I love a good music festival. Especially one where you can bask in the sun in October. It was another gorgeous day on the island. With even better music than the day before, if you could possibly believe that.
Bleached have been on the road, seemingly, for two years straight at this point. Their early afternoon set was the end result of being such ardent road warriors. I’ve seen them 12 times, easily, over the course of the last two years, and they keep getting better. However, this set may have been the best set they’ve done. For the uninitiated, Bleached are a pop punk band from LA that rose from the ashes of the great Mika Miko. They do warm and fuzzy songs that are cut from the same cloth of The Ramones and Buzzcocks. At the beginning of the tour, they were simply playing their songs as recorded, throwing in a random Ramones or Misfits cover every now and again. This set featured some pretty dramatic growth- there was actually improvisation without coming off “jammy.” They played sprinkles of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” and The Misfits’ “Hybrid Moments” throughout their set, blending it with their own tracks. And, for such an early set, they did a great job at getting the audience moving. And, yes, they are a pop punk band, and they aim for the “bratty” at times. That being said, their performance of “Dead In Your Head” was so intense and emotionally direct that I, literally, shed a tear. It was possibly the single most cathartic moment I have ever experienced at a rock show.
There are a few things that change as one gets older. Like, when you are a punk kid, anything that comes from the “jam” world is highly offensive. White Denim are definitely cut from that 60’s blues based, jam rock world. They were definitely channeling Grateful Dead. And, yet, I really enjoyed it. They locked themselves into a really solid groove that almost felt like guitar based gospel music. And probably due to the fact that the set was only 45 minutes long, but they never reached “noodle” territory. Every move riff seemed necessary, and passionately so. It was a phenomenal set.
Ásgeir popped on stage at 2pm. It was peak sunshine. It was hot, the polar opposite of the weather you’d expect from an Icelandic musician. Nonetheless, I opted to listen to his gorgeous falsetto voice while sunbathing. It was the perfect soundtrack for getting some Vitamin D. His voice, layered above gorgeous, lush arrangements, at times borderlined on Coldplay territory, but never overly schmaltzy. Although he was best when the arrangements were scaled back. He did a pedal steel-based number that was absolutely stunning. He did a jazz flavored cover of Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” that was heart breaking. Ásgeir was probably the biggest and best surprise of the whole event.
For what it’s worth, I was really enjoying Banks. Her brand of dark pop music may be a little too close to Lorde for comfort, but she’s a fine performer with a great voice. I was really into it. Then I received a text that read: “Come over to the Silent Disco area. There’s a van with a kid tap dancing and doing Bruno Mars covers.” As a journalist, I knew what I was supposed to do.
Master Blaster G
Master Blaster G, aka Gabriel Angelo, was playing a small stage hiding behind some food trucks. And, sure enough, he was singing Bruno Mars songs. And tap dancing. And playing trumpet. All at once. Apparently he does this on Market St, or at the Ferry Terminal. And he plays for tips. Even at Treasure Island, he had a tip bowl out, and, without skipping a beat, thanked every person that put money in the dish. Yes, I felt bad about missing Banks. But this guy has some bonafide talent and charisma, and is likely to go quite far.
There are a lot of bands from the LA folk scene that simply go out and play their songs, without much consideration for their stage show. The Growlers are not that kind of band. They also aren’t that folky. They were somewhere between T Rex, electric Dylan, and a carnival side show. The music was fun and catchy, but the best part of the show was a random dude that kept running around, and occasionally crowd surfing with an actual surf board. He was amazing.
Neko Case is a member of The New Pornographers. Yet, as far as I know, she’s never done a full tour with the band. This was the first time that I actually got to see them live with her in the band. She has one of the most potent voices in music, and I fully expected her to overpower the band. Happily she was able to pull back when she needed to, and those amazing pipes harmonized nicely with primary singers Dan Bejar and Carl Newman. In fact, this is one of the most impressive vocal harmony groups that I’ve ever heard, even if Neko wasn’t there. It was a brilliant set.
Chet Faker’s debut record, Built On Glass, is one of the best records of the year. It’s a stunning dark soul record, with lovely and brilliant songs. I was really excited about this set. I wanted to see how he arranged these songs live with a band. Sadly, that didn’t happen. Instead, Chet Faker was simply queuing up backing tracks and singing behind his decks. Unfortunately, the bass was so overdriven, you could barely hear the vocals. It was one of the most anticlimactic sets I’ve ever seen.
TV On The Radio
It’s been far too long since TV On The Radio last graced the Bay Area stages. However, time off the grid has not weakened the band as a live entity. They opened with the slow burning “Young Liars.” The slow, steady build up to something grand and intense was the perfect opening for one of the most dramatic rock bands in history. The set focused on the bands heavier material; the perfect compliment to the sunny weather. They did introduce a smattering of new songs, which, since it’s TVOTR, were definitely surprising. A new song called “Careful You” is a power pop love song, warm and simple. The semi-acoustic love song, which I think was called “Here Comes Trouble,” may be the new first dance for all hip couples in 2015.
alt – J
alt – J are the most popular band that played today. They may also be the least accessible band. They are the polar opposite of “pop” music. Yet, they are getting played on the radio. They are playing arenas. They are huge. How are they so popular? By being really good at being the opposite of the top 40. Each song is a hypnotic voyage through time and space. Their light show complimented the sound nicely- never overpowering the music. It was the polar opposite of Zedd’s set the day before. They brought in elements of experimental rock and classical Indian music, producing a genre of music that gives the sensation of hallucinogenic drugs, without the side effects. They even played an amazingly spaced out version of Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” that genuinely made you feel like the day is lovely.
Poliça are a band that I stumbled across at SXSW a few years ago. I enjoyed them, but I thought the set was a little mellow. I think they listened to me, because their set at Treasure Island was the polar opposite of mellow. They have brought up the intensity of their set, and they’ve even moved the guitars higher in the mix, adding to their jazz influenced sound a bit of a garage rock edge. I can’t wait to see how good they will become.
Massive Attack were a huge “get” for Treasure Island. They haven’t played in the US in a number of years, and don’t have any new material in stores to promote. They simply came to the states to play a very small number of shows, seemingly for fun. It also seemed strange to see them after superstars alt – J, but this groundbreaking crew from Bristol deserved to headline. Leaders 3D and Daddy G, the studio wizards behind this project, brought out two drummers and vocalist Martina Topley-Bird to complete the sound, making for a full live show, where every sound was produced on stage.
Sure, there were a few times where things seemed a little “dated” during Massive Attack’s set. Specifically during tracks where Daddy G rapped in his lazy style, and cryptic, pseudo-political imagery flashing along the screen. And Horace Andy, a regular mainstay of the Massive Attack live set, didn’t make it due a flight issues. However, the good outweighed the bad, and moments like “Teardrop” (aka the theme to House MD) and unreleased cut “Pray For Rain,” featuring TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe more than balanced out the lesser decisions.