LIVE REVIEW: Treasure Island Music Festival 2011
I arrived at AT&T Park’s parking Lot A and found a spot in the overflow lot on the pier. There was a long line for the free festival shuttle. Those who arrived by bicycle were greeted with a free tuning and valet run by Levi’s Bike Shop. The limo bus I rode was quite nice.
I arrived at the gate, collected my media credentials and was in front of the Tunnel Stage as Yacht began their second song. I’m not really familiar with their catalog, but I’ve seen them live before. It’s a psychedelic electro-rock that reminds me of Head Automatica, Talking Heads and The B-52s, who they cover. Yacht’s charisma, energy, danceability, and sheer sexiness is what draws me. Originally the solo project of Jona Bechtolt, YACHT is co-helmed by Bechtolt and writer/goddess Claire L. Evans. That woman is special. After a few songs, Evans addresses the audience, “Do you guys have any questions?” A few people shout out, inaudible to most of the crowd, and Evans answers one query, “I believe in paradise engineering.” I quickly jot this down and make a mental note to Google that shit. According to a Wikipedia article about the philosopher David Pearce, “Paradise engineering proposes that the future eradication of all sentient suffering, pain, and malaise could be best achieved through the utilisation of modern methods of biotechnology such as nanotechnology and genetic engineering.” Meanwhile the backing band (introduced by Evans as Bobby Birdman, Jeffrey Jerusalem, and Katy Davidson) is wearing matching uniforms, black pants and a black button-down t-shirt with white buttons.
The photo pit is perving out on Evans’ outfit. She’s wearing white boots with quarter-inch black soles and black socks that peak about an inch above the top of the boot.A dress covers her body, barely. It’s white and a little bit see through. It’s got long sleeves and a turtle neck, but it’s also a mini-dress. She’s dancing and jumping around while she sings and her movements combined with her voice and appearance allow me to easily forget that there are four other people on stage with her. Claire Evans steals the show. They end the set with a cover of “Mesopotamia” by the B-52s and Yacht’s “Dystopia.”
Naked and Famous
Naked and Famous from New Zealand seems like a delightful indie rock band and I’m sure they were enjoyed thoroughly by many people. Singer Alisa Xayalith is adorable. I really liked “No Way,” which they played towards the end of their set. But they were way too loud. I had to move far away from the stage to feel good about music again. At a festival like Treasure Island, it is unconscionable that great music could be marred by bad volume.
Battles, a three-piece instrumental experimental math rock band that combines electronic and looping effects with precision guitar and bass, and masterful drumming to create upbeat danceable music. It sounds really weird and several minutes into the first song I’m still not quite sure what I’m listening to. By the end of the 2nd song, drummer John Stanier is drenched with sweat and must wipe down his snare and sticks. These guys rock hard and they watched each other intensely for cues; they might be improvising a bit. In a Battles song, a seemingly haphazard jumble of instrumentation takes listeners on a wild ride into a place where time slows down, repetition runs wild, and things get a little wonky. All of a sudden the bass finds the drum and both are embraced by the melody and the electronics blend in perfectly and together they crescendo and it’s glorious.
Dizzee Rascal is poised to start a new musical revolution in my life. In his first moment on stage he grabed the full attention of his audience with a fiery charisma and dancetastic beats. “USA, my name is Dizzee Fucking Rascal,” bellows the British experimental hip-hop artist Dylan Mills, in his Jafaican-English dialect, wearing khaki cargo shorts, a black baseball hat, and a black t-shirt with “DOPE” lettered in white across his chest. My favorite song of the set was “Bassline Junkie” with its “dirty stinkin’ base.” “I’m a bassline junkie, and I like it funky,” shouts Dizzee as he paces the stage trading places with his backup singer MC Scope while DJ MK cranks the bass. The crowd is loving every second and danced furiously to this funky hip-hop sensation.
Chromeo’s ’80s-style electrofunk, with its electronic bass and auto-tuned vocals, is performed masterfully by collaborators Dave 1 and P-Thugg. Two words: Dance party! I pushed my way deep into the crowd and found a comfortable spot near some easygoing festival goers, the music began, and I just danced. I funked out and it was epic. I can’t wait to see Chromeo again in a proper club. Woot!
I listened from the sidelines and watched a massive dance party take place. I recognized music from their latest album, Zonoscope, as well as some of their earlier works. They easily stole Saturday’s show.
Empire of the Sun
Before this week, I’d never heard of Empire of the Sun. Now, I’ll never forget them. The electro-glam-rock duo sported the most theatrical performance of the day. They wore elaborate shiny costumes and channeled David Bowie. There were dancers and smoke and spectacular lighting and mesmerizing videos on the big screen. They open with “Standing on the Shore” the first track on their 2008 debut album Walking on a Dream. The lyrics are catchy and the melodies are memorable. It was a beautiful cap on a wonderful day of ’80s inspired dance tunes.
Treasure Island Music Festival 2011 was thoroughly enjoyable. It was a windy, mild temperatured, beautiful, mid-October weekend in the San Francisco Bay. No one offered me drugs. No one was creepy. I only saw one guy displaying social irresponsibility by making life difficult for a couple of photographers. I saw thousands of smiling faces. There were giant monster puppets by Big Nazo, a pod of magical dancing jellyfish from Billion Jelly Bloom, and a Silent Disco.
Sunday is the cool down, rock day, juxtaposed with Saturday’s party day, but don’t tell that to the concert goers that needed a break from the soothing sounds to get their pump on. Directly behind the food trucks was a tent with a DJ playing barely audible music with tons of people dancing. Odd for sure given the tiny volume, even stranger was that they were all wearing headphones! I decided to check it out, and while not being a huge dance music fan, I thought it would be fun to watch dance music reactions to the earnest folk song styling’s of The Head and the Heart. It looked like modern dance interpretation, never actually on beat. Good times, and really what a festival should be about: different strokes for different folks happening concurrently in somewhat orderly, albeit strange fashion.
Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks
Props to the folks that set the schedule for the bands. Sunday played out like a great mixtape with contrasting tones and sounds so you never got bored. Indie goddess and shredding queen, Annie Clark (St. Vincent), practically stole the day early on with her mesmerizing vocals and entrancing musicality. Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks did their fun, sloppyish, charming routine that’s worked for them for over two decades (with Pavement first, of course), with Malkmus chirping “I never thought I’d see music on Treasure Island, I thought it was a secret government testing facility.” From there The Head and the Heart stole the show with their harmonies. Beach House slowed it down as the sun set with Victoria Legrands haunting voice and their patented slide guitar. She said that the human face was “weird when you think about it. And you all look so weird!” Friendly Fires got the place jacked up again with some funk, Explosions in the Sky blew everyone’s minds (especially with the jellyfish cameo!), and The Hold Steady got us extra rowdy, commanding respect and attention. Death Cab For Cutie tucked us in with an excellent set, closing the weekend with the fan-favorite and rarely heard gem, “Transatlanticism.” It was just one of those epic weekends.
Check out more badass photos HERE!