Getting the most out of a music festival is all about making tough choices. With multiple acts playing at once, how do you decide who to see and who to skip? It's especially tough at a festival the size of this weekend's Orlando Calling. Produced by the same company that handles the gigantic Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds festivals in the U.K., Orlando Calling swung for the fences with its inaugural lineup, serving up 75 artists on five stages Saturday and Sunday, making it one of the 2011's most buzzed-about U.S. festivals. Organizers are hoping for crowds of up to 50,000 each day — and if that happens, Orlando Calling could be one of Florida's biggest music draws for years to come. Of all the big-name artists on the bill, only two won't have to compete for your attention — headliners the Killers (Saturday) and Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band (Sunday). The rest of the weekend, you're going to have to pick and choose. I've been agonizing over the Orlando Calling schedule for weeks now. I'll do my best to see everyone, but if push comes to shove, which acts do I feel are most worthy of sticking around for a full, uninterrupted set? Here are my top five picks for each day.
Jay Cridlin, Times staff writer
CIVIL TWILIGHT (2:15 P.M., STAGE 3)
This South African trio hasn't reached stateside superstardom just yet, but their gigantic, U2-like anthems (Letters From The Sky) are made for stages the size of Orlando Calling. Pretty soon, they'll be mentioned in the same breath as Muse or the Script.
KID CUDI (3:05 P.M., MAIN STAGE)
The trippy Cleveland rapper and actor (HBO's How to Make It In America) is one of the most stylish young MCs in the game. His idiosyncratic resume includes collaborations ranging from Kanye West and David Guetta to indie rockers Vampire Weekend, MGMT and St. Vincent. Maybe we'll hear a preview of his next project, reportedly a rock album.
AVETT BROTHERS (4:05 P.M., MAIN STAGE)
The neo-bluegrass stars teamed with Bob Dylan and Mumford and Sons at this year's Grammys. That's a good enough endorsement for us, though we do hate missing scruffy singer-songwriters Gavin DeGraw and Pete Yorn.
THE PIXIES (6:10 P.M., MAIN STAGE)
The hugely influential alt-rock pioneers narrowly edge out hacky-sackers O.A.R. and soulful garage band Dr. Dog. I can't resist the opportunity to yowl along to Here Comes Your Man and Where Is My Mind?
THE RACONTEURS (7:50 P.M., MAIN STAGE)
Curse you, Orlando Calling, for forcing us to choose between this Detroit garage-rock supergroup and the greatest hip-hop band on earth, the Roots. How does one choose between Jack White and ?uestlove, two of the coolest cats in all of music? Ultimately, White sightings in Florida are so rare — he hasn't performed in the Tampa Bay area since 2003 — that we have to go with the Raconteurs. (But don't be surprised if you see us sneaking over to Stage 2 at some point.)
The Roots, Drive-By Truckers, O.A.R., Less Than Jake, Pete Yorn, Gavin DeGraw, Iron & Wine, Lucero, Gogol Bordello, the Ettes, Parachute, Felice Brothers
ELIZABETH COOK (1:15 P.M., STAGE 2)
The Sumter County native is one of Nashville's fiercest, feistiest singers, blending folk, roots, rockabilly and classic jukebox country on songs like Sometimes It Takes Balls to Be a Woman. That it does, Elizabeth. That it does.
MICHELLE BRANCH (3:40 P.M., STAGE 3)
Sue me. Though she hasn't released a full solo album since 2003, I'm still a sucker for the sugary pop singer's girly-girl fist-pumpers (Everything, Breathe, Are You Happy Now?). Maybe in the spirit of Sunday's country theme, she'll dust off a few folksy ditties from her days in the Wreckers. (Missing Robert Randolph and the Family Band hurts, though.)
BUDDY GUY (4:50 P.M., STAGE 2):
Nothing against modern Tennesseean twangster Justin Townes Earle, but c'mon. It's Buddy Guy. Case closed.
BLAKE SHELTON (5:25 P.M., MAIN STAGE)
Shelton's set overlaps Guy's by a hair, but that's okay. The mentor/coach from The Voice is country's studliest new ringmaster, and his arena-sized smash God Gave Me You might just be enough to get the Citrus Bowl slow-dancin'. If not, he can always bust out some of his funky pop covers (Centerfold, My Prerogative).
DWIGHT YOAKAM (7:50 P.M., STAGE 2)
Sure, Main Stager Kid Rock knows a thing or two about rocking a stadium. But we say catch him later, during his inevitable cameo with fellow Michiganders Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. Meanwhile, duck out and catch Yoakam, one of America's most unappreciated honky-tonkers, who has largely traded Nashville for Hollywood these days.
Kid Rock, Doobie Brothers, Blues Traveler, Chris Isaak, Warren Haynes Band, Brandi Carlile, Justin Townes Earle, Los Lonely Boys, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, the Flatlanders, Del McCoury, the David Mayfield Parade, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit