Every festival lineup is built upon a bedrock of buzzy and rising acts whose name might appear in miniature print this go-around but later return with enlarged appreciation and stature.
Take Bon Iver for example, who was just a few lines from the bottom of the bill during Outside Land‘s premiere year in 2008, only to return as a top-tier act this past rendition. The same can be said for other artists currently dominating festivals. Father John Misty, Courtney Barnett, SZA and Portugal. The Man all had their start at the lower half of an Outside Lands poster.
San Francisco’s largest (for-profit) festival — shout-out to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival which pulls in three times the attendance for a free price — returns to Golden Gate Park this week for its 12th edition. Some things haven’t changed since that opening Friday night in August 2008 when Radiohead became the first band to (legally) play in the park at nighttime. Food vendors and breweries continue to share the spotlight alongside the music while the city’s unique summertime climate (read: fog) allows attendees to eschew most of that awful haute couture plaguing other festivals.
The lineup, as always, skillfully seduces ears of any age, as best exhibited by its headliners. Subculture titans Twenty One Pilots rally the youth. Millennial renaissance man-the-myth-the-legend Childish Gambino will likely have a lot to share following this abysmal week in America. You, your mom’s, and your dad’s dad’s favorite songwriter Paul Simon caps the entire weekend.
Interspersed between these larger acts are musicians, singer-songwriters, and rappers who beckon for your attention. They’re small now but mighty in potential. Come Monday morning after the fest, wouldn’t you want a playlist of new-found glory? If you’ve already dropped hundreds of dollars on a ticket, why not spend an hour in the afternoon giving these five acts a chance.
Sutro Stage / Friday / 3:20 PM – 4:10 PM
When Still Woozy, the one-man soul outfit from guitarist Sven Gamsky, released his marquee single “Goodie Bag” in July 2018, he was just a guitar teacher in Oakland making love songs about his girlfriend. One year later, he’s Portland-based and riding a rapid wave comprised of millions of online streams. He is still writing largely about his girlfriend. Still Woozy is either breaking out or broke out depending on who you subscribe to, but he still has plenty of ears to conquer. His mix of danceable beats, slick guitar licks, and everyman lyrics combine to fuse a loose and carefree dance-off. “Well If she had to choose / Me or her mom / I know I wouldn’t last long,” he opines on “Goodie Bag”.
Sutro Stage / Saturday / 1:10 PM – 1:55 PM
The first thing to know about Haley Heynderickx is you have to listen up. Stand as close as you can to the stage or hug a speaker, so you don’t miss a single amusing quip or story from this sometimes-muted Portland singer/songwriter. She splices her set of simply gorgeous folk songs with anecdotes and spontaneous musings on her life. Her debut LP I Need to Start a Garden captures the highs, lows and all the anxious woes associated with post-graduate navigation, like the down-to-earth ambition her album title reflects.
Twin Peaks Stage / Saturday / 3:45 PM – 4:35 PM
It’s probably best to jump below to Tierra Whack‘s opus “Whack World”. A visual and auditory project featuring 15 songs, the video appeared unexpectedly last year to introduce us to the Philly wordsmith’s blend of multi-faceted hip-hop rhymes with the social consciousness of a woke 23-year-old. Then there are the exuberantly colorful outfits she dons matched by the swagger of a person who can tackle a 1,000-piece puzzle (and then take to Twitter to bemoan the difficulty behind such a feat). She’s already signed to Interscope and, as made evident in her video rollout, has complete control over her look and sound. This might be the last time to see her in the daylight.
Sutro / Sunday / 3:40 PM – 4:25 PM
It wasn’t until the release of DJ Koze‘s 2013 album Amygdala that the rest of the world began to wise up to the 46-year-old German producer. Sometimes languid, other times pure disco redux (as heard in his biggest single to date: 2018’s “Pick Up”), DJ Koze shines through his expert manipulation of dug-up hits. Gladys Knight & the Pips, “Ain’t’ No Mountain High Enough”, Marvin Gaye, Bon Iver—no juicy sample is left unspun. The true power move would be to catch his after-party set at the Mezzanine in downtown San Francisco on Friday night to add depth to your Outside Lands weekend.
Panhandle / Sunday / 5:55 PM – 6:35 PM
Although this set occurs rather late in the day, it doesn’t shake the fact that MorMor is on the come up and deserving of another spotlight, especially since his set is up against Leon Bridges and Toro y Moi as Sunday begins to fade away. The Toronto singer crafts groovy indie pop that toggles between guitar or synth leads, while never forfeiting an infectious backbeat. He’s been on the rise since releasing a dynamite debut single in 2018—the show-stopping “Heaven’s Only Wishful”—while doing his best to avoid the bedroom artist pigeonholed.