Since the beloved Treasure Island Music Festival has graced the bay with live music and pirate motifs, the two days of the festival have always been a war of glow sticks versus flannel. While the music each day is certainly focused around the general genre of EDM on Saturday and indie rock on Sunday, crossovers do happen. I will mention early on that I tend to fall on the latter end of this musical spectrum, so, of course, I naturally was curious to see if I could successfully bathe in the bass and beats of Saturday’s selections and have a good time while doing it. I mean, genres are pretty reductionary, right?
The last time I attended TIMF on a Saturday was in 2013, the day I decided it was a completely solid and rational decision to attend a dance-heavy music festival hours after I got off the plane from another week-long music festival across the country. Needless to say, I had high hopes that this day would beat the other one. So, I set off to the island in the Bay to see if my ears were made to withstand long periods of bass. (And, maybe, to see if I could find any guitars.) Thus begins the journey:
The Festival Itself:
Saturday was an exceedingly cloudy day, so in other words, absolutely perfect for a day on the island. I was pleasantly surprised that there was an ID check in line for the shuttle, which would probably save me loads of precious festival time early on. The first thing I saw when getting off the shuttle was, you guessed it, glowing mouse ears. I will admit that I probably haven’t heard a Deadmau5 song in full, but his fans were there to support early on in droves. What’s nice about the festival is that it’s a nice mix of local and DIY brands and corporate names (but not too many of the latter). Walking distance from each other were Peet’s and Four Barrel Coffees, nestled in the festival grounds with tons of artist collectives and even a mini record pop-up organized by the Bay Area Record Fair.
The first act of the day, and I actually saw a guitar! That surprised me. Spence, formerly known as Saint Pepsi, is working on re-establishing himself after he got into some legal issues with his former namesake. Bubbly and confident, with a prominent smile and a Stones Throw t-shirt, he and his band played buoyant disco pop that matched the blue skies. Though there were some problems with the sound mix, they remained excited and humble to be playing their first San Francisco show under the new name.
I saw the name and immediately thought the Husker Du singer managed to somehow land a Saturday spot on the lineup. (I soon found that’s Bob Mould. My bad.) The duo, who also had a guitar to accompany the laptop-sampled sounds, played electronic music that I thought was well-fitting for Saturday, but I was pleasantly surprised by the dark and moody elements they embodied. Nevertheless, fist-pumping ensued during a song with a melody that was strangely reminiscent of Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Jeans.” It was a refreshing take on the current EDM style.
To my surprise, I found soon into entering this crowd that Viceroy is a local artist, evidence by the swaths of friends and fans eager to dance the afternoon away to his set. He was joined by a band dressed in tropical shirts and khaki shorts, and that was only the start of the summer motifs. While the island theme bordered a little on the gimmicky side (Visuals of bikinis and the sun! Lots of them!), his brand of remixing, which ranged from rock classics like the Who’s “Teenage Wasteland” to Nelly’s “Ride with Me,” was translated very well into a live setting with electric sax, violin, and even an electric clarinet-looking instrument.
With credits like being the bassist of Vampire Weekend weighing on his shoulders, I could tell he was excitedly nervous to debut his new solo material to a live setting where he played with VW seven years before. Because of this, his set was peppered with amusing dad-jokes like (referencing his past set at the festival) “I’m seven years older, but you all look the same age!” Donning blazers and button-downs, him and the other half of his live band played Euro house-tinged disco music with faux British vocals and pulsing beats that I could feel reverberate through my chest. Though my chest will be pounding for days, his stage presence was infectious and his dancing was contagious.
During this part of the day, the sun was really beating down. If sun equals party, then all the levels were turned up for the duo, whose set-up seemed to scream, “This is EDM!” The duo stood high on their podiums manipulating the beats to the dance-ready crowd, but what I really appreciated was the live drums and singers. This one was definitely for fans of the EDM genre. I left early to get nachos.
As I was eating my nachos, the stage was already drawing a huge crowd for Shamir, who is most known for their cowbell-toting danceable single, “On the Regular.” They played this one third, followed by a Joyce Manor cover, in their incredibly fun and joyous set. You could just tell the entire band was having a ball in a diverse set of upbeat and downbeat numbers that employed some amazingly dubby synth hooks. The only thing that topped the sass was the amount of fun that everyone was having.
Run the Jewels:
The only preconception I had walking into this set was: Will they play Meow the Jewels material? (To answer, no). But while this expectation was dashed, the duo of Killer Mike and El-P put on an incredibly solid set, portraying themselves as whip-smart lyricists and whiplash-fast rappers vocal about topics like action in Ferguson and their love and deep respect for the sailors in the front row and the girl who threw her bra on stage. Their mix of serious and fun was perfectly balanced, topped off by an audience song-a-long of “Lie, Cheat, Steal, Kill, Win.”
My ears decided they needed a break of beats and other music sounds, so I decided to head to the inaugural comedy tent put on by Funny or Die. Because of indoor space issues, there was a line to get in. Did I use that time to think about life while Cashmere Cat reverberated in the distance? Maybe. When I was finally able to get in, we were greeted by comedian opener Barry Rothbart, who delivered mellow deadpan jokes about weed and kids, and the combination of both. Headliner Tim Heidecker, of Tim and Eric fame, lived up to his deadpan icon hype by performing in the style of “comedy without nets,” AKA, not having a set planned. It was awkward and hilarious as ever, and especially Neil Hamburger-esque in an overbearing anti-comedy kind of way.
I was ready to face the music once again. At least, I thought I was. I had no idea who awaited me at the Bridge Stage. I’ve heard this music is called “trap,” though I still don’t really know what that means. Maybe from the music sounding like a fly or other insect caught in a trap? My two cents. It was clear early on that this duo’s music went way over my head in its dance-driven beats. Though, there were truly epic and bombastic moments that made me reflect on life’s great mysteries. But I definitely wasn’t enough of an EDM fan to have a good time.
There were many FKA bands in this lineup of Treasure Island (Viet Cong, Skylar Spence), but this lady is the true FKA. Her performance was also a true spectacle and stand-out of the evening. Everything was absolutely intricate: the light show, the choreography or her and her back-up dancers, her outfit, her voice. She did it all with pose and grace, capping off her festival season with hits old and new (“Glass and Patron”, “Two Weeks”). The only downside was that only half the crowd was engaged in the performance. But what a performance.
As I was heading out of the FKA crowd to catch Big Grams, it was clear that no one wanted to form a true crowd around the other stage. So, in an effort of laziness, I got a partial view by standing on the pavement behind the mixing board’s tent while the group was already starting. Strangely enough, it seemed like everyone was donning a security blanket, the new fashion trend courtesy of TIMF. Big Grams were a great nightcap version of Run the Jewels and FKA Twigs. They were solidly engaging and fun, but this being their first-ever performance as BG, it felt like they were still breaking in the new shoes. I can’t wait to see what they do when the newness wears off.
It was your girl’s bedtime 🙁
All in all, it was clear that my expectations were exceeded. I, as the kid who usually flocks to the Sunday bands, had a genuinely good time. The memories will definitely last as long as it will take me to clean the dirt from under my fingernails. (Hint: a long time.)