(San Francisco) – A band of pirates on stilts tried to take over Treasure Island yesterday, but were blasted out instead by pounding drum n bass breaks from a wall of subwoofers.
This happened, of course, at the Treasure Island Music Festival, which took place on the decommissioned naval base in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. Two stages, a Ferris wheel, the silent disco, gourmet food trucks, cool merchandise and the ultimate people watching experience awaited those wise enough to attend day one of the two-day music fest.
The Coup had just started playing when I walked through the gate. Since this was the “electronic” day, hearing a big, funky, rock-heavy hip hop group from Oakland was a welcome surprise. I’m not a huge fan of DJ music–I was there to see Public Enemy–so this was a good sign. I was surprised I hadn’t heard of the Coup before, but they were on the top of their game for this show. Style, swagger and porkchop side burns lifted from the 70s. The kickass riffs and drum solos reminded me of Rage Against the Machine, but the Coup had more of a soul vibe at times.
Grimes was next, and their three-girl electro-pop sound gained momentum halfway through the set. By the end it felt like I was in a Visa commercial with so much pounding synth bass and young people in ridiculous clothing jumping around. It was the best Visa commercial ever. The enthusiasm for Grimes was electric, with some of the most passionate fans at the festival dancing their neon spandex-covered asses off.
Toro Y Moi was relatively mellow, with less of an electric feel both in the crowd and on stage. It gave an opportunity to do some people watching. There were plenty of outfits I didn’t get a picture of, including the guy in a white suit, from hat to shoes, the epidemic of gratuitous asscheek spillage from their “shorts” and ironic tee-shirts so snarky they should have been put on time-out.
Public Enemy, the band that formed before many of the day’s other artists were even born, had the most energy on stage. Chuck D, Flava Flav, Professor Griff and DJ Lord fucking killed it. Every song brought that fire I had as a teenager, when I was in political action groups in school and listened to Public Enemy in my room. I could barely wait to register to vote because I had it all figured out. When I did, I voted so hard it felt like it should have counted twice. When I saw Chuck D speak at Sonoma State he said, “Voting is as essential as wiping your ass. You can’t complain about the smell if you don’t vote.” I still can’t find a better way to put that sentiment.
Even Flav’s mediocre bass playing and barely passable drumming couldn’t ruin this concert. They made 50 minutes feel like 15, finishing with Fight the Power, naturally. In the middle, DJ Lord flexed his fingers on a mashup of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, complete with behind-the-back scratching and phenomenal timing, letting the song breathe at just the right moments before diving back into his rhythmic fuckery of the vinyl.
The nostalgiamobile was already revving its engine when I saw a Kid N Play haircut (yes, I know that was two people. But it’s awkward to say a “Kid from Kid N Play” haircut, and you know what I meant anyway). From then on, it was full blast 90s–until the next band brought us all back to the now. But to travel through time for that 50 minutes was worth the price of admission alone.
Public Enemy likes to ramble, and Flav did some at the end about peace and unity. But his most important message was about the clock he has worn around his neck for 26 years. He wants to remove the burden of time from his shoulders, and will only do so when Public Enemy is enshrined into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He urged the crowd of seasoned (read: over 30 years old) fans and those just discovering the band to vote for Public Enemy in the Hall of Fame. You don’t even have to register with the government.
I had to chill out after this, so we waited in the 90-minute line and rode the Ferris wheel, which turned out to be the most well-timed decision ever. We caught the sunset, just as it dipped below the horizon, in a private gondola 35-feet above the ground. The San Francisco skyline, at sunset, from a Ferris wheel on Treasure Island-–checked another awesome experience off my bucket list of things I never knew I had to experience.
The rest of the acts couldn’t compare to Public Enemy’s performance, though Tycho was very interesting; the kind of band I’d listen to with big headphones on, assigning shapes to clouds. The Presets were just awful. I don’t care for their style of music, and believe it or not, I’ve seen a light show before. The two guys playing a clusterfuck of electronic gizmos and a drum set did not wow me one bit. It was like listening to a record really, really, really fucking loud. And I didn’t stay for SBTRKT or Girl Talk because it was getting late, and cold, and I had to work in the morning. And by the way, get off my lawn.
DAY 2 PHOTOS:
(review to come soon)It’s here now:
Day two of the festival featured more indie rockers and less DJ acts, and that translated to more pot and less dancing. Well, less enthusiastic dancing, at least. There was the gentle sway of the hips, continued into the arms and then the nodding of the head. But not much more.
That’s pretty the only way to dance to Divine Fits, a new group formed by Britt Daniel (Spoon), Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade) and Sam Brown (New Bomb Turks). Their sound is reminiscent at times of Weezer, Pavement and several other 90s staples combined with the bouncing bass lines of Spoon and vocal duties split between Daniel and Boeckner. There’s some nice synth sounds thrown in for a modern touch, but mostly, they are just a tight, solid band with really good songs. They put on a great show, and the sun setting behind them made for a picturesque scene so gorgeous it seemed like a projection. But it wasn’t, and every cell phone in the crowd tried its best to capture the glory.
Los Campesinos inspires crazy festival dancing. Flailing arms and stomping feet were a common sight during this frantic band’s set. Seven members all kicking ass at the same time with a singer occasionally screaming with a British accent makes for the ultimate festival band experience. They’re right up there with Broken Social Scene.
Best Coast carried the 90s banner well. It sounds like this band sprang up from the ashes of my favorite rainy day headphone music. Fat guitar sounds, guttural female vocals and a pessimistic sound that matches my outlook on life (when I’m wearing big headphones watching the rain streak down my window) actually makes me quite happy.
As good as all the bands had been until the sun went down, this day belonged to M83. The French, synth-heavy indie rockers blew my mind. I had heard the single, Midnight City, but wasn’t familiar with much else from this awesome group. The light show alone, with smoke machines, lasers and nonstop moving LED lights, was worth the price of admission alone. But the music made me dance, and I DON’T DANCE! Not I don’t usually dance, I just don’t do it. M83 has opened a new chapter in my life.
Their synth bass sounds separated well from the four-string Fender, and the drummer kept everything rolling through the epic dance tunes. The band members were so happy, smiling and connecting with each other in a way I’d never seen in a band. They were extremely appreciative of the crowd, of everything that’s happened to them as a band. And during Midnight City, right before the sax solo, I was thinking of how they were going to pull that off. And BOOM! A sexy sax man out of nowhere, runs on stage and blows his heart out. He came back for the last celebratory song, during which the band sprayed champagne (which looked in my photos like it could have been Dom Perignon) on the crowd.
All I could say was “wow.” Treasure Island never fails to disappoint (I’ve been three years now), but this was the most surprising festival yet, and every band was so appreciative. That means a lot to the fans watching them, because we are thankful for you, too.
Tags: Concert, Girl Talk, grimes, live music, music review, Public Enemy, sbtrkt, Treasure Island