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If Coachella is for backpackers and Bonnaroo is for hippies, then who shall inherit Outside Lands, San Francisco's giant summer music weekender? The answer lies in the organizers' solution to the perennial problem of festival food. Under the banner "A Taste of the Bay Area," the second annual edition of the Golden Gate Park blowout eschews typical rock concert fare, offering instead an eclectic showcase of more than 30 local eateries, from Dosa's South Indian cuisine to Q's comfort food. The emphasis on organic and locally grown ingredients positions Outside Lands as the unofficial music festival of Foodie Nation.
But what does that say about the music? With more than 70 bands to mix and match, it's best to view the performer lineup like a vast à la carte menu. To help festivalgoers digest a filling combination of shows, we've suggested meal plans arranged around our musical and culinary biases.
Begin with the unexpected. These unpredictable artists promise one thing: bizarre intensity.
Os Mutantes Sat., 4:50 p.m., Sutro
Os Mutantes were the self-styled Beatles of the much-fabled Brazilian Tropicália movement in the 1960s. Their melodicism helped the band catch on in the English-speaking world ahead of colleagues Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso. In September, they'll release Haih, their first album in more than 30 years.
Portugal. The Man Sat., 3:10 p.m., Panhandle Solar
Right down to its curious name, Portugal. The Man exhibits a whimsical ambition that exists at the crossroads of prog and twee. A string of concept albums has shown the group to be the Yes for people too clever to like Yes.
Meat and Potatoes
Curb your enthusiasm. These are the low-risk, low-reward acts whose basic function is to remind you of the wad of cash you blew to get through the festival gates.
Pearl Jam Fri., 7:50 p.m., Lands End
Since its early-'90s heyday, Pearl Jam has released a handful of albums, each signaling a gradual loss of musical nerve. This autumn, the band returns with Backspacer, its first new record in more than three years. Can the group reverse the apathetic tide? If its supercharged summer single "The Fixer" is any indication, the answer is an angst-ridden "Yeah!"
Tom Jones Fri., 6:50 p.m., Sutro
Like economic recessions, Tom Jones revivals are a cyclical phenomenon. Sir Tom hit paydirt again earlier this year with a cover of "Islands in the Stream," which became his first number one in the UK since 1966's "Green Green Grass of Home." America, you're next!
Dave Matthews Band Sat., 7:30 p.m., Lands End
The most commercially successful jam band of all time keeps rolling with Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King. The cryptic title pays tribute to founding member and saxophonist LeRoi Moore, who died last summer.
These artists offer slow-cooked depth of feeling and warmth of expression.
Darondo Sun., noon, Sutro
It might not be entirely fair to label Darondo "comfort food," since much of his appeal today stems from the world-weary inflections he lavishes on his vintage funk-soul sound. But after 40 years of strutting, Darondo has emerged as the personification of an idiom many thought was lost in the city's coolest crates.
Bettye LaVette Sun., 12:50 p.m., Lands End
Neo-soul's death knell was finally delivered in 2005 when a pair of unheralded R&B legends, Solomon Burke and Bettye LaVette, produced comeback albums that thrust the grit of the 1960s into the world-weary present. Five years later, LaVette's I've Got My Own Hell to Raise remains one of the most compelling soul discs of the decade, topped only by her follow-up, 2007's The Scene of the Crime.
Blind Pilot Fri., 4:20 p.m., Presidio
Last summer, this duo from Portland, Oregon, gained notoriety for its bicycle tour of the West Coast in support of 2008's 3 Rounds and a Sound. The ploy helped separate Blind Pilot from its crowded indie-folk pop pack, but it's the warmth of the band's live sound — now augmented by four additional members — that makes the group ideal for the communal festival circuit.
Lucinda Williams Sun., 4:45 p.m., Sutro
Now five albums and 10 years into her second career as a folk-country classicist, Williams is in cruise control. From 1998's breakthrough, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, to last year's Little Honey, she has threaded an unbroken string of major and minor gems.
These bands are your go-to sources for the occasional giddy rush.
Tenacious D Sun., 7:50 p.m., Lands End
This mock rock duo takes the rock clichés first satirized by the Rutles in the '70s and Spinal Tap in the '80s and blows them up to Generation Conan's cartoonish proportions. If you listen past Jack Black's histrionics, you'll find a killer Kyle Gass riff belying the silliness.
Ween Sun., 5:35 p.m., Twin Peaks
Ween falls more into the wry tradition of Tom Lehrer and Frank Zappa than the high-concept clowning of Tenacious D, creating songs that compel as much with their music as with their punch lines. After almost a decade in the wilderness, the duo reformed this year to plot its next step in a career that has veered mockingly from loopy post-psych to the Philly sound to sea shanties.
Don't know your boundaries? Neither do these artists.
TV on the Radio Sat., 5:40 p.m., Twin Peaks
Every few years, our cultural history appears to pivot on a single band that embodies the musical priorities of the moment. TV on the Radio is the act currently restacking rock 'n' roll's old formulas. Its trivium? Noise, dilettantism, and — most importantly — no allegiance to a particular style. With its latest genre-salad, 2008's Dear Science, the band added slick funk to its otherwise punishing arsenal.
M.I.A. Sun., 6:05 p.m., Lands End
What TV on the Radio is to rock, M.I.A. is to dance-pop. By tracing her Sri Lankan origins through electro and hip-hop, this London native has forced a truly global sound. 2007's Kala expanded upon her debut, the stark and pixelated Arular.
The Dirtbombs Sat., 12:45 p.m., Twin Peaks
At their best, the Dirtbombs twist their native Detroit's two most illustrious musical lineages — song-crafted soul and pile-driver punk — into an elegant braid. On their latest, they've gone all Diamond Dogs on us with a dystopian concept album as sonically distressed as a loudspeaker propped above an intersection. George Orwell is pogoing in his grave.