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. McLaren Park offers another option through Saturdays in the Park, pictured during the first afternoon Aug. 9 that ranged from bluegrass to alternative rock.

They are secular bands and it is the Bay Area, so expect some people to smoke marijuana. Do not expect the volunteers to do anything about it, but they might suggest you move far enough away if it bothers you because it is easy to find open space. (Note: Examiner has been told that there is no smoking of any kind, and volunteers should address it in a polite manner.)

This particular lineup may have attracted a little more of that than some, with two of the three bands appropriately doing Grateful Dead songs in McLaren Park's Jerry Garcia Amphitheatre. The mix of music and quality of the bands performing Saturday ranged from bar bands to well-known local talent: Back Porch, The Michael Ahern Band and Eddie Neon. (All scheduled events and updates can be followed through the event's Facebook page.) Each used about 50 minutes of their hour, and recorded music played as the stage was broken down and set up.

While none of these acts may be worth Outside Lands money to see, smaller acts draw fewer mobs. Many of those attending use the park and care about it. There will not be the degree of drinking, cursing, suggestive dress and activity or other things happening at McLaren Park as at other major events that may not be everyone's idea of Christian viewing.

There also will be fewer amenities than at a venue like Outside Lands. One reason there is not much drinking is there are no real vendors. Volunteers take money for snack-type foods and soda under one tent while bands peddle their merchandise under another. They also raffle off prizes, most of which are SWAG (stuff we all get) like metal water bottles.

There are public restrooms, and they are certainly better than using port-a-potties at Outside Lands. There is relatively nearby parking and up-front options for those with the disabled placard or plate. Dogs are welcome on leash, and there are areas to the right and behind the amphitheatre seating that they can be let off. McLaren is huge—sometimes crossing streets—and worthy of exploration.

The entire experience of being able to see free live entertainment in a laid-back setting within the best park in a city of them far outweighs the costs (financial and otherwise) of going to events like Outside Lands. "Heaven Let Your Light Shine Down" by Collective Soul might have been the closest the music came to endorsing Christianity, but "Run to You" by Bryan Adams was as bad as any message (or song choice, though it was well-done) got.

Lay out a blanket with packed food and it can be a pretty wholesome Christian family afternoon. Aug. 16 is a day of international music and dance, but McLaren's lineup does show blues and funk the next Saturday so anyone is advised to check on performers to see if they fit individual standards.