Outside Lands 2018: Get there early for newcomers Jessie Reyez, Pale Waves and Grass Lands

Outside Lands returns to Golden Gate Park next week, Aug.10 to 12 for its eleventh installment with the high-drama vocals of Saturday’s headliner Florence & The Machine, on the heels of her High As Hope album. Following a string of mega-hits and his third consecutive No.1 album The Weeknd will headline opening night, while the first female legacy act, Janet Jackson will close the festival out in a suitable fashion, with her career-spanning set and flawless choreography. Elevating the festival experience even further will be a newly christened Grass Lands

A pioneer in introducing Wine Lands, Beer Lands and the concept of gourmet dining options - an idea that is de riguer at festivals these days - Outside Lands will introduce another first this year: Grass Lands. Over-21 festival-goers can indulge in things pot-related – nibbles, lemonade, tips on how to tend to your own greenhouse and even make a flower crown using marijuana flora. But forget about actually smoking it! Or buying anything. Grass Lands is there to celebrate the legalization of Cannabis and educate the curious. Still, it is the only major festival to incorporate it in their mainstream lineup.

What you will be able to take in are some of the acts that have blown up recently: Teen wunderkind Billie Eilish who shows no sign of slowing down with her meteoric chart ascent and sold out tours; Tash Sultana who not long ago was still a busker on Melbourne’s streets; and the return of The Internet with their excellent fourth album, Hive Mind.

Acts below the headliners and in the mid-tier range worth the 3-day ticket include Beck and other indie favorites: Father John Misty, Broken Social Scene, Perfume Genius, Carly Rae Jepsen, Bon Iver and Portugal. The Man. Janelle Monae, N.E.R.D. and rap favorite Future will also be crowd favorites while electronic staples such as Chvrches, Jamie xx, James Blake, Big Gigantic and Odesza will please the EDM hordes.

As always, in a bounty of more than 100 musical acts, it’s easy to overlook the early acts, the newcomers. A pity that Australian favorites Gang of Youths pulled out of opening the Lands End stage on Saturday. They will be sorely missed.  However, there is no shortage of acts to make you get to the gates when they open; from dark-pop ingénues to country music politicos, folk-rockers to goth-poppers. Here’s our list of top eight acts not to be missed at Outside Lands 2018.


1)Pale Waves  

Powdered pale faces contrasted against black-smudge eyeliner and dark lipstick may scream Goth and emo, but make no mistake, Pale Waves make cheeky pop music: A cross between The Cure and Debbie Gibson. The band started when Heather Baron-Gracie and Ciara Doran met at University in Manchester and started writing stripped back acoustics songs, inspired by The Smiths and Daughter. They soon enlisted bassist Charlie Wood and guitarist Hugo Silvani to flesh out the big '80s electro sounds they were conjuring. Banger "There's A Honey" recalls The m1975 and Gibson's "Electric Youth" while the rest of their poppy-synth singles "Television Romance," "Noises" and "Kiss" are just as easy on the ears. Their debut full length, My Mind Makes Noises which will be released next month, is produced by none other than 1975's Matt Healy

When: Saturday, Aug 11. From 1:05 to 1:50 p.m.
Where: Lands End


2)Nick Mulvey

British singer/songwriter Nick Mulvey is the exact sort of artist you want to hear among the storied Golden Gate Park groves. His folk-pop leanings are informed by a studious love for Afro-Cuban rhythms and spurred on by an activist's heart. Mulvey first came to prominence as the hang drummer in the 2008 Mercury-nominated instrumental jazz outfit, the Portico Quartet. He proved himself a voice to be reckoned with when his solo debut First Mind also earned a Mercury nomination in 2014. His 2017 follow up Wake Up Now tackled complicated social issues from fracking to the refugee crisis with moving, soul-soothing songs such as "Myela," "We Are Never Apart" and "Mountain To Move."  

When: Friday, Aug. 10. From 12:15 to 1 p.m.
Where: Sutro

3) Hobo Johnson & The Lovemakers 

After Greta Gerwig's Ladybird, Sacramento is again in the spotlight with Hobo Johnson & The Lovemakers whose titular "Peach Scone" has racked up views of over 8.9 million, since NPR gave it a special mention as "Entries Public Radio Loves" in May. When 19-year-old Frank Lopes found himself living in his car after being thrown out of his home, he wrote his first album - 1994 Toyota Corolla - and voila, his Hobo Johnson alter ego was born! His music was getting hardly any traction when his bandmate recommended uploading Live From Oak Park, their homespun backyard videos. He even uploaded "Dear Labels," urging record companies to sign him. "It'll be so great. You'll make so much money off me," he sings with the most earnest of awkward smiles. Then he submitted "Peach Scone" - a stream-of-consciousness, spoken word ditty with a punkish charm - to this year's Tiny Desk Contest and became a viral sensation. Now the 24-year-old has L.A. management, is currently touring with his band in the U.K. and deciding which major label to sign with.

