Normally the Treasure Island Festival likes to separate Saturday and Sunday by genre: Saturday is the electronic day and Sunday is the rock day. However, as the lines blur between the two worlds, so did the festival. As Sunday will have a fair amount on laptops, Saturday seemed to have a healthy dose of live drums and guitar. And, well, for me, a lot of new music to tap into. This may be the first year where I was largely unfamiliar with the bulk of the acts playing on Saturday, which made my day even more exciting. I had a nice adventure, and I hope you enjoyed yourself, too. And if you didn’t, well, I feel bad.
(All Photos are by the fantastic Kelly Hoffer)
I’ve never seen K Flay before. I like what I’ve heard, and I’ve expected it to be a good show, but since she performs so often locally, I found it hard to prioritize her gigs. Alas, I finally make may way to see her at 12:45 PM on a sunny Saturday afternoon, and my mind is officially blown. Flay, aka Kristine Flaherty, is a spunky, energetic MC. She was backed only by a drummer, as well as her own laptop. Which was practically more than she needed. Her energy was so insane that she really only needed herself. She even joined the drummer for a fantastic hi hat duet. Yes, a hi hat duet.My lesson learned is to never take any local artist for granted.
I’ve seen The Coup many times over the years, however, it feels like they are a different different band. More than that: they are a completely different type of music. The first time I encountered this group, it was just Boots Riley on vocals and Pam The Funktress on turntables. As time went by, more instruments were added to the mix, yet the band managed to remain “hip-hop.” At Treasure Island, however, The Coup were pure classic rock. Pam The Funktress is no longer in the group, and Boots Riley, still one of the greatest lyricists around, now fronts a four piece rock band. Their new sound is a delicious brand of 70’s inspired, organ heavy hard rock. They sounded great: pulling together elements of early Santana, Deep Purple, and Band Of Gypsys, and making it a stunning bit of political rock.
Both acts of the early party of the day were incredibly energetic. Which made Grimes a tough act to take in. She was considerably more subdued than K Flay or The Coup. She was basically performing ambient soundscapes, accompanied by two dancers/keyboardists. It was amazing how her voice blended in with the layers of synth that she produced, sounding like nothing I’ve ever heard. The only problem was that I wanted to keep dancing, and her music did not inspire that. I’d love to have seen her at dusk, but alas, that was not her spot. It’s ok, because I only lost a few minutes of dance time:
Typically speaking, Saturdays are the “electronic music” day and Sundays are the “rock music” day at Treasure Island. It was either by choice of the bookers or proof that we are evolving past such harsh genre boundaries, but Saturday had a fair amount of “rock” going on. Matthew Dear & band managed to be almost pure rock. His bass heavy grooves hiding behind flat and angular rock and roll made me feel as if this the the bank that you’d get if Primus & Interpol managed to play together. They were a lot of fun, and got my booty grooving again. I’d easily shell out $30 to see this guy pull off a full set.
Toro Y Moi
My notes for Toro Y Moi simply say: “I wish that I was wearing silk pajamas for this.” What does this mean? It means that Toro Y Moi, aka Chazwick Bundick, played some incredibly groovy, sexy electro funk. So much so that, by the end of the set, I really wanted to be Hugh Hefner. Or, at least Barry & Levon.
When Public Enemy were listed as one of the acts listed, I was both surprised and excited. And then I was reminded of “Flava Of Love,” which led me to be a little skeptical of what we might see. So, when Professor Griff, Chuck D and the S1W’s came out, and Flava Flav appeared to be missing, I was actually a little relieved. The jumped straight into “Public Enemy #1,” and it was fierce, fast, and fun. They dove headfirst into “Rebel Without A Pause,” and then Flava Flav popped in out of nowhere. Despite how wacky and incoherent he was on the TV show, he seemed quite spot on here. He took lead vocals for one of the darkest hit singles of the early 90’s: “911 Is A Joke.” He sounded great, and looked like he was having fun. And, obviously, the entire crowd was stoked to see him. The sound was amazing during PE’s set, too: every lyric was clear and crisp, and the quick chaos that is Public Enemy’s sound was perfect. At one point, Flava Flav hopped on the drums and he kicked an amazing beat while Chuck D rapped. It was pretty amazing. Almost as amazing as when D called out Flav on wearing a New York Giants jersey in San Francisco, eliciting mass boos from the crowd.
Of course, the audience positively loved every moment of the set. I couldn’t believe how many youngsters knew every word to “Fight The Power,” proof that the kids are doing just fine.
Public Enemy #1
Rebel without a pause
911 Is A Joke
Hear The Drummer (Get Wicked)
Welcome To The Terrordome
Don’t Believe The Hype
Can’t Truss It
He Got Game
I Shall Not Be Moved
Harder Than You Think
Yo! Bum Rush The Show
Shut Em Down
Fight The Power
I really hate it when critics simply say: “I don’t get this, and I really don’t understand why everyone likes this.” That being said, after seeing Public Enemy do so well with their set of high energy hip hop with assualtive beats, araabMUZIK’s set of high energy electronic music with assualtive beats merely gave me a headache. Such a bad headache that I needed to retreat to the press tent. And I stayed in there throughout most of Porter Robinson, who sounded alright to me, but, to be fair, I really didn’t give him much of a chance.
Tycho were a pleasant sigh of relief after the chaos before them. It’s really difficult to do “mellow” music live and make it interesting. This guys did it. Their delightful brand of chillwave cured me of my headache (along with a bottle of water and two Advil), and brought my mood up several notches. I was seriously ready to pack it in, but these guys had a perfectly paced set that made it so I could finish the day. They slowly sped up the tempo, and by the end of the set, I was dancing, and feeling like a million dollars!
There is an ad that keeps appearing on my Facebook wall that says “If you like The Smiths, you’d love The Presets.” Obviously, I thought this meant we’d be getting a set bitter and sarcastic jangle pop. What we got was something that was not bitter, sarcastic, or jangly. Instead, we had something warm, danceable, and very much proved to me that the folks that write ad copy on Facebook have no idea what they are talking about. These folks are definitely inspired by the sounds of the 80’s, but managed to still feel very fresh.
According to the Treasure Island Festival Smartphone App, SBTRKT were the most anticipated set of the weekend. This was most obvious when you saw the huge crowd surrounding the Tunnel Stage, which was a bit smaller than the main stage. Most surprising about this set is that SBTRKT essentially are doing drum n bass, only performed live instead of as a DJ set. The crowd ate up every minute of it, and it was a really fun set.
I don’t know how I feel about Girl Talk as an artist. He’s essentially a mash up dj. Musically, he doesn’t impress me any more than the 1,000 other folks that do the same thing. The question is: why is Girl Talk so much bigger than everyone else? Anybody can decide to switch between Journey, Beyonce, Nirvana, and The Talking Heads after 10 seconds. The beauty of Girl Talk is in his stage show. To counter the fact that he really can’t create these mash ups live, He pulls out a huge spectacle of chaos. He has guys shooting toilet paper from a gun. He covers the stage with dancers- so many that you wonder how anyone more can fit there. You never actually see Girl Talk on stage- he’s there, but there is so much going on that you’d easily miss him. He brought the entire island into a sweaty, dancey frenzy, insuring that we are all plenty tired after the show. Because we really needed to rest up for day 2.