Photo: Paige K Parsons
Initially I was less than impressed with the lineup at Treasure Island this year. Everyone was asking how can LCD Soundsystem, while great live, can compare to past headliners like Justice, Modest Mouse and The Flaming Lips? Yet the lineups at Treasure Island have never been about getting the biggest headliners possible. It’s about filling out an entire weekend with diverse, high-quality bands and artists who have strong fan followings, regardless of their mainstream status. And this year was no different. Although I originally went more or less just to see deadmau5 and Four Tet, I was pleasantly surprised by the performances all day long.
When we arrived, it was a windy, grey and gloomy day on the island. I’ve never understood why the festival is in October, when it takes place on an island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. Why not July, or August, when there is at least a chance of warmth? This isn’t Southern California, and it gets damn cold. Luckily, it didn’t rain until the last of us were almost on the bus that took us back to the city (after waiting over an hour in line).
The first band I saw was Holy Fuck, whom I’d never heard before. They had an original sound, sort of an experimental, jam band, ambient, electro sound, and they really had the crowd going at 1:30 pm, long before anyone was drunk or high, a major accomplishment, to say the least. There was a chorus across the grounds of “Wow, this band is good!” Or at least that’s what my friend and I said to each other. When a band can completely win you over in one performance, you know they’ve got something special.
The next act I saw was Die Antwoord, who had really confused me when I saw them at Coachella this year, sandwiched in between Z-Trip and 2ManyDJ’s (full disclosure: I was on 2-CB at the time). It was a whirlwind of a set, full of crazy, fashion-challenged South Africans, and I did not exactly understand what was going on. However, this time around, I was able to see them with clarity, and they are pretty badass. It’s a weird kind of hardcore/electro rap, very distinct, with a sound so unique that it’s no surprise it came from the opposite side of the world. It’s kind of like Peaches, if she did a lot of crack and/or DXM. If you like heavy, heavy beats, girls with weird mullets, basslines and kick-drums that rattle your brain around in your skull and lead singers that strip to their boxers and run around stage rapping and humping the air, then this group is for you.
Funny story: My friend and I were reading the lineup on the festival guide. He sees the band !!! and says, “How do you say that? ‘Chk Chk Chk?’” “No,” I say. “That’s dumb. How the hell does an exclamation point make the sound ‘chk?’ You’re weird.” So I look it up on my phone, and it turns out that is the fan-preferred pronunciation. How my friend knew that, I will never know, but I’m guessing there is some sort of secret dictionary that I was left out of where people are provided with vocal pronunciations of punctuation marks. Anyway, they were good, with upbeat, experimental dance pop that got the entire crowd dancing.
Four Tet was next for me, one of the acts I was most excited for. Four Tet, a lone DJ named Kieran Hebden from the UK, has a unique, experimental downtempo electronic sound and has produced many amazing original tracks, as well as remixes. His 2010 album, There Is Love In You, moved the sound a little closer into the house music genre, but it is still ecstatic, chill, electronic music perfect for a rainy day in fall. There was a large crowd gathered to see him. Honestly, at that point in the day, the crowd just wanted some hard dance music to get down to, and Four Tet isn’t really like that, but he played a harder, house-ier sound than usual to please the crowd, and they showed their appreciation by dancing harder and harder with each consecutive break.
Soon it was time for deadmau5, and just in time, everybody was ready for the festival to dissolve into a massive dance party. And damn, was it a great set. At Coachella, the first time I had seen deadmau5, I was disappointed with the quality of his set, although his stage set up was the coolest thing I’d ever seen in person. However, for Treasure Island, he stepped it up and positively blew me away with the massive energy of his set. He has also made improvements on the visuals and lights of his stage setup, something I didn’t think was possible. deadmau5, deserves all the fame and recognition he is getting.
Up next was Miike Snow. Honestly, I don’t usually listen to Miike Snow unless it is a remixed track, but they played a great, dance-worthy set and I enjoyed the music.
Then, LCD Soundsystem was up. I’ve seen them twice before, but because of friends and extenuating circumstances, was never able to see a full set. Oh, it was so worth it. LCD is one of the original post-rock/dance/electronica acts that every hipster with a synthesizer attempts to emulate, but James Murphy is in a different class entirely. The sound is classic and cozy. It’s refreshing. Their songs have the perfect simple groove to dance on and on to, and dance we did. They played a lot of their new album as well as a lot of favorites from older albums, like my personal favorite, “Yeah,” which they ended the night to.