Outside Lands 2016: Nine nascent acts you need to see

Celine Teo-Blockey - AXS Contributor
By: AXS Contributor Jul 25, 2016
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You can count on one hand the number of appearances that Radiohead are doing in the US this Summer, and in its ninth year, San Francisco’s Outside Lands Music Festival pulled a rabbit out of the hat with the mighty Radiohead as Saturday's headliners. The festival to be held at Golden Gate Park next week from Aug 5 to 7 also includes the much loved LCD Soundsystem - back from the dead as Friday's headliner, and Lionel Ritchie as its 'legacy' act that will no doubt bring the festival to a fitting close with everyone feeling like they're dancing on the ceiling.

The Bay Area has already been abuzz with excitement as the festival's month-long Summer Pairings Series has been in full swing with a beer and Ramen party held this past weekend; a smokehouse party featuring OSL musical acts this week; and a daily Cheese Lands preview at Long Meadow Ranch until July 31.

Organizers Another Planet Entertainment with co-curators SF Sketchfest have announced an equally exciting comedy lineup with "Portlandia" star Fred Armisen, Adam Devine from "Workaholics", SNL alumni,John Mulaney, plus Oakland residents Natasha Leggero from "Chelsea Lately" and "Another Period" and husband, Moshe Kasher. So if festival-goers need a break from the music there is somewhere to go for a laugh. Having said that, it's worth noting that The Muppets will be appearing on one of the festival's bigger musical stages on Sunday afternoon. Seeing is believing!

But let's face it, with over 85 musical acts and crowd-pleasers such as electronic wunderkind Grimes, hip hop favorites - Anderson Paak, Chance The Rapper and Vince Staples, unwilling pop songstress Lana Del Rey, indie darlings, Beach House, and of course fan favorites Sufjan Stevens and The Last Shadow Puppets, you'll be lucky if you see all the acts that drew you to initially buy that wristband. And that's not forgetting homegrown acts like Rogue Wave and Fantastic Negrito.

As APE has now released the daily schedule, it's imperative that you prioritize your must-sees but leave ample time to visit the Wine Tents, have a Donut Burger, watch a street artist at work on the one-off installations and catch a comedy act. 

Does it sound like a lot to do?  Well, just don't make the mistake of coming late in the day, some of the best acts on the bill are there to be discovered. Playing the early if not first slots of the day, they are worth the trek as they could likely become your favorite new band. So to celebrate nine years of Outside Lands, here's the scoop on nine nascent acts that you need to see.

  • The Oh Hellos
    Oh say hello to the tender folk-rock of brother and sister, Tyler and Maggie Heath. Tyler's voice has the raspy sweetness of Glen Hansard an
    Courtesy of The Oh Hellos Facebook

    Oh say hello to the tender folk-rock of brother and sister, Tyler and Maggie Heath. Tyler's voice has the raspy sweetness of Glen Hansard and harmonizes beautifully with sister, Maggie. As a nine-piece the band comes complete with violin and accordion, delivering the kind of rousing folk rock that made Mumford & Sons such darlings the first time round. After their critically-acclaimed 2012 debut, Through the Deep, Dark Valley, The Oh Hellos return with new album Dear Wormwood inspired by the works of CS Lewis.

    When: 1.20 to 2.05pm. Sun, Aug 7

    Where: Sutro Stage

  • Wet
    Brooklyn trio Wet is another band that sparked a bidding war when they first appeared on the Brooklyn scene. Fronted by Kelly Zutrau, with p
    Photo by Ben Rayner

    Brooklyn trio Wet is another band that sparked a bidding war when they first appeared on the Brooklyn scene. Fronted by Kelly Zutrau, with producer/multi-instrumentalist Joe Valle and guitarist Marty Sulkow, their 2013 self-titled EP on Neon Gold got folks to pay attention to them. Now signed to Columbia Records, Wet finally released their much-anticipated debut LP Don't You this January and will be busy touring it this Fall. Once a musical theatre kid who thought she might be on Broadway by the time she was 20, Zutrau's love for '90s R&B led her to TLC, Destiny's Child and later, Joanna Newsom and Cat Power before the casual band started gigging while they were at University. Zutrau's quivering vocals calls to mind '90s one-hit wonder, Martika but her songwriting is astute and charged with an intimacy. Coupled with the sonic production that is lush or sparse when needed, Wet elevates the synth-pop game. A particular standout is “Deadwater” where she sings “…if my legs were longer that it would carry us further…” biting lyrics juxtaposed over its dreamy background that hold its sway on the discerning listener.

