Treasure Island Music Festival 2011 – Day Two

The 2011 Treasure Island Music Festival is a wrap, and day two proved to be more emotional, personal and beautiful than day one – and that’s a tough act to follow!  The weather was lovely throughout and there were solid acts from start to finish.  I’d like to thank my blogging partner Paige, and all the nice new friends I met from Noise Pop and Another Planet for granting me exclusive access behind the scenes and for getting me into the festival in the first place.  I can’t express to our readers enough – if you haven’t been to this festival, you should make a note of it and join us next October for what is sure to be another unforgettable experience.

The day started off with Thee Oh Sees who parked their unique style of garage rock right in the center of the field.  They set the pace perfectly; you know when the first band is smiling, jumping around and having fun that the rest of the day is going to be one to remember.  The band I really wanted to see most today was San Francisco’s Weekend, and they exceeded what I thought they would/could do live as a three piece.  Their blend of  super tight bass, guitars maxed out with reverb and feedback, plus nailed-down-with-spikes drumming had the audience eating out of their very busy hands.  Fans of the shoegazer genre and melodic noise (see Jesus and Mary Chain, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Skywave) should seek out Sports (a TCA 2010 top ten album) and their new Red EP (at least track down “Hazel”) post haste!  Seriously, way to go guys!!

The Antlers are total gear heads!  They had so much cool equipment on stage and played an amazing, studied set which had everyone rapt with attention.  The all-girl quartet, Warpaint are one of the most talked about bands of the couple of years, and all their touring has made them fan favorites and even better musicians.

Girl Power was on a roll when St. Vincent hit the stage.  Annie Clark is a whiz on guitar and she is definitely a fit for the legendary label, 4AD.  I had no idea she was in Polyphonic Spree!  Her songs were filled with longing for past relationships, wink-wink humor and arguably some of the best guitar work of the day.  I’ll have to remember that last comment when I get to the Explosions in the Sky portion of this review!

Another band I was excited to see was Wild Beasts.  Boy, that was pretty amazing.  They were gracious and had a sense of humor with the audience – I love it when bands take a minute to say hi and crack a few jokes.  As with most of the bands today, they were (as they like to say in the Bay Area apparently) hella tight and played off of each other wonderfully.  There’s a band from here in Seattle called Stephanie, and all I could think of while Wild Beasts were playing is how great of a double bill that would be.  More on Stephanie real soon!

The indie “grand dad” of the this years festival was Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks.  I saw him walking aimlessly back stage and stopped to say hi and ask him if I could help him find something.  After all, this is my third year; I’m a Treasure Island pro!  He was just looking for where to eat backstage and I showed him to the mess tent.  That guy was super nice.  Their set was classic bygone era indie pop, the kind that used to be played in college dorms.  Stephen is a wonder on guitar and the Jicks were a wonderful back up.  I hear Beck produced his last record Mirror Traffic which came out this summer.  I guess I’ll have to add that one to my wish list!  By the time The Head and the Heart came on, I wasn’t feeling so well – standing all day can take it out of you!  So I took a break and had some well deserved food and beer.  Their sound wafting across the field sounded great as a soundtrack to the bustling festival and back stage area; kind of folk-rocky and great harmonies.

Beach House’s Teen Dream was another top ten favorite of ours last year.  It was one of the first major releases in 2010 that held up throughout the year and will be a classic in years to come.  I mentioned an emotional element at the beginning of this piece didn’t I?  Their set accompanied a postcard perfect sunset over one of the most gorgeous cities in the world.  My good friend, Nathan came down with me for the festival, Its was great to have someone to hang out with as Paige is always busy shooting.  Standing with Nathan as the sun sank into the Pacific listening to “Used To Be” had me near tears – I’ll never forget that moment until I’m six feet under.  They also played a new song which we didn’t catch the name of, and if it’s any indication of what’s to come, bring it on Beach House, bring it on.

