Treasure Island, Day Two: It was sunnier, and the music was, well, more guitar driven. It was also the first time in the six years of the festival that I was here for every note of music. I made it to the festival at 11:55, and walked in for the opening note of Imperial Teen. I was on the final shuttle leaving the island. It was a beautiful day.
Thanks again to Kelly Hoffer for taking all of these amazing photos!
First of all: How dare they book this legendary local indie band at NOON! These folks have been at it too long, and have worked far too hard to be relegated to opening a festival. That being said, a much more sizable than expected crowd pulled themselves out of bed early on a Sunday to see a tight set of hooky indie pop. They played a fair amount of new material that is as strong as the classics. Sadly, nobody was really ready to dance yet. Just a sea of smiling faces that reacted the same way to the new material as they did when they played their hits “Yoo Hoo” and “You’re One.”
My one complaint about last year’s Treasure Island Sunday was that there were too many mellow bands playing back to back. It seems that they went the full on opposite direction this year. After a set of bright pop from Imperial Teen, it was pleasant to stumble across another band that kept the energy up. Hospitality defied the 12:45 hour by playing a blistering and somewhat sexy brand of power pop that brought to mind Metric at their most guitar driven. They were a lot of fun, and I feel like they’ve made at least one new fan.
War On Drugs
All I knew about War On Drugs before tonight was that they were Kurt Vile’s band. Vile, of course, is no longer a member, but the remaining members are still pumping out some great Bruce Springsteen oriented rock & roll. It may have only been 1:3o in the afternoon, but their sound was so big and full that it felt like we were enjoying a set in a soccer stadium late at night. These guys may not be rock stars yet, but this set was a definitely proof that these guys know how to play the big rooms.
I’ve been championing Wild Belle since I first caught them last spring at SXSW. I stumbled across them opening for Glen Hansard, and their groovy, soulful sound really impressed me. They sounded great, looked good, and I honestly felt that they have a real future. In the meantime, they’ve signed a deal with Columbia Records, and have transformed into an amazing live band. Vocalist Natalie Bergman reminds me of a vibrant, healthy version of Amy Winehouse, while the band performs a solid blend of reggae, lounge music, and indie rock. There is a solid, groovy rhythm section, complete with sax and even a kalimba was used for a track.
Where a young band like Wild Belle owned the huge festival setting, I felt Youth Lagoon may have drowned a little. Trevor Powers’ beautiful falsetto and bright piano driven rock sounded great, but he seemed dwarfed by the stage and the size of the crowd. His performance definitely seemed to please his biggest fans, who were most visible during his performance as the folks that had their eyes closed and sang along silently to themselves. He didn’t seem to make any new fans at this show, however, Youth Lagoon fans definitely seemed to enjoy the performance that they got today.
I go to a lot of shows. Usually 2-3 a week. I catch a lot of local bands. Somehow I’ve managed to miss Ty Segall, who seems to be the most prolific musician in the bay area. He plays somewhere once a month, and seemingly puts out a new record about as often. So, this being my first time with him seems a bit, well, wrong. Especially since his sound is so in touch with exactly what I’m looking for right now! He played an amped up, fuzzed out, and ultra aggressive version of 60’a power pop. I felt re-energized during his set, as did a huge portion of the crowd. He was the only performer of the weekend to cause a full fledged mosh pit to break out, which is quite impressive for the normally subdued crowd at Treasure Island.
A funny thing happened when Joanna Newsome took the stage: immediately, there was a silent sea of people standing in rapt attention. Her eccentric, Bjork-esque voice is quite unique, and you either love her or hate her. Happily, if there were any naysayers in the crowd, they were polite. Her set was fabulous. Since this was a festival crowd, she pulled together the most accessible set list that she could. She pulled away from her more baroque influenced music, and focused on her “jazzy” side. There was a certain swing to her music, which I’d never noticed before, and it made me appreciate her even more.
I’ve had some pretty bad luck with seeing this band live. Every time I’ve purchased tickets to see this 7 piece Scottish band, for one reason or another, the band wasn’t able to perform. Happily, this set a Treasure Island more than made up for the lost time. Lead vocalist Gareth David sounds like a happy version of Robert Smith, although he looks and dances like your drunk uncle at a wedding. This is not a bad thing. This 7 piece band put on a fun and vibrant set, and I hope they return to do a full length set quickly.