     When: 2.30 to 3.30pm. Fri, Aug 5

    Where: Sutro Stage

     

  • Whitney
    From the ashes of the Smith Westerns come Chicago alt-folk group Whitney. Made up of roommates Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek, the duo found
    Courtesy of Whitney Facebook

    From the ashes of the Smith Westerns come Chicago alt-folk group Whitney. Made up of roommates Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek, the duo found themselves songwriting together in the last days of their old band as they both went through breakups. Drummer Ehrlich then took on vocal duties, showing off his indie poppy-falsetto peppered with hints of R&B that on their debut, Light Upon The Lake ,pops with the big brass sound of Beirut. They have a mutual love for The Band which famously boasts legendary drummer, Levon Helm who also sang; Neil Young; and New Orleans producer, Allen Toussaint. Produced by Jonathan Rado, the album shines with hints of their influences ending with a countrified sound, an absence of delays and little reverb. “Golden Days” an ode to their ex-girlfriends is reminiscent of Tennessee band Big Star. While “No Woman” with its wailing falsetto measured against some lovely orchestration – slow bongos, solitary trumpet and gentle fretwork guitar -- is an instant winner. 

    When: 12 to 12.45pm. Fri, Aug 5

    Where: Sutro Stage

  • Cloves
    Australian Kaity Dunstan sounds a lot like Adele, except she sings more interesting songs, aided by the moody production feels of London Gra
    Courtesy of Cloves Facebook

    Australian Kaity Dunstan sounds a lot like Adele, except she sings more interesting songs, aided by the moody production feels of London Grammar. Her voice also calls to mind fellow Australian, Meg Mac’s vocals but while Mac has that Sam Smith edge, Cloves has the drama of Lana Del Rey. Her heroes however are just as old school - Etta James, Eva Cassidy and Amy Winehouse who sung like she was from a different era. All women who also sang with no filters, their voices gave you a window to their souls, often their demons in plain sight. If Cloves sounds like an old soul, she had a head start singing in Melbourne dive bars with her older sister when she was only 13. Catch her while she’s still wearing her boyfriend’s t-shirt and exuding an easy style where her voice – scented and heady is honest and haunting, ultimately irresistible.  

    When: 1.20 to 2pm. Sun, Aug 7

    Where: Panhandle Stage

  • Methyl Ethel
    It won’t take you much to get hooked into 4AD’s latest signing. Hailing from the same city that brought you Tame Impala, Methyl Ethel’s ethe
    Courtesy of Grandstand Media

    It won’t take you much to get hooked into 4AD’s latest signing. Hailing from the same city that brought you Tame Impala, Methyl Ethel’s ethereal soundscapes call to mind Cocteau Twins and the best of the dream pop fraternity with a uniquely Australian perspective that is all-at-once universal. Standout tunes of their spectacular debut Oh Inhuman Spectacle include “Twilight Driving”, "Rogues" and “Idee Fixe”. It was written by the classically-trained, multi-instrumentalist, Jake Webb while obviously going through heartbreak. To flesh out these essentially bedroom recordings, he got to pick from the cream of Perth’s backyard music scene. With Thom Stewart (bass) and Chris Wright (drums), Methyl Ethel have been busy touring and working on a new album. Go on, have a whiff.

