The Outside Lands lineup came out today, which means it's time to argue about whether it's good or kinda good or a total disappointment. Overall, we think the lineup is definitely less compelling than last year, but still reasonably strong. Despite a few complaints (see below), the festival's reputation as a rising player on the national circuit will be maintained. Here are five aspects of this year's lineup that particularly stand out to us. (And remember, the festival continues to add acts even after today's announcement.)
1. There's almost no rap.
As in, one act: the throwback hip-hop outfit Jurassic 5. That's it. For being such a popular genre nationally -- and such an influential one regionally -- it's kind of amazing how underrepresented it is at Outside Lands. And anyone who says live rap sucks obviously wasn't at Big Boi's set last year.
2. It's heavy on nostalgia.
Going through the lineup from top to bottom is to be confronted by a bunch of acts still riding the afterglow from their long-departed heyday. There's of course Paul McCartney, whose most popular songs are nearly 50 years old. (But don't worry, his set will be great.) There's Red Hot Chili Peppers, who will conjure a side of the '90s that hasn't yet been salvaged for cool-kid nostalgia. Meanwhile, Nine Inch Nails represent a side of the '90s that has been salvaged -- a bit. And D'Angelo will reprise the oddball flavor of Clinton-era R&B. Hall & Oates satisfy the '80s fetish; Willie Nelson takes us back to the '60s and '70s; and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, despite their new album, send us to the Lower East Side circa 2002. It's like a time machine, where festival attendees get to choose whatever musical-decade destination they'd prefer.
3. The indie acts are safer than they are exciting.
The top of the bill holds a trinity of collared-shirt indie rock: the National, Grizzly Bear, and Phoenix. All are popular, all are fine, and all are kinda dull. There are some slightly edgier acts down the bill, like Kurt Vile, Wavves, the Men, Youth Lagoon, and Smith Westerns. Granted, there are a few more genre-blurring acts in there like Chromatics, MS MR, and Jessie Ware, but even those are now safe and reliable buzz-generators. There's no one really weird or dangerous on the bill, no Ariel Pink, Oneohtrix Point Never, or even an oddball/nostalgia act like Wire. At least not so far. If Coachella brought out Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, why can't the band's hometown music festival?
4. It's still pretty rootsy and jammy.
Thankfully we dodged the Mumford and Sons bullet, but prepare yourself for plenty of old-timey vests, acoustic guitars, and foot-stomping. Outside Lands is heavy on roots-rockers with jam potential, lining up artists like Dawes, Band of Horses, The Head & the Heart, the Mother Hips, and even, to some degree, Willie Nelson and the Tallest Man on Earth. You could also squint and add the rootsy southern funk of Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue and Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk to this category. But of course, rootsy, jammy music is big in the Bay Area and Northern California, so this is a must-have category for the region's big festival.
5. The EDM artists are big and broadly appealing.
Every big festival nowadays has to throw in some large-type EDM names to keep the furry-legging crowd happy, and Outside Lands supplies some major players this year. Kaskade, it's worth remembering, got his start right here in San Francisco. Pretty Lights will bring out the Burner contingent. Zedd is huge with the kids, while Dillon Francis is getting there. And almost everyone can agree on A-Trak. For those who come to Outside Lands to dance, there should be plenty of options.
What do you think of the lineup? Tell us below.