By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — While the big main-stage headliners are always a major draw to any outdoor festival, veteran Outside Lands attendees know that sometimes the best moments of the festivals can be had earlier in the day, especially at the smaller stages.
Here’s a list of some recommended acts to catch during the course of Saturday’s schedule:
Temples (Lands End Stage 1:50 p.m.)
While they have only been around for a short five years since first coming together in 2012, British psychedelic rock group Temples have earned a solid following in the States. Initially formed in Kettering by singer/guitarist James Bagshaw and bassist Tom Walmsley as a studio project, a handful of tracks uploaded to YouTube scored Temples a deal with Heavenly Recordings and led to the addition of drummer Samuel Lloyd Toms and keyboard player Adam Smith. Packed with swirling synths and mellotron, soaring vocal harmonies and ringing 12-string guitars, the band has proven itself equally adept and concise psychedelic pop and epic interstellar ventures that echoes both ’60s originators Pink Floyd and contemporaries like Aussie heroes Tame Impala.
Motion Potion (The House 1:30 p.m.)
Equally renowned as a party starter, remixer and a tireless concert/event promoter, Motion Potion (aka Robbie Kowol) got his start as a funky rare groove DJ during the ’90s and has ably evolved into one of San Francisco’s foremost breakbeat merchants. Whether delivering one of his signature spotlight sets featuring songs, remixes and mash-ups of a single artist (Talking Heads, James Brown, P-Funk and this year’s Saturday headliners, Metallica) or keeping the dance floor filled during one of his genre-busting festival appearances at Bonnaroo or Electric Forest, Motion Potion has a knack for giving the audience exactly what it wants.
Thundercat (Twin Peaks Stage 3:45 p.m.)
Part of the new school of talented young jazz players surfacing from the fertile Los Angeles scene that has produced young saxophone titan Kamasai Washington, rising pianist Cameron Graves and older brother Ronald Bruner, Jr. (all four played with the Young Jazz Giants in the early 2000s), Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner is changing the modern sound of the electric bass. With a busy contrapuntal style that sometime recalls late fusion great Jaco Pastorius, Thundercat draws from experimental hip hop — he records for noted producer Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label and has played on albums by Kendrick Lamar and Erykah Badu– while incorporating elements of ’70s soul, funk and jazz into a tuneful, eclectic style. His third acclaimed album Drunk even dabbles in soft rock, bringing in iconic singers Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald to guest on the song “Show You the Way.”
Royal Blood (Lands End Stage 4:30 p.m.)
Bass-and-drum duo Royal Blood went from it’s formation in 2013 to become one of the hottest bands out of Britain in recent recent. Hailing from a small coastal hamlet on the southern end of England 10 miles west of Brighton (the town that produced like-minded alt-rock tandem Blood Red Shoes), bassist/singer Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher deal out massive riffs and massive hooks that nod equally to tuneful garage punk and Zeppelin-esque blues stomp. The band’s eponymous 2015 debut showcased a pummeling swagger that’s been all but absent from alternative rock. The duo’s latest salvo How Did We Get So Dark? delivers another two-fisted dose of their hefty, hyper-distorted, bass-driven sound.
S U R V I V E (Panhandle Stage 4:35 p.m.)
While it was the resolutely retro Stranger Things theme and soundtrack by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein put their Austin, TX-based synth group S U R V I V E squarely on the map, the quartet (rounded out by musicians Adam Jones and Mark Donica) has been making music since first coming together in 2009. Cultivating a sonic aesthetic that nodded heavily to the ’70s and ’80s soundtrack work of Carpenter (who scored his own films) and Italian prog outfit Goblin (who worked extensively with Italian giallo director Dario Argento) along with a touch of Trent Reznor’s percussive industrial beats, S U R V I V E has gone from releasing underground cassettes to dazzling audiences at Moogfest, the psych-oriented Levitation Fest and Fun Fun Fun. The pitch-perfect theme song for Stranger Things and the show’s sudden explosion of popularity last summer gave the underground synth band an enormous boost as numerous remixes and even a tribute version by band influence Tangerine Dream.
Bomba Estéreo (Panhandle Stage 8 p.m.)
Crafting their unique mix of electronic dance music and traditional cumbia for over a decade, Colombian duo Bomba Estéreo grew out of an electronic detour taken established musician Simón Mejía. Having already had some success as a member of ’90s alternative-rock group Charconautas, Mejía began exploring an intersection of salsa and electronica with the collective A.M. 770. That would evolve into Mejía founding Bomba Estéreo in 2005, inviting vocalist/MC Li Saumet to join after she contributed vocals to a song on the project’s debut EP. The group blossomed into a full band and scored several international hits on subsequent releases Elegancia Tropical and Amanacer. Though the crew has the unenviable task of performing during the headlining set by local heroes Metallica, plenty of Latin EDM fans will likely gather for a preview of the group’s forthcoming new album Ayo at the Panhandle Stage.