    When: 12 to 12.40pm. Sat, Aug 6

    Where: Panhandle Stage

  • Kamasi Washington
    LA saxophonist Kamasi Washington has been playing jazz since he was a teenager -- in backyards, dance clubs and as part of the LA Multi Scho
    Courtesy of Brainfeeder

    LA saxophonist Kamasi Washington has been playing jazz since he was a teenager -- in backyards, dance clubs and as part of the LA Multi School Jazz Band. As a kid when his musician father made him take up an instrument like his other six siblings, he chose the clarinet but was more interested in the hip hop stylings of NWA. This has all served him well as Washington is now best known for his collaboration with Kendrick Lamar on his Grammy winning To Pimp A Butterfly.  His first gig out of high school was as a member of Snoop Dogg's band but it is The Epic his sprawling, three-disc debut album on Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label that has revealed his true potency as a jazz leader poised to introduce the genre to a new generation and mark its resurgence. Washington's two shows at Noise Pop earlier this year, sold out in a heartbeat. It would be criminal if you neglected to dip your toes into the world of this cosmic jazz genius.

    When: 12 to 12.45pm. Sun, Aug 7

    Where: Lands End Stage

  • Heron Oblivion
    While many a Bay Area band was decamping to less inhospitable cities where rents didn’t make it impossible to indulge in a life of art, musi
    Courtesy of Sub Pop Records

    While many a Bay Area band was decamping to less inhospitable cities where rents didn’t make it impossible to indulge in a life of art, music and creativity, Meg Baird moved to San Francisco to be with her partner, Charlie Saufley. Baird hails from Philadelphia and was once part of the East Coast folk-rock band, Esper. Together with Saufley from San Francisco’s Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound they have assembled a super folk rock-psych noise group with Comets of Fire's Ethan Miller and Noel Von Harmonson. Baird was originally brought into the band as a drummer but as the dynamics evolved it allowed space for her to sing and the result is Pentangle-ish with virtuoso guitars that have slipped out of a psychedelic ‘60s wormhole. But there is ample noise here too, the kind Sonic Youth would have liked back in the day and worshippers at the altar of any one of these genres will still flock to in droves today.

    When: 12 to 12.40pm. Sun, Aug 7

    Where: Panhandle Stage

  • Haelos
    This London trio of Lotti Benardout, Dom Goldsmith and Arthur Delaney  got on Coachella's 2016 line-up without even releasing a debut album.
    Photo by Dave Ma, courtesy of Matador Records

    This London trio of Lotti Benardout, Dom Goldsmith and Arthur Delaney  got on Coachella's 2016 line-up without even releasing a debut album. They have since released Full Circle on Matador Records to raves in the music press. Back in 2014, it was the casual music listeners on Soundcloud that helped shoot their first single "Dust" to the top of Hype Machine in the 24 hours after they had uploaded the track. They have each been in different bands and the music scene for 12 to 15 years but bonded over a mutual love for the ‘90s Bristol sound of Portishead and DJ collective, The Wild Bunch. Deciding this time they would make music for themselves they have written tracks such as “Pray” - dripping with inspired trip hop production, thought-provoking lyrics and front-woman, Benardout's menacing vocals. They are not to be missed.

     When: 2.45 to 3.25pm. Sun, Aug 7  

    Where: Panhandle Stage

     

  • Declan McKenna
    Only 16 when he won Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent Competition last year, Brit schoolboy Declan McKenna has already scored a UK hit with “Bra
    Courtesy of Columbia Records

    Only 16 when he won Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent Competition last year, Brit schoolboy Declan McKenna has already scored a UK hit with “Brazil”. It’s addictive with Johnny Marr-shimmery guitars and Morrissey’s penchant for sarcasm as he sings about the corruption that has plagued the beautiful game. And chides FIFA's ex-President Sepp Blatter for bringing the competition to Brazil without attempting to give back to communities there. McKenna shot to prominence when he won the coveted spot on the Glastonbury stage based on the strength of a local talent show and sparked a label bidding war. And no wonder, he is shaping up to be the voice of his generation, authentic and refreshing - he pens songs beyond his sweatshirt and the tired tropes of teenage love. Follow-up singles  “Paracetamol” tackles the tricky issue of transgender kids and “Bethlehem” takes aim at religion. There is hope yet.

     When: 1.25 - 2.05pm. Sat, Aug 6

    Where: Panhandle Stage

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