Treasure Island Festival Diary Part 3: 10/18/09 Sunday

by Gordon Elgart on October 20, 2009

The Flaming Lips call for peace

The Flaming Lips call for peace

Sunday at Treasure Island Music Festival was my first Sunday at the festival. In previous years, I always had something going on that Sunday, or the weather was bad, or I was too darned tired from being at a Mezzanine afterparty on the previous night.  But this year, as a conscientious journalist, I had to come on Sunday and report on the entire day.  Well, almost the entire day.  I should explain.

The Dan Deacon show from the prior evening had me floating on air, and then I came back to where I was staying last night, and had to write all about Saturday.  So by the time I got to sleep, it was past 4AM.  So the first band, Sleepy Sun, described me perfectly.  I was sleepy.  And so was the sun.  This was cold and cloudy day on Treasure Island.

One thing you can notice right away on a cold day like this is that everyone dresses in black and grey hoodies, and the whole island lacks the colorful joy of the day before.  Plus, indie rock fans tend to have a more understated way of dressing than do the dance music fans seen on Saturday.  Of course, plenty of these people were the same people, and were making fashion choices to match the weather and music.  Because of this, the music would have to add the color.  And while the musical choices were more interesting on Sunday, there is no doubt that it was a lot more fun to be there on Saturday.

The first act I saw was Tommy Guerrero, a local blues guy.  His band was really going for it, and had people doing their little blues shake dancing, but then he was done before the set really got to soaring.  I looked at the clock on stage, and he had left 10 minutes on the table.  Who does that?  You’ve got one chance to really go for it on Treasure Island.  Go for it!

Next up was Thao and the Get Down Stay Down. She was personally engaging, telling funny stories about her day and why she wasn’t wearing a dress: “It’s really windy, and I would be showing things.” Her music was this really bouncy energetic pop, much different than what I expected for some reason. Her live vocals weren’t right on point, but there was something appealing about them anyway. The whole thing sounded great.

Next up was Spiral Stairs, and I really don’t remember their set, even though I just watched it yesterday. See one standard indie rock band playing uninteresting songs on a cold windy day, and you’ve seen them all. (Note: please put this paragraph on repeat for Vetiver and The Walkmen, as I won’t be mentioning them again.)

The main stage was definitely the stage bringing the excellence on Sunday, and this excellence continued with a less-than-perfect, but still fun, performance by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. It seemed that Mr. Sharpe (not actually his real name) was unable to hit all the notes in his range on this day because he passed over some songs for fear of singing them poorly, and moved some notes down to a lower octave. It was a bit of a gutsy show by the band, but the song “Home,” which is a duet with Jade Castrinos (probably her real name), didn’t need his full singing voice to become the highlight of the set.

The next act on the main stage was Grizzly Bear.  It was clear from looking at the field that the crowd was showing up to see them in large numbers.  They had a huge, rapt following, and deservedly so.  Both vocalists have sweet voices separately, and they mix really well together.  The music is surprisingly danceable at times, too.  According to the band, it was “the windiest set [they’ve] ever played.”  This was definitely the peak of the cold wind for the day, and they were dressed in nice warm jackets for this performance.  It was too short for me, so I hope to catch them again.

Next up, I was able to find a way to warm up, as Bob Mould took the stage and began a high energy, fast moving set of classic indie punk(ish) rock.  I looked at my phone toward the beginning of the set to tweet about how everyone should be seeing this, and I saw someone had posted “Hey @TIMFSF, who is Bob Mould and why does he have a later slot than Edward Sharpe?” I responded back angrily to both try using Google, and that Bob Mould would be around long after Edward Sharpe was forgotten.  This set rocked hard, and the mostly older crowd gathered around the stage enjoyed it quite a bit.  Unfortunately, it seemed that everyone was getting a spot for Beirut as opposed to enjoying a legend on top of his game.  Their loss.

Beirut started his/their set while Bob Mould was still on stage finishing up, so I got over there during the second song, and I was super impressed.  I’d heard the records but never seen him/them live.  I really wanted to sing (don’t know the words) and dance (couldn’t figure out the best steps to use here) during the whole thing.  Just a lovely mixture of horns and melodies.  Since I was still warmed up from my Bob Mould, the chills I was feeling were all musical by origin.

After I grabbed dinner, I got in place to watch The Decemberists.  Of all the bands playing this weekend, I have seen them the most.  This was my 10th time seeing them, and it was by far the most disappointing set of the weekend.  I know what this band can do in a festival setting, as my first exposure to them was at Bumbershoot in Seattle, where they got everybody jumping up in down in crazy unison for a full hour, with horns and improv and songs about whales.  But tonight, they just played straight through The Hazards of Love, their newest album.  This album is pretty good, but it’s not their strongest.  What’s really damaging, though, is that the very best part of the album is when Shara Worden is singing, and she’s not even a permanent member of the band.  This was a poor showcase for the band, and both Twitter and my text messages were buzzing with reports of boredom, and people telling me I was wrong to like the band.  I couldn’t argue with them; they played a boring set.

After riding the ferris wheel to the tunes of Yo La Tengo on the main stage, I got a decent spot to watch the entrance of The Flaming Lips, which is always exciting.  Unlike The Decemberists, The Lips know how to play a festival set.  They make a grand entrance, shoot lots of confetti and balloons, get everybody involved in singing along, and blow through their best loved songs in a grand 90-minute performance.  For more about their performance, read Dakin Hardwick’s letter of appreciation.

Tonight, rather than waiting for the bus, I got a ride in a nice warm car back to Oakland, so my fingers aren’t numb as I write this. Come back later this week, and we’ll have more coverage of the festival from other Spinning Platters writers who were there.

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Read Part 1 and Part 2 of the Treasure Island Festival Diary

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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