10 Bands To See at Outside Lands This Weekend

Categories: Outside Lands
outside-lands-2009-8-13.jpg
A stage at Outside Lands 2009
It may not be the greatest Outside Lands lineup ever, but this weekend's big-honkin' music (and wine and food!) festival packs a bicycle basket-full of bands we're stroked (heh, we mean stoked) to see. Here, in no particular order, are 10 of them, plus a few honorable mentions we just had to mutter about.

1. The Strokes (Saturday, 8:45 - 9:45 p.m.)
Yes, the Strokes are playing together again, which means they'd pretty much have to do something catastrophic and/or pills-and-4Loko-induced to not be a highlight of the whole festival. Hopefully Julian Casablancas can find some precarious precipice to scale and sing from on the festival stage. And so what if there's no new record? Hell, if the Strokes just played the song "New York City Cops" over and over for an hour, that'd be just fine with us.

2. Furthur (Saturday, 7:25 - 9:55 p.m.)
Dude, it's Bob Weir and Phil Lesh from the Grateful Dead. In Golden Gate Park. Maybe even in the sun. (Remember the sun?) All those Deadheads followed the legendary San Francisco jam-psych band around for a reason, you know, and it wasn't because their records were great. (OK, a few were.) This set's scheduled to go two-and-a-half hours, which means you'll have time to get your inner hippie out before heading over to hear the Strokes.

3. Janelle Monae (Sunday, 3:05 - 3:55 p.m.)
This is pretty much essential if you haven't seen her, and extremely enticing even if you have. Monae and her future soul/rock band let it all out for a spectacular live show -- achingly pristine vocals, M.J.-esque dance moves, James Brown funk, jazzy guitar solos, and their signature black-and-white look. Get up close now -- in a couple of years, she'll be headlining this thing.

4. Al Green (Sunday, 4 - 5 p.m.)
Speaking of soul, no one on the OL bill has it like the Reverend Al Green, and missing his set  would be a huge mistake. Too bad there are lots of other good artists playing around the same time. But Green's no spring chicken, and few in the park this weekend can claim to have written songs as lasting and perfect as "Let's Stay Together," "Tired of Being Alone," and (our favorite) "Love And Happiness." Better see the 64-year-old while he's still out on the road.

5. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (Sunday, 3:40 - 4:30 p.m.)
The rambling folk-rock of this L.A. collective has a way of injecting its scaled-up grooves into your mind and leaving them to fester there -- and that's a good thing. Sunbaked and mystically optimistic like many other products of la la land, this outfit is a perfect outdoors-in-the-park kind of band. Wish extra hard for that glowing gas orb in the sky to appear.

6. The Soft Pack (Sunday, 12:45 - 1:25 p.m.)

Formerly known as the Muslims (wonder why they changed the name?), this San Diego four-piece practices stripped-down, catchy rock 'n' roll. Not snarly enough to be punk, and not hipster enough to be neo-garage, the Soft Pack finds a pleasing middle ground between those corners and the big, wide sea of general indie rock. Unflashy, but totally fun -- the Soft Pack should make a high-energy start to Sunday afternoon.

7. Cat Power (Saturday, 7:05 - 7:55 p.m.)
Brooding, fragile folk may not seem like a natural choice for a big festival, but we have a feeling Cat Power will make for a pleasing mid-evening respite from big beats and guitar blasts. Chan Marshall's tunes are thoughtful, deliberate, penetrating, and beautiful. In other words, worth showing up for. If you want to get deaf, some loud-ass band called Wolfmother is playing around the same time.

8. Nneka (Sunday, 1:25 - 2:05 p.m.)
Raised in Nigeria and lifted into stardom while living in Germany, Nneka Egbuna is the rare pop artist who has experienced the third-world struggles she sings about. Her proud soul and hip-hop anthems take on Africa's plight with as much sobriety as they do positivity. But her airy vocals, bouncy hip-pop beats, and tune-crafting skills make hopeful fun out of an otherwise frustrating lesson in exploitation and violence.

9. Phoenix (Sunday, 5:55 - 6:55 p.m.)
This French indie-rock group put out one of the most acclaimed rock albums of 2009 -- the charging, infectious Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, best known for the irresistible and now-ubiquitous single "1901." (You know, it's that catchy-ass song in the Cadillac commercial.) This is arguably the best new-ish rock band on the entire bill (new to the U..S., anyway). And since Phoenix is made up of synth-and-beat-happy Euros, there'll be some get-down time in its set as well.

10. Garage A Trois (Sunday, 4:30 - 5:10 p.m.)
Fuzz-jazz? Psych-funk? Jam-noise? No preexisting genre territory seems quite right for this three-piece collaboration, which employs sax, drums, fuzzed-out keys, and an eight-string guitar to twirl up some challenging, funky instrumental tunes. Garage A Trois is definitely the best group of jamming, distortion-happy jazz musicians on the bill this year. And yes, it's also the only one.

Honorable Mentions:

Social Distortion (Sunday, 6:55 - 7:45 p.m.)
-- We'll never quite get over these aging SoCal punks' gritty songs about love, vice, and cars.

My Morning Jacket (Saturday, 5 - 6:30)
-- Jammy Southern rock with acres of vocal reverb, swampy guitar solos, and a jovial vibe, this is ideal Saturday afternoon fare.

Tokyo Police Club (Saturday, 5:25 - 6:15)  -- Heartfelt, intelligent indie rock rendered with short tunes, quick tempos, and precise lyrical details.

So those are our picks. Who are you excited to see? Tell us all your must-see bands in the comments.

Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown and @iPORT

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