The 2011 Treasure Island Music Festival’s day one is in the bag – and Paige and I are sacked! I can only try to describe how fun, cool, unique and chill this annual end of summer celebration is, and San Francisco’s notoriously finicky weather was on its best behavior for the occasion. Today, we had the pleasure of experiencing performances from the best of current, up and coming and even reunited bands.
When Treasure Island’s line-up was announced back in July, acts such as Cut Copy, Death Cab For Cutie, Empire of the Sun, and Beach House had fans squeeing (you read that correctly/meme alert) for joy. But this festival is best known for its diversity and introducing new acts, some of which have only played a handful of shows. Day one of TIMF consists of more synthetic music, and today’s up and coming DJ, Dance, Hip Hop and Electronica acts definitely made some new fans.
Today’s newcomer highlight was Shabazz Palaces from Seattle. Shabazz Palaces come preloaded with curiosity and a little bit of mystery – they are the very definition of the term “buzz band.” Their performance was improvisational, clunky, and FANTASTIC. They usually go on around midnight in clubs filled with smoke; and I ain’t talkin’ about the fog machine. The smoke was still in the air at Treasure Island and their set started at 1:30 P.M. but the vibe was still there, but a little more playful – that’s bound to happen in a large field with a ferris wheel at the other end of it!
The energy on Treasure Island traditionally builds throughout the day and leads to an explosive finish. Geographer led things off with a solid set of tightly woven, lush electropop. Aloe Blacc was close behind with a set that would make Sharon Jones’ Dap Kings or the Specials proud. Yacht and The Naked and Famous were perfectly palatable pop for a Saturday afternoon; both bands are indie radio and blogosphere faves. Battles’ battle is their buzz – they are one of the few bands in recent memory that carry that “you either love ’em or you don’t” baggage. I side with the “it’s an acquired taste” point myself, but the crowd for them were definitely fans; and what could be better than a large group of people who really want to listen to you? Dizzee Rascal was another highlight; at 4:3o in the afternoon, it’s starting to feel like evening is coming and it’s time to get this party started. The audience during his set was one of the most supportive and active of the day.
As the sky got a little purple and the wind picked up, the insanely catchy Buraka Som Sistema brought their sample-rific set to the Tunnel Stage, which faces the iconic San Francisco skyline. Sunset brought Chromeo, who I’m pretty sure mentioned their own band name well over 20 times in their set, including their version of the legendary chant originally performed by the guards for the Wicked Witch of the West. You know the one, “OH WEE OH, OOH OH.” Go ahead, try it out loud and replace it with “Chromeo.” See? Fun!
When the sun goes down, the party really gets going, and on day one of TIMF, the freaks really DO come out at night. Make up, glow sticks and scantily clad guys and dolls are the regular dress code on day one, and the warm weather earlier in the day kept that tradition alive and well. Flying Lotus performs solo and feels more like a DJ live, and I loved every second of it, but I’m biased. Of all the acts on day one, I think FLYLO and Shabazz Palaces have the most solid visions of what the future of music can, and will be.
The rest of the night was why the fans came, and I think it’s safe to say they got what they paid for. The aptly named Cut Copy snuck a few new songs into their otherwise crowd pleasing set. From across the field, they reminded me of New Order in 1987 playing to similar sized audiences; a little rusty but totally pleasing. Death From Above 1979’s reunion was possibly more polarizing than Battles’ set. Many fans of the upbeat technology driven music of the day were taken aback by the duo who wield brash, metal-like guitar and drums as their aural weapon. The line for the Silent Disco (a dance floor where music is played through headphones for each participant) was probably the longest of the day during DFA’s set. It was good to seem them back – whether you like them or not, they’re essential.
The day ended with Empire of the Sun, a band I’d never heard before. I knew of, and quite liked Luke Steele’s prior band, The Sleepy Jackson. Had I known sometime earlier than this past week that Empire was masterminded by Steele, I would have made it a point to seek them out. Their set was part Pet Shop Boys, Prince, Fisherspooner, and Thompson Twins with a pinch of Cirque Du Soleil. I know, that sounds like a big mess, but guess what – it totally worked. I’ve been known to bitch about pop getting too gimmicky, then I realize that pop itself is supposed to be just that. It’s not a Fassbinder film, it’s a bubblegum ice cream cone, treat it as such!
Day one was amazing and filled with new friends and experiences. Treasure Island is truly the model of a perfect festival. You hear every band, you don’t have to walk all over the place from stage to stage and it’s a large, but not hard to navigate crowd and space. I guess the only way they could make it more perfect is to lower those beer prices. Jeez!
Tomorrow’s less tech acts include The Oh Sees, Weekend, The Antlers, War Paint, St. Vincent, Wild Beasts, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, The Head and the Heart, Beach House, Friendly Fires, Explosions In The Sky, The Hold Steady, and Death Cab For Cutie. You can expect a full report!