It’s that time of the year again, where Golden Gate Park’s Hellman Hollow becomes its own small commune of music fans, foodies, and comedy lovers. Now entering its eighth year in production, Outside Lands consistently offers far more than the typical hyper-hyped-up fest, eschewing the readymade lineups of other festivals around it for a careful curation of throwback favorites and on-the-rise newcomers. This year’s lineup was particularly difficult to narrow down to absolute must-sees, but we did it. Here’s the crème de la crème, along with our top three acts gracing the Comedy Tent. As always, be on the lookout for our live coverage once the festival hits, including live tweets from @SFAppealOL.
Run the Jewels – El-P and Killer Mike come from a place of mutual admiration. The duo had a hand in each’s respective solo records, noticed a musical chemistry in the studio, and explored it to its fullest with Run the Jewels. Though their album names are inherently redundant, (Run the Jewels 3 is inevitable, people!) that’s about all that’s even remotely stale, save for their mission statement of a song – you guessed it – “Run the Jewels”. The group is like Deltron 3030 minus the dystopic future. This is present day and age rap at its finest, relying on the sharp flows of two heavy-hitting MCs.
Chromeo – The world finally woke up to Chromeo’s brilliant blend of disco-tinged electronica when the duo released an adorable “in-flight” video for “Frequent Flyer” on FunnyorDie.com. The world rubbed its bleary eyes and started to dance when Chromeo began their current festival run and, since then, it’s been a worldwide party. The band is smart in their set lists and damn cocky: their “Intro” opens up into mega-hit “Night by Night” on the regular and there are very few who can resist its uber-catchy pull. And their set looks like a deconstructed mirror ball, complete with svelte mannequin legs to hold up synths and keys.
Arctic Monkeys – And you thought we’d give it up for Yeezus. Bypass the auto-tuned proclamations of glory and a masturbatory set made creepier by shit lighting and feast your eyes on an otherworldly Arctic Monkeys. In the two year span since the band last played OSL, they’ve teamed up with Queens of the Stone Ages’ Josh Homme to entirely revamp their sound, released the critically acclaimed AM, and elevated themselves to not just fantastic instrumentalists but real deal rock and roll sex symbols. Frontman Alex Turner is a firm believer in his own hype and if it’s not the percussive bent of “Do I Wanna Know?” that’s keeping you clapping and screaming, then surely it’s Turner’s moves.
Christopher Owens – Very few indie rock bands fill me with such hope, only to leave me wanting more to the point of still missing and therefore reminiscing about them. The Christopher Owens-fronted Girls was one of them and to this day I cannot think of “Lust for Life” without first thinking of their breakthrough single and then thinking of the Iggy Pop tune. Luckily, Owens has been anything but silent since disbanding. As a solo artist, he’s honed a fragile, beautiful sound with 2013’s Lysandre and is eagerly awaiting yet another LP release. Bonus points to Owens for leading the way as yet another SF artist with the type of prolific output not seen in any other big city.
Big Freedia – It’s telling that Big Freedia’s set happens to clash with Death Cab For Cutie’s, given the fact that frontman Ben Gibbard had Freedia opening for his other project, the much-lauded Postal Service, last year. As the queen of bounce continues her rise in fame and prominence with a reality show on Fuse and an ever-widening audience, now is most definitely the time to expose yourself to the type of booty-shaking music that gives twerking a good name.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Legendary rockers Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers haven’t slowed down and haven’t grown old in the sense that they’ve lost touch; not in the least bit. Their most recent release, Hypnotic Eye, has garnered positive reviews across the board and is emblematic of the spirit of the Heartbreakers: breezy and harmonious in the best of ways. Fans eagerly expecting the hits will most definitely be catered to, as the band’s festival sets tend to touch on damn near every era of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers from “American Girl” to “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”.
Lucius – Right around the time Outside Lands was kicking off last year, SF Appeal favorite Lucius was giving a phone interview for their 2013 show at Brick and Mortar. Within a year’s time, the band’s lustrous harmonies and throwback style has vaulted them to the festival circuit. Their Outside Lands performance is set to be the perfect way to kick off the final day of a long weekend of music.
Jenny Lewis – For one, I’m hoping Lewis makes it to Outside Lands by Saturday just in case there’s a chance Ben Gibbard may need her onstage for the Postal Service’s “We Will Become Silhouettes.” For every other point made in Lewis’ favor it is her pristine vocals and Stevie Nicks-esque mystique that keeps me coming back to her latest efforts. Lewis is a powerhouse of a musician, a soul that grows only more refined with age. Expect some Rilo Kiley tunes, of course, but listen very carefully for the gorgeous introspection of The Voyager.
Spoon – Though Spoon frontman Britt Daniel’s side project, the Divine Fits, was enough of a quality distraction from the dearth of Spoon these past few years, it’s so good to have the iconic indie band back in action. Just two tracks from They Want My Soul have surfaced, which means lots of new material should surface onstage as well as at your local record store, as They Want My Soul is set to be released tomorrow.
Top 3 Comedy:
Friday: Aisha Tyler, Ali Mafi and Matt McCarthy – Your first Barbary tent homework assignment is to immediately download as many episode of Aisha Tyler’s “Girl on Guy” podcast that you can feasibly store on your phone without deleting too many Snapchat screenshots. In addition to being a wonderful comedian, the always eloquent Tyler is a hell of an interviewer and will surely push rising stars Mafi and McCarthy towards yet another level of awesome.
Saturday: The Improvised Shakespeare Company – I can think of no other music festival that’s adding a bit of the Bard to its offerings. Whether you’re a Shakespeare enthusiast or are only vaguely familiar with “Romeo and Juliet” by way of Leonardo DiCaprio, prepare to have a whole other side of his works exposed in an innovative way that the playwright himself would surely smile upon.
Sunday: Stars of Silicon Valley: Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller and Kumail Nanjiani – I’m already devising a drinking game for how cringe-worthy and wonderful it’s going to be to see Mike Judge’s Silicon Valley playing out in a tent just a charter bus ride away from its namesake. The free space is all the Pied Piper shirts that will undoubtedly be dotting the crowd; hashtag snack dick indeed.