Now in its eighth year, Outside Lands, San Francisco’s biggest annual music festival, is reminiscent of a precocious, defiant teenager that ran away from home but still remembers their roots.
The three-day festival has consistently booked big-name, international acts since its inception in 2008, though it hasn’t forgotten where it came from. It remained humble when Radiohead and Tom Petty headlined the inaugural festival, when Modest Mouse, M.I.A. and Pearl Jam graced the main stage in 2009 and when Metallica, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young and Skrillex all matched musical wits in 2012.
It didn’t even get cocky when Paul McCartney topped the bill in 2013.
Outside Lands has consistently delivered in pretty much every genre, including those that can’t be neatly folded and stowed in one particular musical category. And, refreshingly, it still manages to sprinkle the lineup with local talent every year.
This year, Bay Area acts represent a record-breaking 20 percent of the lineup. And whether they’re renowned or up-and-coming, these acts represent what Outside Lands is all about — celebrating all the idiosyncrasies that set the Golden City apart. Here are some Nor-Cal natives to look out for this weekend.
Oakland native G-Eazy is a name you catch tossed around on people’s tongues but never really otherwise hear about. The 26-year old Caucasian rapper often gets grouped into the “young, starry-eyed white rapper” stereotype, along with fellow hipster-hop kingpins Macklemore, Asher Roth and Mac Miller.
In fact, if you didn’t hear the dude spit, you’d take one look at him and think he dresses mannequins at the local Urban Outfitters to put himself through school.
But G-Eazy has an authentic, innovative sound that sets him apart. He often uses doo-wop samples in his jams and even remixed “2 Weeks” by the psych folk band Grizzly Bear. Plus you gotta respect the kid’s hustle. He graduated from Loyola University in 2011 and plans to release his fourth studio album in October.
Hailing from Marin, you might recognize Baldwin’s smooth, sultry pipes from several of G-Eazy’s tracks. The 24-year-old indie pop star grew up around music and started her musical career in the Bay as part of an 11-piece band that performed at Golden State Warriors games.
According to the musician’s website, Fantastic Negrito is “a man’s truth told in the form of black roots music.” The Oakland soul singer has had his fair share of ups and downs. The singer hurt his hand in a nearly fatal car accident, leaving him unsure if he could successfully play an instrument again.
But Fantastic Negrito is the true epitome of triumph in the face of adversity. He is the 2015 winner of NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest and his sound and swagger are in a league of their own. He’s anti-pop and unapologetically authentic.
Though this prolific producer/DJ is of Brazilian origin, he now calls the Bay Area home. He’s famous for his avant-garde (he manipulated songs from his personal vinyl record collection for his first three albums), trance-like electronic endeavors that have been featured in countless video games and movies.
His repertoire is particularly impressive for someone who has never had any formal musical training. His live show blends unique audio and visual aspects, much like fellow Bay Area musician and graphic designer, Tycho.
Electronic music producer Charlie Yin received a political economics degree from UC Berkeley before realizing music was his true calling. The San Jose native started playing his ethereal and enchanting “intelligent dance music” under the Giraffage name in 2011.
His song “Even Though,”a collab with fellow electronic music virtuoso XXYYXX, starts out bashful and modest and eventually blossoms into a brash explosion of sound. His tunes are bewilderingly fitting for both dancing and daydreaming.
Toro Y Moi
Though Toro y Moi’s real name is just as cool as his stage name (his full birth name is Chazwick Bradley Bundick), Toro y Moi is a cryptic Spanish-French hybrid meaning “bull and me.”
Bundick is a superstar of modern shoegaze — a genre steeped in reverb and dripping with heavy, distorted instrumentals. Though his distinctly dissonant, yet elegantly polished tracks are his claim to fame, he is also known for his trademark round-rimmed glasses and awe-inspiring afro. He released his fourth album “What For?” earlier this year.
When I ran a quick Google search to learn more about Heartwatch, a couple things came up. First it was pictures of literal watches shaped like hearts, and second, it was articles about coronary heart disease. None of which were about an emerging pop rock quintet from San Francisco.
That’s because Heartwatch didn’t exist two months ago. The electro-pop outfit was formerly known as The Tropics and played under that moniker for several years before becoming Heartwatch earlier this year. Their website claims “Their critically adored live shows take a sonic victory lap through the very best of pop music from every decade since the 70’s, crossing the finish line in the present golden age of west coast music.”
Punchy pop beats, jangling guitar riffs and leading lady Claire George’s saccharine pipes meld together to create the quintessential California sound. Their song “Faultlines” features lines like “Meet me in the middle of the Golden Gate.”
The Devil Makes Three
This mountain music trio from Santa Cruz are no strangers to the festival circuit. They’re Outside Lands veterans and have also played at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in October. They toured with Willie Nelson last Spring and announced a tour with fellow bluegrass rockers Trampled By Turtles later this month.
Their sound is a musical melting pot — collecting bits and pieces of several genres (rockabilly, bluegrass, country and folk to name a few) and effortlessly melding them to make a one-of-a-kind sound.
Raised in Detroit and transplanted in SF, Claude Vonstroke is an EDM maestro. The venerable Bay Area house music label DirtyBird, which puts on underground events throughout the Bay Area, is Vonstroke’s quirky brainchild formed in 2005. His wobbly, infectious electronic dance music is club-ready but will be sure to shake a few hips and bob a few heads in the crowd this weekend.
The Sam Chase
The Sam Chase Facebook page describes their sound as “kick-ass folk”. Frontman Sam Chase and his band, which he dubbed “The Untraditional,” won SF Weekly’s Best of the Bay Readers Poll in 2013 and 2014.
The band’s website says this about their music, which proves you might just need to see to believe:
“He has a voice like a Nun on the lam with a mouthful cigarettes and curse words in a lonely bar, drunkenly dancing next to a broken jukebox. His songs are scribbled, not written, on lipstick and sweat-stained motel bedsheets because he likes the way the ink bleeds. His guitar runs on diesel and leaks like the morning after too much Whiskey. His is a show you’ll probably want to tattoo on your body so everyone will know that you knew him before he was cool.”
Sounds weird and wild enough to fit right in at a festival like Outside Lands, so get ready to let loose during their set.
The Family Crest
The Family Crest is aptly named — it really is like a musical family. With seven core members and a couple hundred members taking part in live shows and recordings, their sound has been described as “orchestral indie rock”, not unlike Broken Social Scene and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes.
The band took a unique approach to developing the musical endeavor, crowdsourcing on popular sites like Craigslist to culminate their unique sound.