As day one of the 2010 Treasure Island Music Festival began, the sun was out with a few clouds and the buses started rolling out on a very scenic ride from the parking lot of AT&T park while the festival staff did a great job of shipping everyone in and out in a timely manner. From the festival grounds, Treasure Island has a breath-taking view of the San Francisco Bay, Bay Bridge, San Francisco skyline, and even the Golden Gate Bridge off in the distance. The Tunnel stage is set against the bay backdrop along with the lit up Ferris Wheel and glowing vinyl palm trees with The Bridge stage as the main stage.
All photos by Demian Becerra
This year featured a silent disco where people were given wireless headphones to dance to a DJ spinning live while onlookers only see people moving. It was a surreal experience. There was a top notch DJ lineup that included Mochipet playing some raunchy dubstep.
Day one was focused primarily on artists that incorporated electronic instruments into their sound along with the traditional guitar, drums, etc. Kudos to the drummers that had to play in perfect time with the electronic beats and effects.
Holy Fuck had a high-energy set early in day one with synth layers over fast grooves. Howling vocals, sub-bass whomps, electronic buildups, shimmering bell noises, and cheery clap-alongs characterized this band whose name is fun to tell people when they ask “Who is this?” Snare fury turned into disco funk sounding like the ‘chuga-luga’ of an oncoming train. As part of their sound arsenal, they used a 3-track, analog film synchronizer to scratch instead of a turntable.
One of the most unique and off-the-wall acts of the festival was Die Antwoord. Hailing from South Africa, Die Antwoord has hip-hop/rave fusion style and a cartoonish look. The lead vocalist, Ninja, came out in an executioner-style outfit and laid down his raunchy rhymes. He later strips down to a shirt with a penis cartoon and eventually down to his boxers. Yo-Landi Vi$$er provides female vocals for the song “Rich Bitch” in a skin tight gold outfit with a high-pitched, child-like voice that contrasts well with Ninja’s aggressive lyrical style. At times she’ll partially pull her pants down. (By the way, she’s not a true blonde) DJ Hi-Tek wears a mask as he spins behind the tables. A lot of the lyrics are in a South African slang called Zef. This is their first major US tour and many of the festival attendees aren’t sure what to think about them. Are they a joke or serious? Perhaps their over-the-top, trashy style is part of their brilliance.
!!! (Chk Chk Chk) put on an amazing performance of psychedelic disco jams with intense dual drums, falsetto hooks, funky saxophone, and Michael Jackson-like “chks” as their name implies. Lead vocalist Nic Offer was arguably the most charismatic front man of the festival. He had a Mick Jagger swagger and was dancing and climbing all over the stage and in the crowd. At one point he directs the crowd to look at his trench coat blowing in the wind. “It’s amazing up here.” Nic says. They flew in from a show in Tokyo the night before, only got 3 hours of sleep, and were running on pure adrenaline.
Kruder & Dorfmeister had one of the best light shows of the festival. At one point it looked like the stage was on fire! They had a high energy set and Peter Kruder was a charismatic performer. They had lots of cool echo effects and got the dancing crowd warmed up for the next act.
To put it lightly, Deadmau5 pwned! Generally, the Treasure Island goers are of a more laid-back temperament. However, when Deadmau5 took the stage the crowd came alive. People packed in with little room to dance to his progressive house beats. The music took of like a rocket ship with Deadmau5’s glowing ears bobbing behind “the cube”. Guest vocalist Sofi got the crowd moving with the hard-hitting “Sofi Needs a Ladder.” The storyline of the set was of a Jesus mau5 that dies and comes back to life as a robot mau5. The story was told with text messages from “the cube” and cued animation. The Windows “blue screen of death” is what did him in. The robot mau5 head was covered in LED lights for facial animation.
LCD Soundsystem finished out the night with their pop-punk style somewhat reminiscent of a post-modern 80s sound. They had emotional builds coupled with a driving rhythm section of bass and drums. “Drunk Girls” got the crowd clapping and moving to the funky beat. The sound was very full with guitars, keys/synths, and singer James Murphy’s howling vocals. LCD Soundsystem’s four-to-the-floor beats kept people dancing until the end.
