Treasure Island Music Festival is always a good time. This year marks what may have been the biggest year ever for the event! Outkast are, arguably, the biggest name to ever play this event. It was also a blissfully sunny weekend, with temperatures staying in the low 70’s with just a subtle breeze throughout the affair. And, despite some of the biggest crowds ever, the event never felt “too crowded.”
Ana Tijoux was this year’s biggest surprise on the bill. The festival tends to lean towards indie rock and EDM, and has rarely booked acts that perform in a language other than English. However, Chilean rapper Tijoux managed to win over the crowd. She brought along a four piece band- bass, drums, guitar, and a guy that flipped between percussion, keys, and triggering samples. They set was high energy and very organic. Her set spanned genres ranging from hip hop to cumbia to ska, getting the crowd moving. Her banter was a bit choppy, due to her limited command of English. However, the music spoke for itself, and people were definitely enjoying her set.
There is a reason that Prince has picked 2014 to attempt a full on comeback. Artists like Chromeo and Jungle have been proving that electro funk is in fashion. The Jungle set was energetic and fun, but not particularly memorable. Still, the band kept the crowd moving, and that’s what counts.
Janelle Monae is a world class performer. Her entrance was spectacular- she was wheeled out on a dolly, wearing a straight jacket. She then plowed through a far too brief 8 song set of classic soul, complete with full on choreography and one of the tightest bands on Earth. She moves like James Brown did in his heyday, one part acrobat, one part boss. She even covered “I Got You (I Feel Good)”, and owned it as if it was her own song. Monae’s set was one of those festival sets where, when it ended, you wanted it to simply start over again. To be honest, if she did three hours, it would still feel too short.
Zedd had an obscene amount of hit singles in the past year. I was expecting a full on celebration of joyful pop songs from his set. Instead, we got something very, very different. The stage was a wash of lights. So many visuals that one could barely place it if Zedd was on stage at all. However, the name “Zedd” was on full display, just in case you didn’t know who was playing. And, instead of doing simply playing the hits, we got a set of thumping electronic dance music. The crowd was so thick on the main stage that it actually leaked into the smaller Tunnel Stage. He did make it to hits like “Stay The Night” and “Clarity,” but they were remixed to the point that one could barely place the song until it was halfway over. It made for a great set for lovers of EDM, but kind of boring for the fans that know him from the radio. Which was probably exactly what he wanted.
Upon looking over my notes from St Lucia, I simply had one phrase written: “Toto meets Passion Pit.” That really puts them in a deep pigeonhole, but I started talking to St Lucia fans, and they all pretty much seemed to agree. It’s pretty wonderful that we live in a world where a comparison to Toto is consider a positive, not a negative. The singer has a glorious falsetto that swims around in your head, and it was all balanced out by tropical sounds and synths. The warmth of the music complimented the warm night air nicely, and it was a pretty wonderful set.
I was a little nervous about the Outkast set. I remember seeing them several times on the Stankonia tour, and thought they were the best live act in hip hop. They were one of the few acts at the time that understood the importance of a solid live show, and made sure the connected with everyone. However, reports of the early dates on this reunion tour where that Andre 3000 and Big Boi seemed like they were phoning it in. The setlists were weirdly paced, and they just didn’t seem to be having fun. Sure, the band was quite tight, and everything sounded good. But the energy simply wasn’t there.
Fast forward to Treasure Island, marking their return to California after playing a pair of shows here back in May. They are almost done with their tour- this is the third to last performance. They opened with a ferocious rendition of Stankonia stand out cut “B.O.B.” Not an easy song to pick as your warm up, but they rose to the occasion with gusto. From that point forward, the show stayed on point. Song #2 was the psych rock burner “Gasoline Dreams,” complete with searing guitar and live horns that held the intensity of the set up as high as it could go.
The whole set, which covered the whole range of Outkast’s eclectic catalog, was about as tight as one would expect from a band that’s been on the road none stop for nearly five months. The biggest hits were all evenly distributed throughout the set, making sure that the casual fans were never left “bored” for long, while the hardcore fans were treated to the deeper cuts they longed for.
The biggest complaint from fans at previous shows was that Andre seemed like he didn’t want to be there. Tonight, however, we had Mr 3000 in full force, playing to the crowd, keeping a smile planted firmly on his face, and seemed genuinely happy. He even got a little goofy during “Hey Ya!”, inviting a bunch of ladies in the crowd on stage to “shake it like a Polaroid picture.”
It was exhilarating set by one of the most important acts of the last 20 years. They set the bar awfully high for day two.