The San Francisco Bay Area is a famously mellow zone that happens to be quite amenable to festival culture. But that doesn’t mean it’s all granola bowls and, um, other bowls when it comes to navigating a talent-packed event like Outside Lands. The S.F. fest’s sixth edition goes down Friday, August 9 through Sunday, August 11 at Golden Gate Park, a thousand-plus acres of gorgeous greenery that butts up against the Pacific Ocean on its west side. Sounds idyllic, yes, but when you’ve got a belly full of Anchor Steam and sourdough and mere minutes to bridge the geographic gap between Jessie Ware and Band of Horses, well, things can get ugly. That’s why we’re here to help settle some conflicts before they totally harsh your mellow.
5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs vs. Grizzly Bear, Saturday, 6:30 to 7:50 p.m.
Classic. On the one hand, you’ve got an indie rock institution fronted by one of the most dynamic front-babes in the game, Karen O, backed by one of the greatest guitar-slingers of all time, Nick Zinner. Yeah Yeah Yeahs graced a SPIN cover this year and released an excellent album, the mighty Mosquito. On the other hand you have, well, another indie rock institution that’s great for a different set of reasons: four vocalists, brainy arrangements, palpable atmosphere, serious beauty. Plus they’ve been adding extra noise to their 2012 opus Shields live of late.
Recommendation: Each group has been hitting the fest circuit hard, so see whichever band you haven’t yet this year. If you’ve not had the pleasure of either, catch the super spooky opening and first half of Griz, then bolt over to YYYs for a fiery finish.
4. D’Angelo vs. Wavves, Friday, 6:05 to 7:05 p.m.
A hesher’s dilemma. Do you keep it cool, glide over to D for a soothing (and slightly searing, no doubt) set of virtuosic soul — partake in the devil’s pie, if you will? Or do you shred the light fantastic with those good old Wavvy Boys, head-banging to songs about bad vibes and beach kings while the image of a green alien face looms overhead? At one stage, you might meet a new make-out pal. At the other, you could wind up with a fresh stick-and-poke tatt. Of course, either way you’ll be able to toke till you choke, if that’s your bag, maaan.
Recommendation: Look, unless you’re really in the mood to rock the eff out — and, to be fair, there aren’t a ton of punk MFers on the bill — you’re gonna be going to see D’Angelo. The dude is rare to begin with, and he’s withheld his talents for too long.
3. Nine Inch Nails vs. Phoenix, Saturday, 8:25 to 9:55 p.m.
Trent Reznor and his freshly press-ganged wrecking crew don’t play. They’ve got insane visuals, meaty sonics of the electronic and electric varieties, two and a half decades’ worth of music to pull from, and a brand new album called Hesitation Marks to pimp. But Phoenix too have history (albeit 10 years less) and serious chops. They may not have helped usher in the industrial (metal) age, but the Parisian poppers’ amalgamation of bright guitar music, buoyant synth work, and charmingly befuddling lyricism makes them wonderful. And Bankrupt! is a damn fine album.
Recommendation: We love Thomas Mars and the boys, but our money’s on NIN for the fireworks. Their set is an early contender for Best in Show, period. Our early glimpse at the current lineup via Fuji Rock pointed to the promise of a very epic experience.
2. Rhye vs. the National, Friday, 4:45 to 6:10 p.m.
A discerning fan’s gamble — frankly, this is some high class shit and the wrong move could cost you big in the cultural cachet department. The first fellas are international smooth operators who specialize in exceedingly silken tones. Toronto singer-player Mike Milosh sounds like Sade (no joke) and his Dutch-bred producer counterpart has a knack for xx-level subtlety. The other guys: dapper men with dour demeanors, down to make depressive rock into a dastardly good art form, supporting a damned good album, Trouble Will Find Me. And then there’s Woman. Oof.
Recommendation: Take a chance. See Rhye. The Los Angeles-based duo is at the start of a very promising career, and you already know what the National are all about. Plus, woozy hazed-over R&B excellence is about as au courant as it comes. See ’em when.
1. Daryl Hall & John Oates vs. King Tuff, Sunday, 4:20 to 5:20 p.m.
It’s Sunday. A fun day, no doubt, but also the last gasp. You’re torn between: driving yourself mad soaking up as much music as possible before the big bacchanal slams into Monday’s mundanity; or just, like, riding it out because hey, man, all this running around is exhausting. And here you are, confronted with two super-chill options at the exact same time. Either way you’re left in Schrödinger’s shoes. Over here: two of the coolest cats that ever lived, ready to unspool yacht rock yarns 10 miles long. Over there: the lolling lion himself wielding poison-sweet garage-rock hooks. WTF to do?
Recommendation: Honestly, no idea. Hall and Oates are incredible but kind of crusty. King Tuff is crusty but kind of incredible. We love them both without reservation. You’re on your own.