When: Sunday, Aug.12. From 1:10 to 1:55 p.m.
Where: Sutro 


4)Margo Price 

Isn't it great that country music doesn't have to be just about driving trucks, bro party anthems and a man's achy breaky heart? Margo Price has in spades experiences of drama and tragedy drawn from her own life that made for great storytelling on her 2016 debut Midwest Farmer's Daughter.  On "Hands of Time" she tells of her father losing his farm when she was two, and all she's ever wanted to do was to buy it back so her family could be together again. She sings of losing a baby. All the bad men she's encountered. And of drinking. Her voice sharp, crystal clear and soaring when need be. Her storytelling, unhurried and honest, devoid of corny hooks. She is cut from the cloth of Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton. But Price had been knocking about on Nashville's Music Row for almost a decade, she and her husband pawned their wedding ring to cut the record at Sun Studios, in Memphis. It was rejected by dozens of labels before Jack White, drawn to its lo-fi authenticity released it on his Third Man Records. All American Made, her follow-up similarly deals with issues such as consumerism and poverty in the so-called red states: "All the mid-west farms are turning into plastic homes.” She also sings of sexual discrimination (Pay Gap) and does a quiet steel-pedal duet with Willie Nelson (Learning To Lose). Margo Price making country music great again. 

When: Friday, Aug. 10. From 2:45 to 3:30 p.m.
Where: Sutro

5)Durand Jones & The Indications 

In 2012, Durand Jones left small-town Louisiana with his alto saxophone. He was headed for Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music, with hopes to carve out a career in classical music. There, he met members of The Indications. First, the musical bons amis hung out on Sundays, swapping their favorite classic 45s. Before long they were jamming together, then performing on stage. In 2016, they recorded their self-titled debut as a one-off project for a rumored paltry sum of less than $500; they did all meet at music school where they studied audio engineering, never mind that they recorded with an American Idol karaoke mic. Catching the Daptone Records revival wave, their old school soul also belied their love for modern bands such as Alabama Shakes. Listen out for tracks like the Sam Cook-inspired "Make A Change," and "True Love" where Jones' His butter-will-melt vocals are at their smoothest in it. Offering a nice counterpoint is the dreamy "Is It Any Wonder?" which sees the drummer, Aaron Frazer taking on vocal duties.

When: Sunday, Aug. 12. From 12:45 to 1.30 p.m.
Where: Lands End


6)Olivia O’Brien 

“Love ain’t a thing in L.A.,” sings 18-year-old Bay Area-native Olivia O’Brien on her single "No Love." Barely out of her teens, she was eager to split wine country to make a name in Lalaland. It didn't take O'Brien long to figure out the pitfalls of chasing her dreams in Hollywood. Still, she does well in channeling it into her art. O'Brien has been writing and uploading songs to SoundCloud since she was in High School and has a winning, distinct, vocal style. She got a jumpstart to her career when rapper Gnash came across her music on Soundcloud and reached out to her. Upon hearing “i hate you, i love you,” a song that she originally wrote, he invited her to record it as a duet with him. It cracked Billboard's Top 10 and she's since performed with him on Late Night with Seth Myers and BBC's Live Lounge. There's no shortage of ingenues in the mold of Lorde or Billie Eilish at Outside Lands this year but O'Brien and her It's Not That Deep EP shows the most promise. 

When: Friday, Aug 10. From 2.:55 to 3:35 p.m.
Where: Panhandle


7)Dermot Kennedy 

A standout at SXSW this year, Ireland’s Dermot Kennedy is blessed with the natural full-throated vocals that have been honed to perfection from busking the streets of Dublin. More unusual, Kennedy's music also harnesses the electronic stylings you might find on a rap album. Skitterish glibs, electronic basslines and looped vocals paint atmospherics as wide as his voice is deep. It echoes Bon Iver’s self-titled second record or Iver’s more interesting other project Volcano Choir; where the autotune is put to good use. Kennedy’s early influences also includes 50 cents which explains his present love for rap and how it informs his songwriting. Already touted as one to watch, he doesn't even have an album yet but watch out for his viral Spotify hit "After Rain," the Taylor Swift-approved "Boston" and most recent release "Young and Free."

When: Friday, Aug. 10. From 1:30 to 2:15 p.m. 
Where: Sutro


8)Jessie Reyez

Toronto’s Jessie Reyez was featured on Allan Rayman's superb 2017 debut Roadhouse 01, on one of its standout tracks "Repeat." It showcased perfectly her gravelly-vocals, full of emotion and possessing somewhat the spirit of Amy Winehouse. Born to Columbian parents, Reyez knew she was blessed with a special talent and always had her heart set on being a singer. Unfortunately, early on she was exposed to the misogyny and violent sexism that young women encounter in the music industry. Shaken, it didn't stop her from pursuing her dream and soon her Youtube covers of Chance The Rapper found their way to him. Last year, she released her Kiddo EP and bravely, also made a short film of her painful experience predating the #metoo movement. She released it with Kiddo's most potent track "Gatekeeper." 

When: Saturday, Aug. 11. From 12:40 to 1:25 p.m.
Where: Twin Peaks

Head over to www.sfoutsidelands.com for tickets.