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Big Rock Prelude: Where to Point Your Ears During Outside Lands, Other Than Toward the Headliners 

Tuesday, Aug 5 2014
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Of course Kanye. Of course the Flaming Lips. And, yes, of course Tom Petty (because how much longer will the Heartbreakers be around?) But for those of us plunking upwards of $100 per day on this weekend's Outside Lands music festival, there's more to look forward to than just big names. We haven't crunched the numbers à la Nate Silver, but we're willing to guess most will haphazardly fling themselves at Golden Gate Park without much of a plan as to which openers to see. But like your mom always said, planning is wise — so here's our day-by-day picks of the must-see non-headliners at Outside Lands 2014.

Friday

We hope you called in sick to make the most of your opening day ticket, because it's of paramount importance that you catch Phosphorescent at 2:30 p.m. on the Sutro stage. That the man who sold out the Independent and lent his heartbreaking "Song for Zula" to The Spectacular Now and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has been relegated to such an early spot is either an injustice or a treat. Hope for the latter and bask in your good fortune.

You'll then be primed to watch Warpaint take the Twin Peaks stage at 3:40 p.m. The band's self-titled second record was last year's sexiest slab of druggy, proggy analog post-rock, proudly produced by Flood and lying somewhere between the otherworldy thrum of PJ Harvey and the feral primitivism of Josh Homme's Desert Sessions. It's worth the pains of beating the pre-dusk crowd, if only to watch Warpaint attempt to pull off those lush ambitious songs live.

Before breaking for a bite, catch Chromeo at 4:50 p.m. on the Lands End stage, as the group indulges in some deep electro-funk while Hebraic singer Dave 1 and Lebanese-born P-Thugg manifest the possibility of peace in the Middle East. Its recent "Come Alive" may have been used to sell milk, but its electrocuted Hall & Oates vibe is so infectious it'll carry your booty through the half-dozen cocktails you'll have had by then.

Saturday

The weekend begins in earnest: Although they seem like such night owls, you'd be remiss to come after L.A.'s Dum Dum Girls play the Lands End at 12:20 p.m. Their romantic contemporary mope-rock is like Yeah Yeah Yeahs on muscle relaxants. As proven by the recent, VICE-directed music video for "Are You Okay?" — a creepy existential murder mystery written by novelist Bret Easton Ellis — Dum Dum Girls would sound perfect in a David Lynch film.

From there, we highly recommend you lighten things up with Improv4Humans, a revue of L.A.-based Upright Citizens' Brigade Theater that takes over The Barbary at 2:15 p.m. Those of you unfamiliar with Scott Aukerman's Comedy Bang Bang television show and podcast may not know the multifaceted standups and impressionists Matt Besser and Seth Morris by name, though fans of Orange is the New Black will recognize Lauren Lapkus, who played that show's softhearted junior prison guard, Susan Fischer. Rest assured, these are the shining lights of L.A. comedy, and the chance to see them perform without a net is not one to be taken lightly.

Local instrumental dream rock outfit Tycho takes the Twin Peaks stage at 3:40 p.m., conjuring what is probably the closest thing imaginable to the sound of life in S.F. Though Tycho would be ideal right at sunset, this chill-out-room/post-rock trio offers a chance to close your eyes and relax before epic headliners assail your eardrums for the rest of the evening.

Sunday

Chvrches hit Lands End at 3:10 p.m., with deep cinematic grooves beneath pint-size chanteuse Lauren Mayberry's soaring vocals. Last year's The Bones of What You Believe screamed forth on the wings of breakout track "The Mother We Share," a Michael Bay-sized take on witch house that took both dancefloors and earbuds by storm. Chvrches should offer an ideal combination of density and immediacy to start the last day of the festival.

Indie pop icon Jenny Lewis takes the Sutro stage at 3:50 p.m. with what will be, by Aug. 10, her 1-week-old third solo record, The Voyager. If first single "Just One of the Guys" (whose video features, among other things, Anne Hathaway in drag) is any indication, expect big pop unafraid of bombast, honest without being confessional, and gentle without being twee.

At 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on The Barbary stage, you'll find the Stars of Silicon Valley. No, not Sergei Brin and Elon Musk (though that could be cool); this will feature the stars of Mike Judge's HBO show Silicon Valley: Kumail Nanjiani, TJ Miller, and Thomas Middleditch, the creators of the show's fictional Pied Piper application. Whether or not you've watched the program, Miller and Nanjiani are forces of nature, and will riff so hard that you'll likely be in tears when the set is up. It should be the perfect prelude to an evening of big rock beneath the fog.

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Alee Karim

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