Our Guide to the 2012 Outside Lands Music Festival

by Dakin Hardwick on August 6, 2012

Poor guys… Gonna have to find someplace else to play Polo next weekend.

Every year, every festival in America claims to have the “best line up ever!” Well, San Francisco’s Outside Lands Music Festival has made to its 5th year, and they really are going to have a seriously difficult time topping this year’s event. Of course, this means that there are conflicts galore! You’ve got six stages of entertainment to try to decide between at any time of day.

The schedule can be awfully intimidating. Which is why I’m here to help guide you through the complex maze that is the Outside Lands schedule. Without further ado, here is SpinningPlatters’ Official Guide to Outside Lands 2012.

Friday

Well, your first band of the festival seems to be an obvious choice to me. White Denim are a fantastic psych band from Austin, TX. They nightly be the easiest way to start your weekend, but why pace yourself? Also, this video is fantastic:

In my own, humble, opinion, you should stay put in Lindley Meadow to see the PJ Harvey flavored rock of Sharon Von Etten, and then wander over to the main stage to see local favorites Two Gallants perform their punked up, electrified version of delta blues. Don’t get too comfortable, however, because SpinningPlatters’ good friends Wallpaper. will be killing it on the most intimate stage in the park- the Panhandle Stage. Ricky Reed’s electro fueled R & B and witty lyrics will make 2:15 in the afternoon feel like midnight in a scuzzy club. Of course, if you aren’t passed out drunk by the end of Wallpaper.’s set, you should head to The Barbary to see the second half of the critically acclaimed variety show Hot Tub w/ Kristen Schall and Kurt Braunholer.

Although I don’t know how YACHT intend to pull of their multimedia performance art during daylight, I’m sure they will do something truly innovative. Speaking of innovators, Beck will be playing the main stage, making his first public appearance in San Francisco since his 2008 performance at the very first Outside Lands festival. I, unfortunately, will not watching all of Beck’s set, because at 5:25, we have the absolute worst conflict of the festival. Iceland’s folk pop ensemble Of Monsters and Men and South Africa’s acclaimed duo Die Antwoord. If I could be in two places at once, I would. Two bands, both very different, and both fantastic.  If I were to pick right now, I’d pick Die Antwoord. Maybe I’ll be in the mood for Of Monsters and Men by showtime. It’s tricky either way. Maybe you should decide for yourself:

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Your Friday night will end with a whole lot of stage jumping. You can’t miss the funky fusion of Antibalas back out on the Panhandle stage.  Then you should run back to Sutro for the greatest whistler in America, former Squirrel Nut Zipper Andrew Bird. Then, you should run back to the Panhandle to see the only chillwave act that Battles approve of openly, Washed Out, to send your brain swimming into the sunset. Friday night will end, of course, with Neil Young & Crazy Horse. If you don’t think you need to see Neil Young play, then you shouldn’t be listening to music.

Saturday

Obviously you are going to wake up the next morning still feeling that Neil Young buzz. So, I’m sure the first thing you’ll want is a palate cleanser. How about a firm reminder of the fact that there was some significantly less sophisticated music made in the 1970’s. This means Mustache Harbor: everyone’s favorite yacht rock tribute band! Which, of course, is a great reason to drink a martini at noon.

OK. Good. Now that you’ve got that out of your system, it’s time for you to get your socks knocked off. You know who will knock them off? The psych folk styling of Yellow Ostrich. Seriously, if you are looking for a sonic adventure in the daylight, you cannot go wrong with them. Then you can hop over to the main stage to see Tame Impala, a band that would be completely at home on a Nuggets compilation. It seems that this is the year of the psychedelic rock. If this is too much psych for you to handle, you should leave Tame Impala a few minutes early to catch the full set by Canadian bluegrass combo The Be Good Tanyas.

