Outside Lands Music And Arts Festival 2012 Preview

We love you SF. Josh Ritter at Outside Lands 2011. (Kris Cheng/treeswingers)

After trekking from the Coachella Valley to the Columbia River Gorge, it’s nice every once in a while to roll out of bed and walk over to a festival in your own backyard. Since its inception in 2008, Outside Lands Music and Arts Fetival has been our hometown getaway, the festival where we didn’t have to worry about pitching tents or showering.

In that sense, San Francisco’s three-day affair has always been a little more relaxed. There’s plenty of time to catch a gourmet arepa before laying out on the grass to soak in the rays in the presence of Al Green–who dominated 2010–or taste wine while The Roots funk around, like last year.

Though forecasts for the weekend’s weather say sunny and 70, few promises are more fickle than the San Francisco climate, which can and will assault you with fog and wind at a moment’s notice. Jackets are a must, as are walking shoes–the journey from the Land’s End stage to Twin Peaks can take a while, and we’ve had plenty of laughs at those who’ve lost heels in Golden Gate Park’s mud.

As always, 2012’s lineup is just as eclectic as years past (after all, San Franciscans are open-minded). Metallica’s fire and brimstone are balanced by Sigur Ros’ sugar and Hopelandic. Bands like Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand are revived from their late-noughties stupor, while Jack White continues his solo dealings. And don’t forget the main event on Sunday night as Stevie Wonder battles with Skrillex to close out the festival. Go easy on him, Stevie.

Here are some of the acts we’re looking forward to at 2012’s Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival.

Phoenix’s Thomas Mars at Outside Lands in 2010. (Ryan Mac/treeswingers)

Tanlines- Not The Same (download)

If there is any reason to call in sick or take an extended lunch break on Friday, it may be Tanlines. No, not the bro-tank stripes–good luck sporting those on the Polo Fields–but the Brooklyn-based synth-pop duo of Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm. Their debut album Mixed Emotions set the blogs aflutter this spring and the band’s off-beat rhythms and genre-blending pop should be well-suited for the smaller Panhandle stage. The layered and driving percussion lines of single “Brothers” will burn off any lingering traces of the work week.

Reggie Watts- Fuck Shit Stack (download)

He’s unconventional and unmissable. Reggie Watts performs twice as Outside Lands, but its his Friday set that should draw Golden Gate Park’s attention. Half-comedian, half beat-boxer, Watts’ uncensored performance mid-afternoon on Day One is guaranteed to be an eyebrow raiser as he jams synthesizers, loops vocal beats and stream-of-conscious lyrics into hilariously deranged songs. Parents keep your little ones away from this one, as they may end up learning a few choice words. Watts also performs on Saturday in The Barbary, the festival’s designated comedy area.

The Walkmen- (download)

Surviving the garage rock revival and ensuing flame-out in the 2000’s, The Walkmen have quietly earned their pedigree with an impressive trail of critically-acclaimed albums. The latest, Heaven, has the same drama and craftsmanship of their earlier works but without the biting desperation that made the band famous. Hamilton Leithauser still has a voice that will make your bones ache but he’s gotten more meditative as the years have gone by. And if the new songs are too peppy for your terminally jaded soul, you should still stick around for the aggressive gut-punch of their soul-tearing original hit, “The Rat.”

Washed Out- Call It Off (download)

For a short period of time on Friday, Washed Out will be the only artist playing as the other stages prep for the likes of Neil Young and Justice. If you’re not old enough for Young or don’t feel like having your eardrums smitten by two Frenchies, Ernest Greene’s bedroom pop project seems like a fair compromise. With chilled out, laptop created tunes which are floated with light vocals, Greene’s music is hypnotically tranquil. Not bad for a dude who studied up to become a librarian before starting Washed Out as an unemployed 20-something.

Yellow Ostrich- Hate Me Soon (download)

Opening the Twin Peaks stage on Saturday bright and early, Yellow Ostrich’s brand of pop reminds of a lo-fi version of Voxtrot in its prime. Looked beyond the charmingly subdued vocals of lead man Alex Schaaf, the trio from Brooklyn will have the chance to impress with up-beat lyrics and jerky percussion that should coax anyone out of their Day One hangover.

Geographer- The Boulder (download)

Geographer may have an early Saturday set, but the hometown favorites will reel in a sizable crowd for their dream pop mélange. The trio of singer Michael Deni, cellist and synthesizer Nathan Blaz, and drummer Brian Ostreicher has been bunny-hopping up the venue chain from Noise Pop 2011 to Treasure Island Music Festival last October and now to the second stage of this year’s Outside Lands. The band’s second full-length, Myth, with its interwoven melodies and staggered crescendos, will be more than sufficient to mesmerize the most hard-hearted of festival-goers.

Tame Impala- Lucidity (download)

There’s something vintage about Tame Impala, dare we say Beatles-esque? Channeling 70s psychedelia, the fivesome from Perth  has hardly come up for a breath of air since 2010 debut Innerspeaker. Now touring before the release of sophomore Lonerism, Tame Impala and its penchant for long drawn out jams will be nothing but welcome in the land of Jerry Garcia and tie-dye t-shirts.

Alabama Shakes- Heartbreaker (downloads)

A palate-cleanser from the indie whippersnappers, Alabama Shakes will rock the Americana and deliver some much-needed blues soul. While the four-piece led by singer Brittany Howard looks endearingly unhip, the group is actually one of the latest buzz bands at the festival, coming out of virtually nowhere (Google: Athens, Alabama) with their four-track eponymous EP less than a year ago. You’ll enter a time-warp when you near Lindley Meadow, the raw shreds of Howard’s voice providing the perfect backdrop for those sepia Instagram shots.

Passion Pit- I’ll Be Alright (download)

GossamerPassion Pit’s follow-up to their massively successful 2009 debut Manners was released just two weeks ago. It’s a maelstrom of ugly feeling and disjointed electro-pop that seem paces ahead of the sugared falsetto of their previous hits. But the new material will be subordinate to frontman Michael Angelakos’ struggles with mental health. The singer was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a teenager and his ongoing battle with depression led to the cancellation of most of the band’s shows in August. The band affirmed they would be playing Lollapalooza and Outside Lands… so here’s thoping everything goes according to plan on Saturday night.

City and Colour- Northern Wind (download)

Dallas Green, the man behind City and Colour, is a bit like Skrillex. Both of former post-hardcore bands, Skrillex took his talents to the decks, while Green, went home, thought about it some and emerged as one damn soulful solo artist. Both are performing on Sunday, but only City and Colour will be eliciting tears–unless your ear drums explode from the dubstep. Tatted-up Green, formerly of Alexisonfire, isn’t as mean as he looks, with songs that reveal a soft heart and a voice like butter, complemented by an acoustic guitar that promises to wash your sorrows away.

Bloc Party- V.A.L.I.S. (download)

Indie rock’s equivalent of Jersey ShoreBloc Party have no shortage of drama. With rumors abound that their latest album, Four, may be their last, the London quartet are back touring almost a decade since releasing their acclaimed Silent Alarm. The band members have made their rounds through San Francisco with different solo projects, but Outside Lands marks the first time in years that the band is playing together in the city by the bay. Currently entrenched in the summer festival circuit, the current tour likely won’t be their last, but stranger things have happened.

-Marisa & Ryan


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