There are a lot of great reasons to show up early to Outside Lands. It’s rather beautiful to walk around at noon, seeing the empty festival and taking in the peace before the chaos. It’s also a great time to explore the various different food vendors, especially the much more popular establishments. Instead of waiting 20 minutes in line to enjoy Farmer Brown’s amazing Chicken & Waffles, you’ll get your food in under 5, plus you can pretty much guarantee a seat at a picnic table while you get to enjoy some of the lesser known acts on the bill. This year has plenty of acts that are well worth crawling out of bed early to enjoy. (Also, the N Judah and 5 Fulton at 11am is way nicer than at 2:00, when most people show up.)
The full schedule has been released, but here are my personal Top 10 acts from the lower part of the bill. Trust me, you’ll be happy you came out and had breakfast in the park.
#1: Garfunkel & Oates (Friday in the Barbary at 12:45 and 6:15)
Although, yes, the line up release for Outside Lands is always an exciting day for me. However, The Barbary line up is what I’m really waiting for every year. This year is not too shabby, with the bill getting topped of by the great Lewis Black. However, the most exciting thing to me is the first Garfunkel & Oates performance in the Bay Area in nearly two years. This is the first performance ahead of a huge tour they are embarking on to promote the first season of their eponymous TV Show on IFC, and I’m sure they will be chomping at the bit to perform their impressively clever, witty, and catchy folks songs live for the first time in a while. Since this is a rock festival in Golden Gate Park, there is no way they will skip this track, which will eventually be known as the unofficial Outside Lands Anthem. We should be required to sing it at the beginning of each day.
#2: Woods (Sunday on Sutro at 1:10)
Woods are no stranger to playing music festivals in Norther California. In fact, normally their annual Woodsist Festival in Big Sur is a direct competitor to Outside Lands, bringing some of the best psych and folk acts around to play in a low key and casual two day camping fest. I don’t know what the bookers did to get them to play our festival this year, but I’m stoked to get to seem them in their namesake setting.
#3: Courtney Barnett (Sunday on Panhandle at 4:20)
Everybody has had a friend post the video to “Avant Gardener” on their Facebook wall at this point. That video was a viral sensation amongst anybody with good taste or an appreciation for clever prose. Her live show, which a very lucky few of us got to enjoy her sold out Bay Area debut at Rickshaw Stop earlier this year, was a mind blowing display of intense of pure rock n roll glory, which is a sharp contrast to her somewhat reserved 2013 debut full length, The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas. There is a good chance that this is the set is going to be an historic event on par with Jimi Hendrix at Monterey Pop. And, seriously, do you want to be the person that missed Hendrix at Monterey Pop?
#4: Mikal Cronin (Friday on Panhandle at 4:30)
Mikal Cronin is best known as the lead guitar player for the original Ty Segall Band. After years of sitting on the shadow of the underground king of garage rock, Cronin is finally getting some recognition for his own songwriting. Which is amazing- he has the spirit and presence of garage rock, with the sensibilities and hooks of classic indie rock. He’s also one of the few Bay Area musicians from the current underground indie scene that hasn’t fled to LA, so please support him so we don’t end up losing him.
#5: Valerie June (Saturday on Sutro at 1:10)
Valerie June first landed on my radar when she was invited to open for the great Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings on their tour earlier this year. June has a great comprehension of the history of soul music, but isn’t stuck in the whole “retro” banner, playing a decidely modern version of soul music that doesn’t disregard it’s history. She’s the type of singer that would be just as at home opening for The Black Keys as she would be opening for John Legend, so she will definitely be a great unifier on the vastness of Golden Gate Park.
#6: Imelda May (Sunday on Land’s End at 12:30)
Unlike June, Imelda May is firmly planted in a bygone era. Introduced to the world by guitar hero Jeff Beck as the vocalist for his tour paying tribute to Les Paul and Mary Ford, May has the perfect rockabilly voice. She combines that with a look and attitude to match, putting the audience in a time machine taking them to an era that is both classy and dangerous.
#7: Hiss Golden Messenger (Sunday on Panhandle at 2:45)
There is a surprising amount of country music on this year’s Outside Lands bill. A lot of acts that would normally be found playing Hardly Strictly Bluegrass are coming to OSL instead. One of my favorite acts that I’ve been introduced to this year is Hiss Golden Messenger. They are a rare band that would be just at home in mainstream Country radio as they would be at the Pitchfork Music Festival. Just don’t be put off by the weird spelling of the name. As mother always said, “Don’t judge a book by it’s title.”
#8: Aparna Nancherla (Friday in the Barbary at 12:45, 4:30 and 6:15)
Aparna Nancherla is so far underground that she doesn’t even exist on Wikipedia. She is a comedy writer that might be best known for her work on the dearly missed FX series “Totally Biased with W Kamau Bell.” She is also the very last thing on the bill. Like, the absolute bottom. Which is totally absurd, because she was one of the most gifted writers and stand up comics working today.
#9: Tumbleweed Wanderers (Saturday on Sutro at Noon)
Oakland is sorely under represented on this year’s OSL line up. One of the very few bands from the city across the water is the fantastic bluegrass combo Tumbleweed Wanderers. With their pitch perfect harmonies, they are the perfect band for cuddling with a loved one or a new found friend in the middle of a field while enjoying garlic fries. And, yes, garlic fries are a romantic snack.
#10: Gardens & Villas (Sunday on Panhande at 5:55)
I know what you are thinking by now: “How come this guy doesn’t like to dance? WHERE IS THE DANCE MUSIC?” Well, I’m no stranger to the dance floor, and can definitely get behind a lock solid groove that gets my ass moving. Gardens & Villa are a band that have a secret weapon for ass shaking- a flutist. You may not realize it, but the flute is the ultimate ass shaking instrument. Just listen to that wicked flute riff at the beginning of this track, and tell me I’m wrong:
Jenny Lewis has worked hard and earned her placement in the “big type” on the OSL Poster. Nonetheless, her new record is pretty fantastic, and if anyone misses her set, I will take it personally.