1. Plenty of Trans-Am and Budweiser music.
Tom Petty may be second-gen classic rock, but he's certainly classic enough. Meanwhile the Killers are nu-classic rock, with their pretensions to Springsteenian epic-ness and that old-school radio dominance. So basically, there's enough down-the-middle guitar music that the thirty- and forty-something moms and dads in attendance will have plenty to raise their
Buds Heinekens to. Expect whoopin' and hollerin' in the VIP tent. The rest of Speedway Meadow will be too stoned and sun-dazed to object, and if anyone does, well, there's always the EDM igloo.
2. Expect hits from Kanye, and wait before you hate.
Complain about the size of his ego and ambitions all you want, but first consider that Kanye will almost certainly play a greatest-hits set -- not the Yeezus-heavy show he toured on last year. And then ask yourself if a Yeezy greatest-hits set is really a thing to underestimate. We expect a similar reaction to the one Metallica got two years ago: a bunch of people going, "Aw, Kanye, really?" beforehand, and then muttering apologetically to themselves and their friends while walking out of what was undeniably an amazing show.
3. White dudes can rap, too. Sometimes.
Watsky, Atmosphere, and of course Macklemore mean a lot of pale-faced bros holding wireless mics at Outside Lands this year. Also there's Run the Jewels, the deservedly acclaimed, abrasive duo of El-P (who is white) and Killer Mike (who is not). Together with Kanye, they all make this the most rap-heavy Outside Lands lineup ever. Which is a good thing, even if it does involve Macklemore.
4. There's a new, diverse class of locals.
The times, they are a-changin'. This year there's a bunch of newer locals who caught Range Dave's eye. Mikal Cronin will holdup the S.F. garage rock spot, but there are many other Bay Area scenes represented, too, by the likes of Tumbleweed Wanderers, the Brothers Comatose, Trails and Ways, and Finish Ticket. It's good to see a new class make the Bay's biggest for-pay festival -- now let's see how they do on the big stage.
5. The undercard is where it's at.
The strongest part of the 2014 Outside Lands lineup may be the middle, from, say, the Flaming Lips (which, yes, everyone has seen but still probably enjoys) down to, like, Big Freedia. Consider Tycho, SBTRKT, Jenny Lewis, Kacey Musgraves, Phosphorescent, Chvrches, Haim, Chromeo, Spoon: that is a lot of popular -- and good -- midsize artists for one festival bill. The headliners may be more solid than exciting (and Macklemore is bad, and Tiesto is vom), but the rest of the lineup offers a chance to see a lot of what's been strong in indie-ish pop music for the last two years, which is about the most you can ask of a major festival. We might not agree with Outside Land organizers, who told us they think this is their strongest lineup yet. But it's certainly no dud.