When Best Coast played The Fox earlier this year, it was to a half empty room, and the band seemed, well, bored. Playing outside, under the warm sun, along the water- that’s the way this band should be enjoyed. Their brand of surf rock meets alt country was a perfect fit for the festival. Bethany Consentino’s voice was in the best form I’d ever heard it, and the energy that this band exuded this day could be felt throughout the the crowd. This set also sparked my favorite memory of the festival- a group of four toddlers were seen inside the VIP area, dancing frantically. Best Coast made these kids the happiest people on Earth.
Divine Fits could be the most hotly anticipated set of the festival. This band has two lead singers: Britt Daniel of Spoon and Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade. This is the first thing Boeckner has done since the break up of both Wolf Parade and his other band, The Handsome Furs. Daniel’s Spoon hasn’t been heard from since 2010, and rumor has it that we shouldn’t be expecting them to put out a record any time soon. Happily, this project more than made up for the absence of these three well beloved bands. These guys perfectly fused together angular post punk and 70’s AM radio classic rock into a delicious, infectious, and unique sound. They also lucked out by playing at sunset as the clouds rolled in with downtown San Francisco as their backdrop. Mother nature made the perfect light show, creating one of the most memorable sunsets ever.
M83 has had a pretty spectacular year. His hit song, “Midnight City,” is everywhere, and he hasn’t played a show that didn’t sell out instantly in quite a long time.For many, this is the first time they are seeing him, despite playing the bay area 6 times in the last 12 months, becase of supply & demand. And, what did we get? A huge rock show with big lights and every song played as if it were the epic ending to a huge action film. That was my problem with M3’s set. Everything felt like a big finish. He suffered from the same issue Muse suffers from with their live show- you can’t play each song like it’s the closer.The only song that wasn’t a massive call to arms was the aforementioned “Midnight City,” which managed to retan the bright, playful glory that the song is. I definitely wasn’t alone in this thought, as a huge number of people seemed to leave after that song- either for good, or to get a good spot to see Gossip.
The first time Gossip played San Francisco, they had the article “The” before their name, and were essentially a blues punk band. They opened for Sleater – Kinney at The Fillmore, and it was one of the most impressive live performances that I have ever seen from a band so early in their career. In the 12 years since that set, they’ve been through a few line up changes, and have had a major evolution in their sound. The fuzzy garage rock gave way to a clean, polished disco sound. The heart of the band is Beth Ditto, an amazingly charismatic and outspoken frontwoman that has a voice so big I’m surprised that it didn’t engulf the island. I admit that I do kind of miss the old sound, but they still have the punk rock attitude and political vibe. They did rely primarily on songs of their two major label records, Music For Men and this year’s finest disco record A Joyful Noise. In the rare instances where decided to dip into their deep catalog, the songs were re-arranged in a way where they fit seamlessly into the new sound. The most astounding part of the set was the closer, where they took their breakthrough single “Standing In The Way Of Control” and turned it into an epic, 7 minute long slow burner disco funk.
The xx were a bit of a surprise when I learned that they were headlining the festival. Their records are stunning, downtempo pieces of work they make much more sense in the bedroom than in a field. Their minimalistic sound is simultaneously dark and sexy, and, live, was so much more energetic than anyone ever could expect. They played an equal balance of material off both records, and, under the stars, it was an amazing way to end the fest. Sure, both Romy Madley Kroft and Oliver Sim, the two vocalists in the group, are rather emotionless on stage, they play with such precision that it doesn’t really matter that there isn’t much “stage presence” per se. If you are looking for stage presence, Jamie xx, the beatmaker, is amazing to watch. He bounces between triggering sample, playing keyboard, playing drums, and mixing audio, often times doing all of this at once. James Brown was once credited as the hardest working man in show business, however Jamie xx gives Brown a run for his money at any point in his career. He keeps cool and calm while doing everything all at once. Watching him work is the show, and he is the leader of this band. He is the reason that when The xx are playing, your hips start moving, you start swaying, and you are experiencing the sexiest band to hit the scene since Air.
Be ure to check out Kelly Hoffer’s entire Treasure Island gallery out here!