Outer limits

The big ones, the locals, the global travelers, and Beer Lands at this year's Outside Lands

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Santigold takes over Speedway Meadows at 5:10pm Sunday.

arts@sfbg.com

MUSIC Last year, we thought it couldn't get better, and then it upped the ante. Outside Lands 2012 takes place this weekend, and the lineup is packed with legendary performers, reunited favorites, and flashy newcomers, pieced together (some overlapping) in a masterful Golden Gate frame, outlined by all that glorious flora and fog.

There's little to debate; our inboxes have been unequivocally flooded with requests to cover the event from the moment the full list roared onto the web. Who's to say what sparked the revved up offerings and subsequent queries?

The facts: 72 bands on stage, 15 DJs in the Dome, 25 comedy-variety acts in the Barbary, plus 10 night shows featuring 20 performers. Expected attendance is more than 65,000 people per day, according to the organizers.

It's a lot to take in, even for the seasoned San Francisco festival-goer (keep hydrated, wear layers, duh). So we've whittled down the schedule to the must-sees — those with a certain unscientific combination of vitality and vigor, of historical significance and a very-modern presence.

Of course, if you've got a one or three-day pass, you're likely planning on packing in as many acts as possible, with perfectly timed bathroom, wine, and gourmet food stand breaks. But if you're of the looser sort, one to wander with feckless abandon among those throngs, keep the below in mind.

Here are your must-see Outside Lands performances:

THE BIG ONES

Headliners and icons

Watching an old friend dance with his bride to iconic folk ballad "Harvest Moon," it dawned on us: despite his gruff persona, broadly influential singer-songwriter Neil Young & Crazy Horse (8:10-9:55pm Friday, Lands End) is for lovers. And his words — and strumming — are deeply personal for a handful of generations. They've left a yearning imprint on our collective pleasure center.

This is a grand return for '90s indie rockers, Grandaddy (5:10-6:10pm Saturday, Sutro). The Modesto five-piece split in 2006, after a respected career that included touring with Elliott Smith (RIP) and a song, "AM 180," used in a memorable zombie-less supermarket sweep scene in 28 Days Later.

Kill 'Em All...And Justice For All...okay, and we guess St. Anger. The heavy metal — and then some other stuff — back catalogue of Metallica (7:55-9:55pm Saturday, Lands End) is forever drilled into our brains. In a press call leading up to the fest, drummer Lars Ulrich said, "we're very proud of our...relation and our history with San Francisco," (does that mean the band will do us a solid and play early tracks?), later adding, "it's an amazing thing, 31 years into a career to be able to be as busy as we are and to [see] people give a shit and to be able to still tour." We give a shit, Lars.

As one fan noted, Mr. Superstition, Steve Wonder (7:20-9:30pm Sunday, Lands End), is likely the most creative choice of a headliner in 2012. And it makes the night-map easy for some of us; in the scheduling contest between dub-monster Skrillex and Motown icon Stevie Wonder, there is no contest.

LOCALS ONLY

Best of the Bay represented

It's been five years since Two Gallants (1:50-2:40pm Friday, Lands End) released an album, and this fest (along with the OL night show) are the first local shows for the folk-punk duo touring on the new record, The Bloom and the Blight. Seems they'll have a lot of stowed away energy to release in the park.

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