OSL 2014 Poster (DKNG Studios)Outside Lands 2014 show poster (DKNG Studios)

It’s that time of year again – the yearning masses will descend upon San Francisco this weekend for the City’s now hallmark summer musical experience Outside Lands. Yep, the seventh edition of the gigantic gig in Golden Gate Park kicks off Friday at noon and, as you’ve undoubtedly learned by now, it will be headlined by none other than Kanye, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, and The Killers.

Headliners can be hit-or-miss, but the strength of Outside Lands (or any festival, for that matter) typically lies in the undercard. Sure, you may get the privilege of witnessing a Kanye rant, and you’ll no doubt catch stirring renditions of “Refugee” and “Smile Like You Mean It”, but what’s going to keep your attention the rest of the weekend?

Well, I’m here to (hopefully) help answer that question, and believe me – there is plenty to get excited about before the sun goes down and the stars come out over the Polo Fields. Get the full scoop on some of the gems in Outside Lands 2014’s lineup, and listen to Spotify playlist of those acts below.

Friday, August 8

The first act to take the stage at Outside Lands 2014 will be Nasvhille’s Rayland Baxter, and this is not a set that you want to miss. Baxter’s brand of driving and emotional folk rock calls to mind a revival, first making waves on his 2012 debut LP Feathers and Fishhooks followed by last year’s equally stirring Ashkelon EP. He and his touring band are sure to lift the spirits of the early birds on Friday afternoon (and if you’re shelling out almost $300 for a 3-day ticket, you damn well better be there for the opening freakin’ bands).

Next up is The Soul Rebels, an eight-piece brass band from New Orleans that is an excellent choice to lead off the music on the Lands End Stage (the festival’s main stage). Get on out to the Polo Fields early and be sure to get your groove on with this brilliant ensemble.

If you have yet to hear Bleachers‘ insanely catchy debut LP Strange Desire, you’re missing out on one of the year’s best pop albums. Fronted by Jack Antonoff of Fun and (formerly) Steel Train, the band has stormed the scene with a record chock full of summery indie pop like “I Wanna Get Better”. Don’t miss out on this chance to catch Bleachers’ small stage performance before they’re playing cavernous arenas and amphitheaters like Antonoff’s more well-known band.

Brooklyn-via-Athens, Georgia-via-Alabama indie folk act Phosphorescent (the project of Matthew Houck) continues to ride high on the success of his seventh studio album Muchacho, released last year on Dead Oceans. If the fog burns off on Friday (it’s supposed too, but it probably won’t last long), there may be no better place to be than relaxing in the sun in front of the Sutro Stage for this ultra chill set.

The good vibes will continue with LA’s Warpaint and their dreamy, psychedelic indie pop rock, before SF’s own Mikal Cronin takes the Panhandle stage in his biggest hometown appearance to-date. Cronin, whose sophomore album MCII made numerous Best of 2013 lists, recently dropped the new track “Soul In Motion” as the a-side to the latest LAMC release.

As the day begins to wind to an end, Oregon’s Typhoon – an 11-piece indie rock outfit that released its latest LP White Lighter in 2013 – will provide the soundtrack to the sunset, a relaxed entree into what will be no doubt be an insane scene for Kanye’s headlining set.

But remember – if you really have a distaste for Mr. Kardashian, you can always check out Arctic Monkeys, who still put on a blazing rock show after twelve years and five records.

Saturday, August 9

L.A.-based shoegazers (and Bay Bridged favs) Dum Dum Girls open the Lands End Stage on Saturday, and the band may just be the perfect cure for your hangover from Friday night. Australia’s latest psychedelic explosion Jagwar Ma – purveyors of so-called “indietronica,” an intoxicating blend of rock and electronic music – return to San Francisco for the first time since their triumphant two-night stand at The Fillmore in April and for sixth time since the release of their debut full-length Howlin’ one year ago.

City boy Christopher Owens will release his second post-Girls solo effort A New Testament on September 29, and the first track “Nothing More Than Everything To Me” has a decidedly rockabilly sound. His Outside Lands set on Saturday may provide a glimpse into the rest of the record, so we can see whether it’s a complete departure from 2013’s Lysandre.

SF-via-Sacramento’s Scott Hansen (aka Tycho) is another local on the Outside Lands lineup, apparently finding time away from his coffee runs to Tim Hortons with Deadmau5. The ambient soundscapes of his new record Awake should be perfectly trippy in the afternoon sun.

After Tycho it’s time for a couple oldies but goodies. First is Deer Tick, the (allegedly formerly) rowdy quintet from Providence led by John McCauley. The band released their fifth record Negativity last year and has touring pretty much nonstop ever since (and before the album, too, actually).

Then, of course, come indie legends Death Cab for Cutie, who will be warming up the Lands End Stage for Petty the day after they play to a full house at The Independent for one of the Outside Lands Night Shows (that gig sold out seemingly immediately). Ben Gibbard and company reportedly began work on their eighth studio album last fall, but no word yet on a release date – so keep your fingers crossed that they treat the crowd to a few previews of the record.

Sunday, August 10

No strangers to Northern California, Woods apparently just decided to shack up here for a whole week, hosting and playing the annual Woodsist Festival at Big Sur on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week before traveling up the coast for Outside Lands. After they play their Golden Gate Park set on Sunday, they head south for the second installment of Woodsist Fest at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown the following weekend. Their newly released LP With Light and With Love is highly recommended listening if you’re into that whole brilliantly conceived and moving folk rock thing.

Rapper, poet, San Francisco University High School alum, and current LA resident (George) Watsky plays the Twin Peaks stage, surely looking for a energetic homecoming. This incredibly talented lyricist and storyteller is poised to release his third studio album All You Can Do next Tuesday.

Scottish electronic act Chvrches are still pumping their 2013 record The Bones of What You Believe, but here’s hoping their pay tribute to the previous night’s performer Arctic Monkeys by playing their excellent cover of the latter’s “Do I Wanna Know?” (which they recorded for Australia’s Triple J earlier this year). Speaking of Australia, Melbourne singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett has worked herself into a late afternoon sert time on the strength of just three releases, including two albums dropped last year – an EP entitled “How To Carve A Carrot Into A Rose” and The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas.

Hot on the heels of releasing their eighth studio album (and first record in four years) They Want My Soul earlier this week, Spoon arrive in San Francisco looking for a bit of a renaissance after some extended time off from recording new material.

Another TBB favorite is Gardens & Villa, who played Phono del Sol 2012. This group of five Santa Barbara kids will be setting up shop on the Panhandle stage near tons of food booths right around dinner time on Sunday, so get yourself some grub and settle in for their set of bright indie synthpop.

As Outside Lands draws to a close on Sunday, don’t skip out early – no, stick around to catch UK producer Derwin Schlecker (aka Gold Panda) and his surging wall of garage and post-dubstep. That should give you enough energy to make it home after a long, long weekend in fog (and hopefully some sun) in Golden Gate Park.

Listen to a playlist with music from all of these bands below, and make your own schedule for Outside Lands over on Ranger Dave’s website. Have fun and be safe this weekend, kids.