After the Be Good Tanyas, you have about 30 minutes to kill. You can either stick around to try to get a good spot for the Stax flavored soul of Alabama Shakes (and, yes, you will be seeing this band. Only a complete fool would not), or you can jump back to The Barbary for Nerdist Stand Up Cluster, which features Jackie Kashian, one of the funniest women in the world, as well as Reggie Watts, who is performing 4 times throughout the duration on Outside Lands. After Alabama Shakes are done, you have an obscene 3 way conflict. You could see reunited local indie heroes Grandaddy, although you can always wait until Sunday to see them do a full length set at The Independent. You could see Big Boi, because, well, he’s Big Boi. He is the best live performer in hip hop, and “Bombs Over Baghdad” is one of my all time favorite live songs. I’m not going to watch any of them. Why? Because Neil Patrick Harris will be making a rare public appearance as part of Nerdist Variety Show, with Chris Hardwick, David Koechner, Justin Willman, Marcus Monroe, Ron Funches and Jackie Kashian. You really don’t want to miss that. It will be amazing.

What else will be amazing? Thee Oh Sees. Especially since you’ve been sitting down watching comedy for the last hour, you could certainly use some good old fashioned garage punk. After Thee Oh Sees, playing at my favorite stage, Sutro (seriously, best acoustics and sitelines of the fest), is somebody that you might think of as the antithesis of punk. But, trust me, she will blow you away. Norah Jones has grown exponentially as a musician since she first came onto the scene in 2003.  The classic pop and lite jazz has moved into something bigger, more dynamic, and all around better. She also no longer hides behind her piano, and has grown to become an excellent performer.

Thus bringing us to Saturday Night’s closing set. You’ve got 2 options: Metallica or Sigur Ros. I’m pretty sure anyone attending has already decided who they are going to see. There will be people that will forgo Metallica’s brand of watered down arena metal to enjoy the lush, atmospheric sounds of Sigur Ros. There will also be people that can’t stand Sigur Ros’ pretentious brand of bland new age music, and will opt to see the groundbreaking, local legends Metallica play in front of a hometown crowd. Both factions are right.

Sunday

This is, by far, the best comedy stage at any outdoor music festival this year. Sunday morning begins with You Made It Weird Podcast, the random and oft brilliant interview show hosted by Pete Holmes. Eric Andre, Jon Glaser, and Brett Gelman are his special guests for this afternoon of silliness, and I highly recommend it. After that is over, you should really go check out Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman. Morello is the guitar player for Rage Against The Machine, but you wouldn’t know it from this project. It’s simply Morello and an acoustic guitar. He has a stunning, deep baritone voice, and is also an engaging performer, too!

After Morello, you should head to the main stage to see fun. Yes, that song is everywhere. You might be sick of it. But, after seeing them perform at Bottom Of The Hill earlier this year, I know that this is one blistering live act, and proof that teenage girls know what they are talking about when they say a band is good. After fun., you have two very good options. Franz Ferdinand haven’t played San Francisco in many, many years, and are always good fun. Caveman do some wonderfully trippy indie pop. I guess the question to answer is: will you be ready to dance at 2:40 on a Sunday? What am I saying! Of course you’ll be ready to dance! But, on the off chance you aren’t, Caveman are great.

The next musical selection is a no brainer, to me at least. Regina Spektor may have had a few VH1 hits, it doesn’t change the fact that she’s deliciously inventive, and What We Saw From The Cheap Seats might be her best record yet. After she’s done, I really want to recommend Santigold and Bomba Estereo. The two are playing back to back, and both acts are great. However, Jack White is owning the mainstage, and, well, he’s Jack White! He will be doing a career spanning set with his two separate touring bands, playing a healthy dose of White Stripes along with his solo work.

You have two more bands left at this point. One of those bands in one of my all time favorite live acts, a little alternative rock group from England that recently reunited called Bloc Party. These guys put on  a near perfect show. And, how do you end 3 glorious days of rock & roll? Well, not with Skrillex. Not to say Skrillex is bad. I actually kind of like what he does. But he’s no Stevie Wonder. In fact, the only thing that could possibly be better than seeing Stevie Wonder? Maybe a reunion of the original Beatles. But only maybe…

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