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What to See at Outside Lands: Nine Artists 

Wednesday, Aug 8 2012
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Of course headliners like Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Stevie Wonder, Skrillex, Foo Fighters, Sigur Rós, and Metallica are exciting. But for its fifth edition, Outside Lands packed all three afternoons with a huge array of new and old artists working in genres like hip-hop, world pop, and even good ol' rock 'n' roll. The selection is daunting, so below, we've rounded up nine non-headliners worth your attention at this weekend's festival.


Friday, Aug. 10

Tanlines
The synth-pop recorded by Eric Emm and Jesse Cohen as Tanlines borrows from such sunny sources as Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys, Balearic dancefloors, Tropicália, and Afro-pop, but the only tan these guys are getting is from a computer screen. Occupying a space between Brooklyn's Vampire Weekend and Barcelona's Delorean, Tanlines offers moments of melodic radiance and rhythmic drive. The final recorded product, captured on full-length debut Mixed Emotions, sways more than it rocks, but onstage, the duo's music makes for an endorphin-drenched dance party. 1:30 p.m. at the Panhandle stage. Tony Ware

Two Gallants
This S.F. duo made a name for itself in the mid-'00s with a rough-hewn, historically precise take on hard-living country blues. Five years after its last album, and with solo projects under the belts of both members, Two Gallants will return this fall with The Bloom and The Blight. The band's sepia-toned roots-rock has only grown more intense with age, and its songwriting chops have improved, too. One thing hasn't changed: You can expect these beloved locals to put on one hell of a fiery live show. 1:50 p.m. at the Lands End stage. Ian S. Port

Antibalas
Founded in 1998, Brooklyn-based outfit Antibalas has held the Afrobeat revival torch higher than any other modern-day disciples of Fela Kuti. Updating the Afrobeat pioneer's polyrhythmic grooves and fiery political rhetoric with touches of spacious dub and Latin funk, the group was the only sensible choice to serve as house band for the hit 2009 Broadway musical Fela! Antibalas brings its propulsive sound back to the Bay armed with songs from its brand new album for Daptone Records, which saw the crew reunite with former member and longtime producer Gabe Roth. 6:15 p.m. at the Panhandle stage. Dave Pehling


Saturday, Aug. 11

Alabama Shakes
To understand Alabama Shakes' unprecedented success, it helps to employ a formula. First, take the very few bands that are capable of rocketing from total obscurity to a closing slot at Bonnaroo in just nine months. From those, subtract the acts that lean on instrumental gimmickry or sex appeal. Finally, eliminate those whose sound runs the risk of becoming dated in the next 50 years. What you're left with is Alabama Shakes — a group whose bare-bones roots-rock is somehow both harrowing and irresistible. Lead singer Brittany Howard is an axe-wielding Joplin reincarnation, minus the drug issues. These upstarts are not to be missed. 3:50 p.m. at the Sutro stage. Byard Duncan

Big Boi
As one half of OutKast, Big Boi entered the rarefied realm of the Beatles and the Eagles when his group achieved diamond certification for selling more than 10 million copies of the 2003 double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. The wisecracking, streetwise rapper with the million-dollar smile released his solo debut, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, in 2010, and hopes to drop the follow-up, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, by November. Technical problems prevented him from performing a scheduled set at Outside Lands in 2011, so this year's performance should be all the more special. 5:15 p.m. at the Twin Peaks stage. Tamara Palmer

Grandaddy
Modesto Y2K enthusiasts Grandaddy split up in 2006 — due to exhaustion, insufficient funds, the allure of many unremarkable solo projects — but the band turns 20 this year, just in time to remind us that its warmly paranoid vision of our robot-assisted future has aged elegantly into our robot-assisted present. No word on a comeback album, but there's a wealth of old material to swoon to. Through four albums and a menagerie of EPs, orbiting around 2000's essential The Sophtware Slump, Jason Lytle's homespun tales of jet-age loneliness echo against the fuzzy churn of tired machinery, disproving the notion that the synthetic can't be sympathetic, too. Like, when was the last time you asked Siri how her day was? 5:10 p.m. at the Sutro stage. Daniel Levin Becker


Sunday, Aug. 12

Caveman
Layered, atmospheric rock is tailor-made for outdoor festivals — take bands such as My Morning Jacket or Band of Horses. Meet the next generation with Brooklyn's Caveman. The band started buzzing last fall at the CMJ music festival, then justified the attention with its full-length debut, Coco Beware. Yes, Caveman has played festivals since (most notably SXSW), but it has yet to take the stage at such a large outdoor gathering. Welcome home, Caveman; this is where you belong. 2:50 p.m. at the Panhandle stage. Nathan Mattise

Amadou and Mariam
Leave it to a blind married couple from the West African nation of Mali to expertly meld Saharan blues with Western pop. Ever since breaking out in 2005 with the Manu Chao-produced Dimanche à Bamako, Amadou and Mariam have been beloved figures in Europe and the U.S., even playing Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in 2009. Driven by uplifting rhythms and glinting ribbons of guitar, the duo's songs evoke both the beauty and resilience of their homeland with lyrics in French, English, and Bambara. Their latest album, Folila, features guest appearances from members of TV on the Radio, Scissor Sisters, and Santigold — and since the latter will also be at Outside Lands, a live collaboration seems likely. 3:35 p.m. at the Twin Peaks stage. Ian S. Port

Regina Spektor
Opinion of Regina Spektor divides this way: To some she's too theatrical, to others she's uninhibited; to some she's quirky, to Pitchfork she's "adorkable," to others — wait! We don't know if "adorkable" is a good thing. Whichever side you fall when assessing her songs, you'd be hard pressed to find a better bio. A Soviet Russian émigré (her family moved to the Bronx during Perestroika), Spektor studied classical piano as a child, and has honed her songwriting over six albums across 11 years. Her latest, What We Saw From the Cheap Seats, is the most eclectic yet by a singer-songwriter who has built her career on eclecticism. 4 p.m. at the Lands End stage. Andrew Stout

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