Singing softly, carrying big ideas

Singer-Songwriter Issue: More folks to look out for at Outside Lands
Regina Spektor


Atkins would probably do well on American Idol. Her big, bellowing voice sounds tailor-made for balladeering, and breathy, heartbroken pixie girls have edged talent like hers out of the indie market. But Atkins refuses to cover "Bridge Over Troubled Water," and has instead crafted a huge power-pop sound all on her own. (Laura Mojonnier)

1:40 p.m. Sun/24, Presidio stage, Lindley Meadow


Is the Venezuelan-bred naturalismo god a freak-gypsy poet-prophet, or just a rambling, acid-damaged ghost of San Francisco past? You decide, long-haired child. (Mojonnier)

2:15 p.m. Sat/23, Sutro stage, Lindley Meadow


Which one's Bon? And is this really a ... singer-songwriter? Regardless, Justin Vernon has made a gorg album — multitracked vocals and all — with For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar). (Kimberly Chun)

3:10 p.m. Sun/24, Presidio stage, Lindley Meadow


Known as much for his musical range as his idiosyncratic artistic sense, Beck's songs veer from dadaist dance tunes —à la Guero (Interscope, 2005) — to melancholy blues ballads like those on Sea Change (Geffen, 2002). He's come a long way from 1994's single "Loser" with his latest album, Modern Guilt (Interscope), a collaboration with coproducer Danger Mouse and guest Cat Power, proving that he's no one-hit wonder, but rather a truly multidimensional songwriter. (Molly Freedenberg)

6:40 p.m. Fri/22, Sutro stage, Lindley Meadow


It isn't easy to overshadow Ani DiFranco — especially in a concert hall filled with her fans. But that's exactly what Bird did when he opened for the quintessential singer-songwriter on her 2005 tour. Bird's spectacular vocal and musical abilities — particularly his trademark whistling and violin playing — are mesmerizing. But even more so is his ability to weave beautiful, emotionally honest songs from so many kinds of lyrical and musical threads. The combination has brought him not only acclaim, including a position blogging about his songwriting process for the New York Times, but status as an indie heartthrob. (Freedenberg)

3:35 p.m. Sun/24, Twin Peaks stage, Speedway Meadow


Polished Versatility is the SF singer-songwriter's middle name, his first is Jackie, but fans call him their own personal Roots Savant. (Chun)

1 p.m. Sun/24, Lands End stage, Polo Fields


Don't you know you gotta water sunshine? The fiercely independent SF singer-songwriter has worked with all manner of great artists round town, including Ches Smith, Ara Anderson, Etienne de Rocher, and Jolie Holland. (Chun)

3 p.m. Sat/23, Presidio stage, Lindley Meadow


So get off McKay's back and take your ape-ish size 12 shoes off her madcap persona because, as the New York City singer-songwriter drawls on "Identity Theft," "I'm tired of maturity, airport and security, running from the thought police, fighting with the go-betweens." Yes, I hear Bob Dylan in those wildly loopy lines, but you gotta love the musical theater-inspired, wittily whittled wordsmith's divine verbosity — via songs that leave 'em crying, with glee, at the disco. (Chun)

4:20 p.m. Sat/23, Panhandle stage, Speedway Meadow


Is it Spektor's old world beauty or postmodern songwriting — both evident in her breakthrough video "Fidelity" — that charms audiences so much? We think it's probably both, though her distinctive vocal style, songs that read more like short stories, creativity with instrumentation, and magnetism onstage are surely what have brought the Russian-born chanteuse so much success.

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