Other notable artists from day one include Jamaica (from Paris) who bombarded the crowd with power punk riffs, Phantogram with their atom bomb electronic sound and down tempo grooves, Four Tet’s ambient techno beats, Little Dragon’s sultry vocals from singer Yukimi Nagano, and Miike Snow. Miike’s NIN-style live show was intense with billowing smoke, silver masks, and bright white spotlights.
Day two started out a bit dreary due to the forecasted rain. It appeared the rain caused a few delays and equipment malfunction. However, the show must go on! Rain certainly didn’t stop the crowd as they poured in for another sold out day.
As the Mumlers went through their midday set, they quipped that it was the earliest they’ve ever played… ever. Maybe they were just annoyed it was raining.
The theme of the day seemed to be males with traditional band instruments and females with strings, which compliment each other nicely. The strings fill in the gaps of the song backbone formed by the strumming and rhythm of the band. Ra Ra Riot has this band structure and it works beautifully for them. Their set was so good the sky stopped crying and even the sun peaked out. There was no more rain for the rest of the day!
Now that the rain was gone it was time for Superchunk to hit the stage. They came out full force with powerful punk guitar riffs and vocal melodies that warmed the crowd despite the cool bay winds. They were very raw, raucous, and high-energy.
She & Him was a special treat at Treasure Island. Zooey Deschanel looked stunning, of course, as her shiny, perfectly conditioned hair blew in the wind. A few teenagers in the audience wrote “Marry Me” on their hands in marker hoping to get her attention. She got the crowd to sing “Well All Right” for the song “In the Sun.” M. Ward was rockin’ out in shades through the set and even did a toe-tapping version of “Roll Over Beethoven.” She & Him’s backing band did some nice jams at the end of the songs too. M. Ward and Zooey’s male-female dynamic worked well live.
The eclectic group for day two was certainly the Israeli garage rock band, Monotonix. They looked like a bunch of hairy cave men in loincloths and the crowd loved it. They performed on a small stage near the Tunnel stage that was set up in the middle of the audience. Their overdriven, almost metal guitar riffs and driving rhythm were addictive. Their drummer, Haggai Fershtman, went nuts towards the end of the set and jumped in the crowd. He rode on top of the sea of fans for awhile and then was engulfed by them, however, there were no injuries, as Monotonix is sometimes known to acquire through their stage theatrics.
Broken Social Scene added some psychedelia to the mix of artists. They put on a stellar set which included a song called “Texico Bitches.” The bass player hit harmonics that sounded like a helicopter descending upon you before it kicked into a speedy beat and super-catchy hook. They rocked out, sounded great, and looked cool doing it. Singer Kevin Drew ended the set beautifully when he sailed off into the crowd.
The National was more than just an indie rock band, they were also comedians. They kept cracking the crowd up between their “good songs for weddings.” They did a haunting version of “Conversation 16.” Singer Matt Berninger’s maudlin baritone voice and emotional screams give great contrast with the following band.
Belle & Sebastian took the stage with Scottish charm and a warm, loving audience. Their light and cheery pop hooks would have been better heard lying in the grass with the sun on your face. One audience member puts mascara on singer Stuart Murdoch during the song “Lord Anthony” that goes “blue mascara running over your eye.” Another fan gave him a flower hat to wear. At one point they invited audience members to come up on stage and dance with them. They employ a wide array instruments onstage from violins to recorders, which bring a fullness of sound and harmony.
Other notable artists from day two were The Sea & Cake who had a grooving, jazzy performance and Rogue Wave’s appropriately melancholy and moving version of “California.” Surfer Blood put on a high-energy performance. Surfer Blood’s singer John Paul Pitts fed off the crowd’s energy and projected it back at them with his cocky body gestures.
All and all, the Treasure Island Music Festival was a magical weekend for everyone. It was diverse enough for the pickiest music critic to find something they like and most fans enjoyed the stellar lineup of known and not-so-known artists. With the last bus gone and the grass empty, the attendees of the Treasure Island Music Festival carry the music in their hearts, the music that they heard on a beautiful island that few get the chance to behold.
All photos by Demian Becerra