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The Lesser-Knowns

Who to seek out at the Outside Lands Festival




Everyone knows about Radiohead. Everyone knows about Tom Petty. And everyone knows, for better or for worse, about Jack Johnson. But there's much, much more to this weekend's Outside Lands festival in Golden Gate Park than just the big headliners, and with the release of actual set times and stage schedules, the mapping out of must-see performers has begun. Here's just a small few that might not be on the cover of Magnet or at the top of the Pitchfork blogs, but are worth scouting out on the crazy-crammed, five-stage schedule.

K'Naan: A Somalian-born poet and rapper who fled the "lake of blood" district of Mogadishu during the Somalian Civil War, K'Naan, above, has delivered the most gripping hip-hop album this year. The Dusty Foot Philosopher, an autobiographical document of growing up in a warzone and clinging to Nas and Rakim CDs for escape, is hip-hop's Graceland: djembe drums, group chants and slit gongs provide the addictively unique texture, while the beat to Dusty Foot's opening track, "Wash it Down," is comprised entirely of feet stomping and sloshing through water. With the metaphor as water for life, the track concludes with the clever poke: "People need water like Kanye need Jesus." If there were any justice, he wouldn't be playing such an early time slot on the Panhandle Stage, Sunday at 3pm.

Bon Iver: Last year, Justin Vernon went into a shed in rural Wisconsin, cleared his head, chopped some wood and recorded nine songs that have since turned just about every indie critic into a drooling, superlative-oozing pile of gush. Try as one might to resist, Vernon's stark honesty is laid bare against basic guitar chords, and his personal variation of the falsetto-voice-as-spiritual-hypnotism that's been going on in indie circles since OK Computer involves vocal multi-tracking and joyfully erratic sound samples. On the Presidio Stage, Sunday at 3:10pm.

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: When soul diva Sharon Jones released the incredible Naturally on the diehard funk label Daptone, in 2005, it seemed as if the pinnacle of the underground soul revival had been achieved. Then Amy Winehouse came along, heisted Jones' backup band, called her album Back to Black, for cryin' out loud, and ran away with the prize. While Winehouse rots in the tabloids and the UK tries to cough up more blue-eyed soul sensations while their iron is hot, don't miss the real deal on the Lands End Stage, Sunday at 4:10pm.

Manu Chao: Lots of folks know about Manu Chao by now, and since all the people jockeying to see Radiohead will be forced to stand through Chao's high-energy set of rambunctious and cross-cultural revelry beforehand, it might be superfluous to recommend him. But if you're slightly tempted, say, to suffer through Beck's scientology folk because of some sort of 1996 Odelay nostalgia over on the Sutro Stage instead, at least know that you have a better option. Lands End Stage, Friday at 6:15pm.

The Outside Lands Festival runs Friday-Sunday, Aug. 22-24, at Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. For more info., see

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