The big ones, the locals, the global travelers, and Beer Lands at this year's Outside Lands
Perhaps never has man and computer so beautifully collided than with San Francisco digi-rock act Geographer (2:10-2:55pm Saturday, Twin Peaks). Swelling vocal melodies blend so evenly with darting beeps and blurps and laser synths, sometimes deepened by floating violin. It's hard-rocking orchestral pop, operatic robot love, and world travel in a machine. The band paid its dues playing Rock Make, Treasure Island, Live 105's BFD, and now, Outside Lands.
These San Francisco pysch-surf-punks are notorious for their headspinningly prolific songwriting, unpredictable live shows, and spastic energy. Regardless of what happens during Thee Oh Sees (6:05-6:45pm Saturday, Panhandle) set, it'll be an act people are talking about.
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Who everyone will be Tweeting about
Having just premiered barely pronounceable single "XP€N$IV $H1T" ("I rub my dick on XP€N$IV $H1T" being actual lyrics) it's safe to assume that Southern African freak-rap trio Die Antwoord (5:25-6:15pm Friday, Twin Peaks) is going to continue down a path of what-the-fuck-did-I-just-witness trashy splendor. There will be rave wear and Ninja's inexplicable junk-thrusting dance moves, DJ Hi-Tek records spinning, and Yo-Landi's hyper-high chirp.
When Father John Misty (2:55-3:35pm Saturday, Panhandle), a.k.a. J. Tillman of Fleet Foxes, stopped by Bottom of the Hill earlier this year, folks didn't know what hit them. FJM was a wild force on stage, engaging in an ongoing and increasingly odd conversation with the audience, with quips and asides a-plenty in between a hectic set of woozy pop and crunchy-hippie psychedelic jams.
Perhaps not since Janis Joplin, have we heard a lady blues vocalist with pipes this powerful. That wail is a show-stopper. And, four-piece Alabama Shakes (3:50-4:40pm Saturday, Sutro), led by Brittany Howard (she of the powerful pipes), is actually born and raised Alabama, as the band name would imply, meaning its a more authentic experience, it would seem.
After a prolonged break, Santigold (5:10-6pm Sunday, Twin Peaks) dropped long-awaited Master Of My Make-Believe this year, with reggae-flecked party jam single "Disparate Youth," cut through with a machine-gun guitar riff. Clearly, Santigold is no less bold in her return. Both the sound and her avant-pop style will surely absorb those expansive outdoor stages.
Globally relevant bands from far and wide
Sigur Ros is not the only Icelandic band at Outside Lands 2012. If ambient soundscapes aren't your thing, check out the lesser-known folk sextet Of Monsters and Men (5:25-6:25pm Friday, Sutro), which balances catchy melodies with beautifully harmonized vocals. Amadou & Mariam (3:35-4:25pm Sunday, Twin Peaks) met at Mali's Institute for the Young Blind. What the African duo lacks in 20/20 vision they make up for in mesmerizing sound — irresistible hip-hop-and blues-inspired world music. We dare you not to dance. Globally recognized Columbian culture-masher band Bomba Estéreo (6-6:40pm Sunday, Panhandle) mixes in the sounds of Latin America, the Caribbean, reggae, dub, and beyond, with bouncy hip-hop beats. Live, lead vocalist Li Saumet (who this year also released a side-project in which she imagines killing her boyfriend) pumps up the energy tenfold.
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