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Thousands flock to San Francisco’s waterfront for second annual Portola Music Festival

English synth-pop band Hot Chip performs at the Portola Music Festival’s Pier Stage on Saturday. | Source: Joel Umanzor/The Standard

Thousands of electronic music fans gathered at Pier 80 Saturday to feel the bass on the first day of the second annual Portola Music Fest.

The event organized by Goldenvoice—the promotion company behind the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival as well as the Stagecoach Festival in Southern California—featured 30 artists on the first day alone, including pop music megastar Nelly Furtado, electronic-dance duo Chromeo and nu-jazz producer Flying Lotus.

Electronic-dance duo Chromeo performs on the stage of the Ship Tent on the first day of the festival. | Source: Joel Umanzor/The Standard

As the sun briefly made an appearance, thousands of attendees trickled into the festival grounds and had the opportunity to choose from various food vendors selling everything from Spanish paella and Jamaican beef patties to Hawaiian loco mocos and Filipino ube-infused desserts.

Food trucks, like local favorite Señor Sisig, also came out in full force with a diverse range of menus.

Last year’s festivalgoers experienced various crowd-control issues that limited access to one of the bigger stages inside one of the Pier 80 warehouses, with lines for food and merchandise stretching throughout the festival grounds.

Concession lines this year had shorter wait times, with sporadic rushes to grab treats and drinks between sets.

San Francisco resident Chandan Singh made his way into the festival when the gates opened and said he found things to be less hectic than he had been led to believe from people’s accounts of last year’s event.

“I didn’t find it to be chaotic,” he said. “I walked down here in about 15 minutes from the Dogpatch. This venue itself is really nice. I like how it is paved and doesn’t get muddy like Outside Lands at Golden Gate Park.”

Scottish production duo LF System perform on the Warehouse Stage on Saturday. | Source: Joel Umanzor/The Standard

Singh said he was most looking forward to hearing Yung Singh, a DJ from the United Kingdom who fuses Punjabi folk into his electronic tracks.

“He’s Punjabi, and I’m Punjabi. He’s a Singh, and I’m a Singh,” he said. “So he’s definitely who I’m most excited about.”

Michael Muñoz, who lives in the East Bay, said he rode BART with a friend into San Francisco and was picked up by the free festival shuttle from the 24th Street Mission Station.

“It was easy to take public transportation into the event,” he said, adding that Australian producer Dom Dolla and Furtado were the artists whose set moved him to make the trek across the bay. “You can’t forget the GOAT (greatest of all time): Nelly Furtado.”

The festival is named after the original Portola Festival of 1909, but the grounds are actually located a couple miles from San Francisco’s Portola District.

A lively outdoor music festival crowd near a stage with large screens, under daylight with industrial cranes in the background.
Portola Music Festival attendees gather at the Crane Stage on Saturday. | Source: Joel Umanzor/The Standard

The 1909 event—hosted by the city to signal San Francisco’s recovery from the 1906 earthquake—was a series of parades attended by around 1 million people.

San Francisco brought back the festival in 1948 as a weeklong celebration in an attempt to boost local commerce after World War II, but interest in the festivities faded after the inaugural year.