Even if you aren't planning on attending, by now you've probably at least seen the inescapable bus panels and billboards advertising this year's Outside Lands Festival, taking place in San Francisco from Friday, August 28th through Sunday, August 30th. The ads usually focus on the headliners and upper-tier acts -- Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, the now-canceled Beastie Boys (curiously replaced by Tenacious D), Incubus, Black Eyed Peas, M.I.A. -- the ones that event organizers surely hope will draw the crowds needed to make a three-day festival in Golden Gate Park financially viable. Lower down the card, however, there are some real gems among the 70+ acts performing over the weekend. If you're headed to Outside Lands, be sure to check out some of these great bands.
Blind Pilot (performing on Friday at 4:10pm) are a duo from Portland whose acoustic pop-rock draws frequent comparisons to The Shins, if only because both bands excel at writing endearing tunes that feel familiar immediately and sing-along worthy soon after. But while The Shins' biggest hits bowl the listener over, Blind Pilot's debut 3 Rounds And A Sound is more easygoing and unassuming, touched with a lingering melancholy. The album is a fairly stripped down affair, so it's a little surprising that the band is touring as a six-piece, and I'm curious how it the expanded lineup will sound. Another group not averse to inviting more people onstage, Northeastern trio Akron/Family (Friday, 1:45pm) released their latest psychedelic folk-rock collection Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free in May. The album is the band's first since the departure of original member Ryan Vanderhoof and it's crammed full of different instruments and unconventional song structures.
If you're looking for some noisy indie rock, Deerhunter (Saturday, 6:40pm) has got it in droves.The Atlanta quartet's music plays out as a compelling tug-of-war between the heavy swirling ambience of shoegaze and buzzing anthemic post-punk. It's as fun to watch that struggle live as it to experience it on Cryptograms and Microcastle. Portugal. the Man (Saturday, 3:10pm) similarly stack layers of sound to create epic rock. The band formed in Wasilla, Alaska (yes, THAT Wasilla) before migrating to Portland, Oregon. Since then, they've released four albums in four years, with The Satanic Satanist emerging in July.
Not to be lost in the shuffle are some of the cream of the Bay Area indie community. The Dodos (Friday, 3:20pm) just released their third album Time to Die early after it leaked online. While the new album reigns in some of its predecessor's bombast under Phil Ek's (Built to Spill, Fleet Foxes) production, it also shows the group has gotten even better at crafting winding, complex melodies. The trio's ever-full performance schedule has made them a must-see live band. Indie pop quartet The Morning Benders (Sunday, 1:30pm) just returned from their first European tour, and recently recorded a new album with Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear. While there's no news about when we can expect Big Echo, it's always a treat to hear these guys' upbeat, addictive songs. The same thing goes for their former tourmate and local singer-songwriter John Vanderslice (Sunday, 2:10pm), who delivered one of the year's highlights with Romanian Names.
With 70+ options on a variety of stages, there are sure to be some tough choices presented during Outside Lands, with plenty of talented performers on the side stages if you're looking to avoid the mobs at the main ones.