Portola returned to San Francisco for its second year with logistical improvements, a banging lineup, and a budding new community.
Whether you consider yourself a veteran raver, a raging band fanatic, or more of a hipster through your musical tastes, Portola Festival has something for everyone as Goldenvoice offers sonic flavors from international DJs to electronic bands. After making its debut last year with some logistical hiccups and a stellar lineup, this festival was definitely the talk of the town, so we knew we had to check it out again this year.
Making its return to San Francisco’s Pier 80, Portola once again took its place in the city of San Francisco, with no plans of leaving anytime soon. After chatting with Portola founder Danny Bell, we were assured that this year’s edition was coming back better and stronger, so I started plotting for my solo experience. I downloaded the official app and got to work planning my cross-city trek. Much to my surprise, I received a notification from Portola encouraging attendees to use public transportation or rideshares, as there is no festival parking. Encouraging people to reduce emissions and revel in the convenience of San Francisco’s public transit definitely got Portola some brownie points in my book.
I hopped on the N train, gearing up for day one, unsure of what to expect, as it would also be my first time attending Portola. Getting there was a breeze as people got off the train and walked the last two blocks to the festival entrance, filling the air with pre-festival jitters, laughter, and pregame energy. Once inside, I checked the closest map and quickly made my way over to the Warehouse to catch LF System. While initially skeptical about the barricaded line to get in, it seemed to move rather quickly and diminished any concerns we might have had about last year’s entryway disaster.
Throughout the weekend, I found myself pulled to the Warehouse the most out of all the stages.
Getting into the Warehouse didn’t take long, and once I was in, I made my way over to the stage where the crowd was steadily growing, and there was still plenty of room to dance. While I normally enjoy being at the back of the crowd, I found myself wandering closer and closer, eventually finding solace in the front left side and immediately forgetting any subconscious thoughts I may have had, dancing freely to my heart’s desire.
One upside to attending a festival alone is that you can dance and go where you please, on your own schedule! With that in mind, I bounced around all weekend, catching as many sets as possible. Portola weekend left me in awe, with a heart full from seeing sets from Barry Can’t Swim, 2000s queen Nelly Furtado, Eric Prydz‘s HOLO set, Todd Terje, Charlotte de Witte, Armin Van Helden b2b Chris Lake, Carl Cox, and of course, the legendary Skrillex.
I would attribute the draw to the Warehouse to the raver in me, as it was definitely where I felt most at home, with techno beats thumping and lasers beaming overhead. While the artists were all amazing, the jury is still out on the crowds. Portola is still a very new festival and, understandably, mixed-genre festivals can often bring various characters. With that variety, we’re sure to see varying levels of manners and concert etiquette.
A mixed crowd brought on a mixed experience.
Oftentimes, I found myself observing the people around me, noticing that there wasn’t just one type of attendee. Instead, there was a very mixed crowd, with people in casual wear, fancy festival wear, and just about any style you could think of. The best part was that no one seemed to feel out of place. No outfit was too much or too little; everyone was just there for the music.
Although the community itself looked welcoming, the vibes from fellow attendees were unfortunately lacking. The amount of shoving and bumping combined with an almost complete absence of anyone saying “excuse me” was truly unbelievable. Of course, when you’re paying as much as many of these people are to be there, there’s bound to be some levels of entitlement, but that doesn’t excuse the lack of common courtesy.
Portola’s return was a success, but there’s more potential for growth.
Relishing the memories from this year’s edition of Portola, there’s little to complain about, yet I can’t shake the feeling that something is still missing. The music was definitely the focus, with Todd Terje turning the Warehouse into a funky dance party, Nelly Furtado transporting us back to 2006 with a singalong, and Labrinth causing goosebumps with his performance. Save for a few audio mishaps and the occasional security guard on a power trip; there were truly no letdowns on Portola’s part.
Alas, my experience in the crowd has stuck with me, and while I understand Portola has little control over the common courtesy of attendees, that might be something that can be cultivated over time as the community continues to grow. I look forward to seeing the festival return next year and bring people together with a love of the music and, hopefully, a little less entitlement among attendees. For now, we’ll be reliving Portola weekend endlessly in our hearts.