The organizers of Treasure Island perfectly pace the sets throughout the day, and the bands who play the first night time set are always the ones to get the crowd going for the rest of the fest.  This year, day two’s party starters were Friendly Fires who blazed onto the stage with a few sound problems which didn’t stop them, or the crowd, from having a blast!  I’ve always loved these guys and hearing their new songs live, as well and modern classics like “Jump In The Pool,” “Paris,” and “Skeleton Boy” were a real treat for me.  They even brought a horn section to make their style of dance rock sound even more filled out.

Explosions in the Sky played one of the first summer west coast festivals, the three day long Capitol Hill Block Party here in Seattle.  I never go.  It’s crazy and everyone who goes complains that it’s over sold and unmanageable.  But everyone complains about something here in Seattle, don’t they?!  The ONLY band anyone talked about was Explosions in the Sky and their mind blowing sunset performance.  It’s great that a relatively unknown band made it so high on the Treasure Island bill based on the word of mouth of their powerful performances.  Fans of Sigur Ros and Mogwai will love them some Explosions In The Sky.  Their set was seamless and left the crowd wondering when to applaud.  They got to points of near silence, and the thousands in attendance followed suit; we held our breath when they wanted us to.  Their magical waves of sound ebbed and flowed, literally blowing noise around in the brisk breeze that had picked up.  We were surrounded by beauty and the audience response once their set ended must have made them feel great.  I will never miss this band when I have the chance to see them again.

The Hold Steady kept everyone going with possibly the best front man in the history of the festival, Craig Finn.  Charisma goes a long way and this guy had tons to spare.  Their sound almost nods to a more classic rock feel, think Bruce Springsteen type of pop.  Craig Finn was The Boss tonight, and really kind of headlined the whole fest in hindsight.  Death Cab For Cutie were about to come on, and the buzz I was getting from the crowd is that the were ready to go home after The Hold Steady.  It was a school night, after all!

Death Cab were all that was left and after a few songs, even I was ready to go.  Ben Gibbard and company opened with “I Will Possess Your Heart” and sped through some of their other most popular songs.  During their set, I headed back stage and couldn’t swing my arm without hitting someone who had a complaint of some sort about Death Cab.  For one, they were very camera shy.  These Noisepop veterans were only willing to allow the house photographers access during the first two songs, using no flash.

This is a huge contrast to the generosity of The Flaming Lips who headlined two years ago.  They invited the photographers and whole Noisepop crew into the pit for the entire show as a thank you on behalf of all the 2009 bands.  There was a carefree camaraderie which wasn’t there this year – it was a real Treasure Island Moment. There was also a mobile art installation in the form of lit up jellyfish carried through the crowd by twenty plus volunteers.  They were there on day one, and on both days added a sensational element to the bands while they were on stage.  Festival goers cameras went up when they went by and the Jellies really added a nice touch to the Explosions in the Sky set tonight and during Cut Copy the day before.  But the Death Cab Camp weren’t having any of it.  They radioed security and had the installation moved to the back of the field.  I had the displeasure of hearing the whole thing go down, the band basically saying that they didn’t like it, or at least someone with a little bit of power to wield didn’t.  It felt like they were placing restrictions on what was supposed to be a fun time. Sad, really.  So I digress.

So as not to end on a somber note, I would like to thank all the bands who played this year for really sensational performances.  Most of these bands have been touring all summer, putting on 30, 40 or more shows in a three month period.  Touring takes a lot out of them, and besides our Death Cab mishap, all of the bands delivered the goods and more.  I’m really looking forward to next year’s festival.  My predictions?  I think M83 could almost headline day one, and I’d love to see Light Asylum there as well.  Festival organizers would do well to seek out Stephanie from Seattle for an early performance on day two.  I’d also love to see Beat Connection, Chromatics and possibly Glass Candy for day one as well.  There, it’s in print, let’s see how it pans out.  Thanks for coming to The Color Awesome!